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Best Famous Richard Wilbur Poems

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by Richard Wilbur | |

The Beautiful Changes

 One wading a Fall meadow finds on all sides 
The Queen Anne's Lace lying like lilies
On water; it glides
So from the walker, it turns 
Dry grass to a lake, as the slightest shade of
 you
Valleys my mind in fabulous blue Lucernes.
The beautiful changes as a forest is changed By a chameleon's tuning his skin to it; As a mantis, arranged On a green leaf, grows Into it, makes the leaf leafier, and proves Any greenness is deeper than anyone knows.
Your hands hold roses always in a way that says They are not only yours; the beautiful changes In such kind ways, Wishing ever to sunder Things and things' selves for a second finding, to lose For a moment all that it touches back to wonder.


by Richard Wilbur | |

Wedding Toast

 St.
John tells how, at Cana's wedding feast, The water-pots poured wine in such amount That by his sober count There were a hundred gallons at the least.
It made no earthly sense, unless to show How whatsoever love elects to bless Brims to a sweet excess That can without depletion overflow.
Which is to say that what love sees is true; That this world's fullness is not made but found.
Life hungers to abound And pour its plenty out for such as you.
Now, if your loves will lend an ear to mine, I toast you both, good son and dear new daughter.
May you not lack for water, And may that water smack of Cana's wine.


by Richard Wilbur | |

For K.R. on her Sixtieth Birthday

 Blow out the candles of your cake.
They will not leave you in the dark, Who round with grace this dusky arc Of the grand tour which souls must take.
You who have sounded William Blake, And the still pool, to Plato's mark, Blow out the candles of your cake.
They will not leave you in the dark.
Yet, for your friends' benighted sake, Detain your upward-flying spark; Get us that wish, though like the lark You whet your wings till dawn shall break: Blow out the candles of your cake.


by Richard Wilbur | |

Boy at the Window

 Seeing the snowman standing all alone
In dusk and cold is more than he can bear.
The small boy weeps to hear the wind prepare A night of gnashings and enormous moan.
His tearful sight can hardly reach to where The pale-faced figure with bitumen eyes Returns him such a God-forsaken stare As outcast Adam gave to paradise.
The man of snow is, nonetheless, content, Having no wish to go inside and die.
Still, he is moved to see the youngster cry.
Though frozen water is his element, He melts enough to drop from one soft eye A trickle of the purest rain, a tear For the child at the bright pane surrounded by Such warmth, such light, such love, and so much fear.


by Richard Wilbur | |

A Fire-Truck

 Right down the shocked street with a
 siren-blast
That sends all else skittering to the
 curb,
Redness, brass, ladders and hats hurl
 past,
 Blurring to sheer verb,

Shift at the corner into uproarious gear
And make it around the turn in a squall
 of traction,
The headlong bell maintaining sure and
 clear,
 Thought is degraded action!

Beautiful, heavy, unweary, loud,
 obvious thing!
I stand here purged of nuance, my
 mind a blank.
All I was brooding upon has taken wing, And I have you to thank.
As you howl beyond hearing I carry you into my mind, Ladders and brass and all, there to admire Your phoenix-red simplicity, enshrined In that not extinguished fire.


by Richard Wilbur | |

Praise In Summer

 Obscurely yet most surely called to praise,
As sometimes summer calls us all, I said
The hills are heavens full of branching ways
Where star-nosed moles fly overhead the dead;
I said the trees are mines in air, I said
See how the sparrow burrows in the sky!
And then I wondered why this mad instead
Perverts our praise to uncreation, why
Such savour's in this wrenching things awry.
Does sense so stale that it must needs derange The world to know it? To a praiseful eye Should it not be enough of fresh and strange That trees grow green, and moles can course in clay, And sparrows sweep the ceiling of our day?


by Richard Wilbur | |

To the Etruscan Poets

 Dream fluently, still brothers, who when young
Took with your mother's milk the mother tongue,

In which pure matrix, joining world and mind,
You strove to leave some line of verse behind

Like still fresh tracks across a field of snow,
Not reckoning that all could melt and go.


by Richard Wilbur | |

A Fable

 Securely sunning in a forest glade, 
A mild, well-meaning snake
Approved the adaptations he had made
For safety’s sake.
He liked the skin he had— Its mottled camouflage, its look of mail, And was content that he had thought to add A rattling tail.
The tail was not for drumming up a fight; No, nothing of the sort.
And he would only use his poisoned bite As last resort.


by Richard Wilbur | |

Having Misidentified A Wildflower

 A thrush, because I'd been wrong,
Burst rightly into song
In a world not vague, not lonely,
Not governed by me only.


by Richard Wilbur | |

The Ride

 The horse beneath me seemed 
To know what course to steer 
Through the horror of snow I dreamed,
And so I had no fear,

Nor was I chilled to death 
By the wind’s white shudders, thanks 
To the veils of his patient breath 
And the mist of sweat from his flanks.
It seemed that all night through, Within my hand no rein And nothing in my view But the pillar of his mane, I rode with magic ease At a quick, unstumbling trot Through shattering vacancies On into what was not, Till the weave of the storm grew thin, With a threading of cedar-smoke, And the ice-blind pane of an inn Shimmered, and I awoke.
How shall I now get back To the inn-yard where he stands, Burdened with every lack, And waken the stable-hands To give him, before I think That there was no horse at all, Some hay, some water to drink, A blanket and a stall?


by Richard Wilbur | |

Museum Piece

 The good gray guardians of art
Patrol the halls on spongy shoes,
Impartially protective, though
Perhaps suspicious of Toulouse.
Here dozes one against the wall, Disposed upon a funeral chair.
A Degas dancer pirouettes Upon the parting of his hair.
See how she spins! The grace is there, But strain as well is plain to see.
Degas loved the two together: Beauty joined to energy.
Edgar Degas purchased once A fine El Greco, which he kept Against the wall beside his bed To hang his pants on while he slept.


by Richard Wilbur | |

In the Smoking Car

 The eyelids meet.
He'll catch a little nap.
The grizzled, crew-cut head drops to his chest.
It shakes above the briefcase on his lap.
Close voices breathe, "Poor sweet, he did his best.
" "Poor sweet, poor sweet," the bird-hushed glades repeat, Through which in quiet pomp his litter goes, Carried by native girls with naked feet.
A sighing stream concurs in his repose.
Could he but think, he might recall to mind The righteous mutiny or sudden gale That beached him here; the dear ones left behind .
.
.
So near the ending, he forgets the tale.
Were he to lift his eyelids now, he might Behold his maiden porters, brown and bare.
But even here he has no appetite.
It is enough to know that they are there.
Enough that now a honeyed music swells, The gentle, mossed declivities begin, And the whole air is full of flower-smells.
Failure, the longed-for valley, takes him in.


by Richard Wilbur | |

Riddle

 Where far in forest I am laid,
In a place ringed around by stones,
Look for no melancholy shade,
And have no thoughts of buried bones;
For I am bodiless and bright,
And fill this glade with sudden glow;
The leaves are washed in under-light;
Shade lies upon the boughs like snow.


by Richard Wilbur | |

June Light

 Your voice, with clear location of June days,
Called me outside the window.
You were there, Light yet composed, as in the just soft stare Of uncontested summer all things raise Plainly their seeming into seamless air.
Then your love looked as simple and entire As that picked pear you tossed me, and your face As legible as pearskin's fleck and trace, Which promise always wine, by mottled fire More fatal fleshed than ever human grace.
And your gay gift—Oh when I saw it fall Into my hands, through all that naïve light, It seemed as blessed with truth and new delight As must have been the first great gift of all.


by Richard Wilbur | |

The Riddle

 Shall I love God for causing me to be?
I was mere utterance; shall these words love me?

Yet when I caused His work to jar and stammer,
And one free subject loosened all His grammar,

I love Him that He did not in a rage
Once and forever rule me off the page,

But, thinking I might come to please Him yet,
Crossed out 'delete' and wrote His patient 'stet'.


by Richard Wilbur | |

Exeunt

 Piecemeal the summer dies;
At the field's edge a daisy lives alone;
A last shawl of burning lies
On a gray field-stone.
All cries are thin and terse; The field has droned the summer's final mass; A cricket like a dwindled hearse Crawls from the dry grass.


by Richard Wilbur | |

Worlds

 For Alexander there was no Far East,
Because he thought the Asian continent
India ended.
Free Cathay at least Did not contribute to his discontent.
But Newton, who had grasped all space, was more Serene.
To him it seemed that he'd but played With several shells and pebbles on the shore Of that profundity he had not made.
Swiss Einstein with his relativity - Most secure of all.
God does not play dice With the cosmos and its activity.
Religionless equations won't suffice.


by Richard Wilbur | |

Parable

 I read how Quixote in his random ride
Came to a crossing once, and lest he lose
The purity of chance, would not decide

Whither to fare, but wished his horse to choose.
For glory lay wherever turned the fable.
His head was light with pride, his horse's shoes Were heavy, and he headed for the stable.


by Richard Wilbur | |

Puritans

 Sidling upon the river, the white boat
Has volleyed with its cannon all the morning,
Shaken the shore towns like a Judgment warning,
Telling the palsied water its demand
That the crime come to the top again, and float,
That the sunk murder rise to the light and land.
Blam! In the noon's perfected brilliance burn Brief blooms of flame, which soil away in smoke; And down below, where slowed concussion broke The umber stroll of waters, water-dust Dreamily powders up, and serves to turn The river surface to a cloudy rust.
Down from his bridge the river captain cries To fire again.
They make the cannon sound; But none of them would wish the murder found, Nor wish in other manner to atone Than booming at their midnight crime, which lies Rotting the river, weighted with a stone.


by Richard Wilbur | |

The Prisoner of Zenda

 At the end a
"The Prisoner of Zenda,"
The King being out of danger,
Stewart Granger
(As Rudolph Rassendyll)
Must swallow a bitter pill
By renouncing his co-star,
Deborah Kerr.
It would be poor behavia In him and in Princess Flavia Were they to put their own Concerns before those of the Throne.
Deborah Kerr must wed The King instead.
Rassendyll turns to go.
Must it be so? Why can’t they have their cake And eat it, for heaven’s sake? Please let them have it both ways, The audience prays.
And yet it is hard to quarrel With a plot so moral.
One redeeming factor, However, is that the actor Who plays the once-dissolute King (Who has learned through suffering Not to drink or be mean To his future Queen), Far from being a stranger, Is also Stewart Granger.