Oh joy! Oh bliss! Oh rapture unforeseen!
To my shame, I have never before read anything by Richard Wilbur. I have heard friends mention him, and mentally put him on the list of “that to be read in the near future”, but had not yet sought him out.
Although I read in complete the many anthologies of poetry that graced my family’s shelves, my knowledge of anything very contemporary is sadly lacking. Fortunately, I have wonderful professors who randomly decide to recite poetry in class.
And then I fall in love.
This poem was made to imitate Old English poetry, with the stressed alliteration and caesuras. The form is magnificent; despite the occasional word of French lineage, it still stays close to the heart of “The Seafarer” or “The Wanderer”. And the form is in of itself part of the discussion of craftmanship, inviting not only the poem’s carefully honed lines but invoking the great makers of legend!
By Richard Wilbur
worc ne geswiceσ?
σara σe Mimming can
—WaldereAn axe anglesfrom my neighbor’s ashcan;It is hell’s handiwork,the wood not hickory,The flow of the grainnot faithfully followed.The shivered shaftrises from a shellheapOf plastic playthings,paper plates,And the sheer shardsof shattered tumblersThat were not annealedfor the time needful.At the same curbside,a cast-off cabinetOf wavily warpedunseasoned woodWaits to be trundledin the trash-man’s truck.Haul them off! Hide them!The heart wincesFor junk and gimcrack,for jerrybuilt thingsAnd the men who make themfor a little money,Bartering pridelike the bought boxerWho pulls his punches,or the paid-off jockeyWho in the home stretchholds in his horse.Yet the things themselvesin thoughtless honorHave kept composure,like captives who would notTalk under torture.Tossed from a tailgateWhere the dump displaysits random dolmens,Its black barrowsand blazing valleys,They shall waste in the weathertoward what they were.The sun shall gloryin the glitter of glass-chips,Foreseeing the salvageof the prisoned sand,And the blistering paintpeel off in patches,That the good grainbe discovered again.Then burnt, bulldozed,they shall all be buriedTo the depth of diamonds,in the making darkWhere halt Hephaestuskeeps his hammerAnd Wayland’s workis worn away.