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

Huru Welandes
worc ne geswiceσ?
monna ænigum
σara σe Mimming can
heardne gehealdan.


An axe angles
                               from my neighbor’s ashcan;
It is hell’s handiwork,
                                              the wood not hickory,
The flow of the grain
                                           not faithfully followed.
The shivered shaft
                                       rises from a shellheap
Of plastic playthings,
                                             paper plates,
And the sheer shards
                                          of shattered tumblers
That were not annealed
                                             for the time needful.
At the same curbside,
                                           a cast-off cabinet
Of wavily warped
                                    unseasoned wood
Waits to be trundled
                                          in the trash-man’s truck.
Haul them off! Hide them!
                                                 The heart winces
For junk and gimcrack,
                                             for jerrybuilt things
And the men who make them
                                                 for a little money,
Bartering pride
                                  like the bought boxer
Who pulls his punches,
                                             or the paid-off jockey
Who in the home stretch
                                              holds in his horse.
Yet the things themselves
                                                 in thoughtless honor
Have kept composure,
                                          like captives who would not
Talk under torture.
                                        Tossed from a tailgate
Where the dump displays
                                              its random dolmens,
Its black barrows
                                     and blazing valleys,
They shall waste in the weather
                                                          toward what they were.
The sun shall glory
                                        in the glitter of glass-chips,
Foreseeing the salvage
                                             of the prisoned sand,
And the blistering paint
                                                peel off in patches,
That the good grain
                                        be discovered again.
Then burnt, bulldozed,
                                             they shall all be buried
To the depth of diamonds,
                                                 in the making dark
Where halt Hephaestus
                                           keeps his hammer
And Wayland’s work
                                       is worn away.

One thought on “Treasures

  1. Pingback: In Which There is a Wurm « Egotist's Club

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