Thursday, March 1, 2012

Words, Which Can Make Our Terrors Bravely Clear, Can Also Thus Domesticate a Fear

Another Holyday of Egoslavia, Chopin born 202 years ago today (depending on which calendar one uses), Richard Wilbur born 91 years ago today. My mother is a pianist whose love of Mozart drove me fucking crazy, whose love of Chopin taught me love of Chopin. And, as in the case of Frost and Auden and Marianne Moore, it was Hecht who showed me the wonders of Wilbur.


Richard Wilbur

The warping night air having brought the boom
Of an owl’s voice into her darkened room,
We tell the wakened child that all she heard
Was an odd question from a forest bird,
Asking of us, if rightly listened to,
“Who cooks for you?” and then “Who cooks for you?”

Words, which can make our terrors bravely clear,
Can also thus domesticate a fear,
And send a small child back to sleep at night
Not listening for the sound of stealthy flight
Or dreaming of some small thing in a claw
Borne up to some dark branch and eaten raw.


Richard Wilbur

When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
In God's name to have self-pity,

Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,
The long numbers that rocket the mind;
Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,
Unable to fear what is too strange.

Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.
How should we dream of this place without us?--
The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,
A stone look on the stone's face?

Speak of the world's own change. Though we cannot conceive
Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,
How the view alters. We could believe,

If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip
Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,
The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip

On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be without
The dolphin's arc, the dove's return,

These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?
Ask us, prophet, how we shall call
Our natures forth when that live tongue is all
Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken

In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean
Horse of our courage, in which beheld
The singing locust of the soul unshelled,
And all we mean or wish to mean.

Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose
Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding
Whether there shall be lofty or long standing
When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close.


  1. I will gladly take the Wilbur off of your hands, if it is still available. You can throw in any stray Mozart you may be cleaning out, as well.

  2. Heh. I'll give you all the fucking Haydn I have too. I own exactly as much fucking Haydn as fucking Mozart.

    I'll bring the Wilbur Monday night.

  3. I saw the Dead for the first time in New Haven Coliseum in 1978, I believe.

    Never was a deadhead before going to collage, my fiends brainwashed me into it. (Not that I gave up my Led Zeppelin albums, mind you!)