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By Richard Wilbur

The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,

And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul   

Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple   

As false dawn.

                     Outside the open window   

The morning air is all awash with angels.


    Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,   

Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.   

Now they are rising together in calm swells   

Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear   

With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;


    Now they are flying in place, conveying

The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving   

And staying like white water; and now of a sudden   

They swoon down into so rapt a quiet

That nobody seems to be there.

                                             The soul shrinks


    From all that it is about to remember,

From the punctual rape of every blessèd day,

And cries,

               “Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,   

Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam

And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”


    Yet, as the sun acknowledges

With a warm look the world’s hunks and colors,   

The soul descends once more in bitter love   

To accept the waking body, saying now

In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,   

    “Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;

Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;   

Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,   

And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating   

Of dark habits,

                      keeping their difficult balance.”


Richard Wilbur, “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World” from Collected Poems 1943-2004. Copyright © 2004 by Richard Wilbur. Reprinted with the permission of Harcourt, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Source: Collected Poems 1943-2004 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2004)

  • Love
  • Relationships

Poet Bio

Richard Wilbur
Richard Wilbur began to write poetry in earnest only after experiencing the horrific chaos of battle during WW II service as an infantryman in Italy. No poet of his generation was more committed to careful, organized expression or more thoroughly mastered the forms and devices of traditional poetry; this conservative aesthetic and his deep love for “country things” link Wilbur to the Roman poet Horace and to his fellow American Robert Frost.  See More By This Poet

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