Year’s End

By Richard Wilbur b. 1921 Richard Wilbur
Now winter downs the dying of the year,   
And night is all a settlement of snow;
From the soft street the rooms of houses show   
A gathered light, a shapen atmosphere,   
Like frozen-over lakes whose ice is thin   
And still allows some stirring down within.

I’ve known the wind by water banks to shake
The late leaves down, which frozen where they fell   
And held in ice as dancers in a spell   
Fluttered all winter long into a lake;   
Graved on the dark in gestures of descent,   
They seemed their own most perfect monument.

There was perfection in the death of ferns   
Which laid their fragile cheeks against the stone   
A million years. Great mammoths overthrown   
Composedly have made their long sojourns,   
Like palaces of patience, in the gray
And changeless lands of ice. And at Pompeii

The little dog lay curled and did not rise   
But slept the deeper as the ashes rose
And found the people incomplete, and froze   
The random hands, the loose unready eyes   
Of men expecting yet another sun
To do the shapely thing they had not done.

These sudden ends of time must give us pause.   
We fray into the future, rarely wrought
Save in the tapestries of afterthought.
More time, more time. Barrages of applause   
Come muffled from a buried radio.
The New-year bells are wrangling with the snow.

Richard Wilbur, “Year’s End” from Collected Poems 1943-2004. Copyright © 2004 by Richard Wilbur. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin 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 (2004)

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Poet Richard Wilbur b. 1921

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Pets, History & Politics, Nature, Winter, Trees & Flowers, Weather, Animals, Relationships, Social Commentaries

Holidays New Year

 Richard  Wilbur

Biography

Richard Wilbur “is a poet for all of us, whose elegant words brim with wit and paradox,” announced Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin when the poet succeeded Robert Penn Warren to become the second poet laureate of the United States. Wilbur won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for his collection Things of This World: Poems in 1957 and a second Pulitzer for New and Collected Poems. He has won the Wallace Stevens . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Pets, History & Politics, Nature, Winter, Trees & Flowers, Weather, Animals, Relationships, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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