Still, Citizen Sparrow

By Richard Wilbur b. 1921 Richard Wilbur
Still, citizen sparrow, this vulture which you call   
Unnatural, let him but lumber again to air   
Over the rotten office, let him bear
The carrion ballast up, and at the tall

Tip of the sky lie cruising. Then you’ll see
That no more beautiful bird is in heaven’s height,   
No wider more placid wings, no watchfuller flight;   
He shoulders nature there, the frightfully free,

The naked-headed one. Pardon him, you   
Who dart in the orchard aisles, for it is he   
Devours death, mocks mutability,
Has heart to make an end, keeps nature new.

Thinking of Noah, childheart, try to forget   
How for so many bedlam hours his saw   
Soured the song of birds with its wheezy gnaw,   
And the slam of his hammer all the day beset

The people’s ears. Forget that he could bear   
To see the towns like coral under the keel,
And the fields so dismal deep. Try rather to feel   
How high and weary it was, on the waters where

He rocked his only world, and everyone’s.   
Forgive the hero, you who would have died   
Gladly with all you knew; he rode that tide   
To Ararat; all men are Noah’s sons.

Richard Wilbur, “Still, Citizen Sparrow” 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 Nature, Religion, Social Commentaries, Death, Animals, Living

 Richard  Wilbur


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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SUBJECT Nature, Religion, Social Commentaries, Death, Animals, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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