Richard Wilbur





All These Birds

                 Agreed that all these birds,
 hawk or heavenly lark or heard-of nightingale,
        Perform upon the kitestrings of our sight
        In a false distance, that the day and night
        Are full of wingèd words
                                                gone rather stale,
               That nothing is so worn
               As Philomel’s bosom-thorn,

               That it is, in fact, the male
Nightingale which sings, and that all these creatures wear
        Invisible armor such as Hébert beheld
        His water-ousel through, as, wrapped or shelled
        In a clear bellying veil
                                            or a bubble of air,
               It bucked the flood to feed
               at the stream-bottom. Agreed
               That the sky is a vast claire
In which the gull, despite appearances, is not
       Less claustral than the oyster in its beak
       And dives like nothing human; that we seek
       Vainly to know the heron
                                                (but can plot
               What angle of the light
               Provokes its northern flight.)
               
               Let them be polyglot
And wordless then, those boughs that spoke with Solomon
        In Hebrew canticles, and made him wise;
        And let a clear and bitter wind arise
        To storm into the hotbeds
                                                 of the sun,
              and there, beyond a doubt,
              Batter the Phoenix out.

              Let us, with glass or gun,
Watch (from our clever blinds) the monsters of the sky
        Dwindle to habit, habitat, and song,
        And tell the imagination it is wrong
        Till, lest it be undone,
                                           it spin a lie
               So fresh, so pure, so rare
               As to possess the air.

               Why should it be more shy
Than chimney-nesting storks, or sparrows on a wall?
         Oh, let it climb wherever it can cling
         Like some great trumpet-vine, a natural thing
         To which all birds that fly
                                                  come natural.
               Come, stranger, sister, dove:
               Put on the reigns of love.