Richard Wilbur


Backtrack of sea, the baywater goes; flats
Bubble in sunlight, running with herringbone streams;
Sea-lettuce lies in oily mats
On sand mislaid; stranded
Are slug, stone, and shell, as dreams
Drain into morning shine, and the cheat is ended.

Oh, it was blue, the too amenable sea.
We heard of pearls in the dark and wished to dive.
But here in this snail-shell see, see
The crab-legs waggle; where,
If altered now, and yet alive,
Did softness get these bitter claws to wear?

As curtains from a fatal window blown
The sea’s receding fingers terribly tell
Of strangest things together grown;
All join, and in the furl
Of waters, blind in muck and shell,
Pursue their slow paludal games. O pearl,

Rise, rise and brighten, wear clear air, and in
Your natal cloudiness receive the sun;
Hang among single stars, and twin
My double deep; O tides,
Return a truer blue, make one
The sky’s blue speech, and what the sea confides.