In somber forest, when the sun was low,
I saw from unseen pools a mist of flies,
In their quadrillions rise,
And animate a ragged patch of glow,
With sudden glittering - as when a crowd,
Of stars appear,
Through a brief gap in black and driven cloud,
One arc of their great round-dance showing clear.

It was no muddled swarm I witnessed, for
In entrechats each fluttering insect there
Rose two steep yards in air,
Then slowly floated down to climb once more,
so that they all composed a manifold
And figured scene,
And seemed the weavers of some cloth of gold,
Or the fine pistons of some bright machine.

Watching those lifelong dancers of a day
As night closed in, I felt myself alone
In a life too much my own,
More mortal in my separateness than they -
Unless, I thought, I had been called to be
Not fly or star
But one whose task is joyfully to see
How fair the fiats of the caller are.

from Collected Poems 1943-2004 (Waywiser, 2005), copyright © Richard Wilbur 2005, used by permission of the author and the publisher

Where next?


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1A Barred Owl

2For C.


4At Moorditch




8Crows' Nests

9Bone Key

10A Cry from Childhood

11A Wall in the Woods: Cummington


13This Pleasing Anxious Being

14The Ride


16The Catch


18Trolling for Blues


20A Finished Man

21Hamlen Brook

22A Storm in April

23The Writer

24To The Etruscan Poets

25The Eye

26Piccola Commedia

27The Mind-Reader

Books by Richard Wilbur