Friday, April 9, 2010

Museum Piece - Richard Wilbur

The good grey guardians of art
Patrol the halls on spongy shoes,
Impartially protective, though
Perhaps suspicious of Toulouse.

Here dozes one against the wall,
Disposed upon a funeral chair.
A Degas dancer pirouettes
Upon the parting of his hair.

See how she spins! The grace is there,
But strain as well is plain to see.
Degas loved the two together:
Beauty joined to energy.

Edgar Degas purchased once
A fine El Greco, which he kept
Against the wall beside his bed
To hang his pants on while he slept.

Richard Wilbur (b.1921) was born in New York City and grew up in my home town of North Caldwell, New Jersey. He has twice received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, once in 1957 and again in 1989. It was a poem of his called Running which initially inspired this poem project. I did not post it until last year. You can read it here.

Wilbur explained that the anecdote at the end of the poem is true. By way of further explanation he continued, "What the poem conveys, I hope, is that artists are less gravely reverential about art than its custodians are."


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