Advice to a Prophet by Richard Wilbur

    When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,
    Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
    Not proclaiming our fall but begging us
    In God's name to have self-pity,

    Spare us all word of the weapons, their force and range,
    The long numbers that rocket the mind;
    Our slow, unreckoning hearts will be left behind,
    Unable to fear what is too strange.

    Nor shall you scare us with talk of the death of the race.
    How should we dream of this place without us?–
    The sun mere fire, the leaves untroubled about us,
    A stone look on the stone's face?

    Speak of the world's own change. Though we cannot conceive
    Of an undreamt thing, we know to our cost
    How the dreamt cloud crumbles, the vines are blackened by frost,
    How the view alters. We could believe,

    If you told us so, that the white-tailed deer will slip
    Into perfect shade, grown perfectly shy,
    The lark avoid the reaches of our eye,
    The jack-pine lose its knuckled grip

    On the cold ledge, and every torrent burn
    As Xanthus once, its gliding trout
    Stunned in a twinkling. What should we be without
    The dolphin's arc, the dove's return,

    These things in which we have seen ourselves and spoken?
    Ask us, prophet, how we shall call
    Our natures forth when that live tongue is all
    Dispelled, that glass obscured or broken

    In which we have said the rose of our love and the clean
    Horse of our courage, in which beheld
    The singing locust of the soul unshelled,
    And all we mean or wish to mean.

    Ask us, ask us whether with the worldless rose
    Our hearts shall fail us; come demanding
    Whether there shall be lofty or long standing
    When the bronze annals of the oak-tree close

– Richard Wilbur

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply