“Beasts” by Richard Wilbur

Roukas recently sent this in, and I’m glad he did! Read on, enjoy, and remember that we too are beasts.

Here’s a werewolf-tinged poem by the accomplished poet Richard Wilbur! Its nuances are beastly and fluctuating, and I’ve been mentally chipping away at it (and enjoying it) for a while. Thought you may want to post it up for some good, quick wolfy reading.


Beasts in their major freedom
Slumber in peace tonight. The gull on his ledge
Dreams in the guts of himself the moon-plucked waves below,
And the sunfish leans on a stone, slept
By the lyric water,

In which the spotless feet
Of deer make dulcet splashes, and to which
The ripped mouse, safe in the owl’s talon, cries
Concordance. Here there is no such harm
And no such darkness

As the selfsame moon observes
Where, warped in window-glass, it sponsors now
The werewolf’s painful change. Turning his head away
On the sweaty bolster, he tries to remember
The mood of manhood,

But lies at last, as always,
Letting it happen, the fierce fur soft to his face,
Hearing with sharper ears the wind’s exciting minors,
The leaves’ panic, and the degradation
Of the heavy streams.

Meantime, at high windows
Far from thicket and pad-fall, suitors of excellence
Sigh and turn from their work to construe again the painful
Beauty of heaven, the lucid moon
And the risen hunter,

Making such dreams for men
As told will break their hearts as always, bringing
Monsters into the city, crows on the public statues,
Navies fed to the fish in the dark
Unbridled waters.


This poem and many others by Wilbur can be found in Wilbur’s Collected Poems 1943-2004.