Love Calls Us to the Things of This World Themes

Richard Wilbur

Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Love Calls Us to the Things of This World” is a key poem in Wilbur’s body of work and is typical of a vital concern of the poet. Wilbur has felt the appeal of philosophic speculation—indeed, there is much reference to philosophical texts throughout his work—but he has always insisted on the primacy of the objects of this world, “the world’s hunks and colors,” as he puts it in this poem. Meaning and beauty can be apprehended by the sense that is carefully attuned to observation. This poem is central to the poet himself—he chose to take part of its title for the volume in which it was collected, Things of This World (1956), which won a Pulitzer Prize.

Essentially, the poem is about the creative process, the relation of imagination to reality. The newly awakened soul at the beginning of the poem playfully makes the laundry into angels. This is emblematic of metaphor, seeing one thing in terms of another.

The soul takes such delight in the exercise, however, that the world itself seems a dull and uninspiring place where mundane actions seem a “punctual rape of every blessèd day.” It is love, which is the central creative principle in Wilbur’s work, that calls the soul back to “accept the waking body.” The agent for this action may be a “bitter love,” but it is love nevertheless.

The acceptance of this world by the soul does not imply a rejection of metaphor. Metaphor must be seen as the tool...

(The entire section is 510 words.)