Love Calls Us to the Things of This World Analysis

Richard Wilbur

The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Love Calls Us to the Things of This World” is a lyric poem written in blank verse. The title is taken from Saint Augustine and gives theological support to the particular mood of acceptance significant to the poem.

The poem is set in the first awakening of consciousness after sleep in the morning. The time of initial dislocation between sleep and waking is often portrayed negatively in literature; at first waking, one can often feel alien to the world, even to one’s own life. Indeed, even in this poem it is a “cry of pulleys” from clothes being hung out early in the morning that wakes the “astounded soul,” hardly a pleasant way of being roused from sleep. Yet immediately the laundry is identified with angels in the awake but still-dreaming mind.

The poem next plays with the observer’s imaginings of angels dressed in the bedsheets, blouses, and smocks hanging on the line. As if on cue, the breeze begins and the laundry comes to life with “halcyon feeling” that fills the scene with a “deep joy of their impersonal breathing.”

The waving laundry is next compared to white-water rapids in their rippled dancing until the breeze stops and the garments “swoon down into so rapt a quiet/ That nobody seems to be there.” This sudden stillness brings the consciousness in the poem back to a realization that the “punctual rape” of the day is waiting, the day lived without the magic and delight of the angels that...

(The entire section is 489 words.)

Forms and Devices

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

On the page, “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World” appears at first to be semi-free verse, the lines metered but of indeterminate lengths. On close reading, however, one sees that the poem is actually written in blank verse. Typographically, the lines are scattered, and there are many dropped lines, much as one sees in William Shakespeare’s plays when two characters share one line of iambic pentameter. Thus there is only one line—“Yet, as the sun acknowledges”—that is not a pentameter line, and this line is lacking only one foot. The effect is that a leisurely, seemingly loosely constructed poem does take a definite shape, much the same as the consciousness in the poem itself does accept a form. In both cases, the shape is one of discovery of meaning and correspondence.

The poem is about a joyous acceptance, and the poet indeed takes a delight in language. “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World” is full of playful language, perhaps most notably in its use of puns. The awakened soul fancifully seeing angels is described as “spirited from sleep.” The laundry causes the morning air to be “awash with angels.” When consciousness wins the upper hand and insists that these objects are not angels but laundry, the “soul shrinks.” When the speaker rails against the “punctual rape of every blessèd day,” there are two puns involved. The first is “blessèd,” used as both an epithet and an affirmation of the sanctity of...

(The entire section is 440 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Bixler, Frances. Richard Wilbur: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1991.

Edgecombe, Rodney Stenning. A Reader’s Guide to the Poetry of Richard Wilbur. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1995.

Hougen, John B. Ecstasy Within Discipline: The Poetry of Richard Wilbur. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1994.

Michelson, Bruce. Wilbur’s Poetry: Music in a Scattering Time. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1991.

Reibetang, John. “What Love Sees: Poetry and Vision in Richard Wilbur.” Modern Poetry Studies 11 (1982): 60-85.

Salinger, Wendy, ed. Richard Wilbur’s Creation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1983.

Stitt, Peter. The World’s Hieroglyphic Beauty: Five American Poets. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985.