Wilbur, Richard

United States, (b. 1921)

Matthew VIII, 28 ff.

  1. Rabbi, we Gadarenes
  2. Are not ascetics; we are fond of wealth and possessions.
  3. Love, as you call it, we obviate by means
  4. Of the planned release of aggressions.
  5.  
  6. We have deep faith in prosperity.
  7. Soon, it is hoped, we will reach our full potential.
  8. In the light of our gross product, the practice of charity
  9. Is palpably inessential.
  10.  
  11. It is true that we go insane;
  12. That for no good reason we are possessed by devils;
  13. That we suffer, despite the amenities which obtain
  14. At all but the lowest levels.
  15.  
  16. We shall not, however, resign
  17. Our trust in the high-heaped table and the full trough.
  18. If you cannot cure us without destroying our swine,
  19. We had rather you shoved off.

© Richard Wilbur. Collected Poems 1943-2004. Orlando, Fla.: Harcourt (2004). Originally published in Walking to Sleep: New Poems and Translations. New York: Harcourt, Brace & World (1969).

About the Poet:

Richard Purdy Wilbur (b. 1921) is a U.S. poet and literary translator. Wilbur attended Amherst College and graduate school at Harvard University. He then taught at Wesleyan University for two decades and at Smith College for another decade. While at Wesleyan, he was instrumental in founding the award-winning poetry series of the University Press. Since 2011, he teaches at Amherst College where he is also on the editorial board of the literary magazine The Common, based at Amherst College.

In 1987 Wilbur was appointed the second U.S. Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress. He has twice received the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, in 1957 for Things of This World (1956) and again in 1989 for New and Collected Poems (1988).

Wilbur’s translations of French verse, especially Voltaire’s Candide and the plays of Moliere, Jean Racine and Pierre Corneille are also highly regarded by critics. His translation of Moliere’s Tartuffe won the 1971 Bollingen Prize. [DES-03/12]

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