Monday, August 19, 2019
An Analysis of Wilburs Mayflies Essays -- Wilbur Mayflies Essays Poet
An Analysis of Wilbur's Mayflies Ã Ã Ã Ã Richard Wilbur's recent poem 'Mayflies' reminds us that the American Romantic tradition that Robert Frost most famously brought into the 20th century has made it safely into the 21st.Ã Like many of Frost's short lyric poems, 'Mayflies' describes one person's encounter with an ordinary but easily overlooked piece of nature'in this case, a cloud of mayflies spotted in a 'sombre forest'(l.1) rising over 'unseen pools'(l.2),'made surprisingly attractive and meaningful by the speaker's special scrutiny of it.Ã The ultimate attraction of Wilbur's mayflies would appear to be the meaning he finds in them.Ã This seems to be an unremittingly positive poem, even as it glimpses the dark subjects of human isolation and mortality, perhaps especially as it glimpses these subjects.Ã Ã In this way the poem may recall that most persistent criticism of Wilbur's work, that it is too optimistic, too safe.Ã The poet-critic Randall Jarrell, though an early admirer of Wilbur, o nce wrote that 'he obsessively sees, and shows, the bright underside of every dark thing'?something Frost was never accused of (Jarrell 332). Yet, when we examine the poem closely, and in particular the series of comparisons by which Wilbur elevates his mayflies into the realm of beauty and truth, the poem concedes something less ?bright? or felicitous about what it finally calls its 'joyful . . . task' of poetic perception and representation (l.23). Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã Ã In this poem about seeing from the shadows, the speaker?s revelations are invariably ironic.Ã What could be a more unpromising object of poetic eloquence than mayflies, those leggy, flimsy, short-lived bugs that one often finds floating in the hulls of rowboats?Ã Yet for Wilbur... ...vocal statement about the ?organic? possibilities of poetry than optimistic readers might have expected. ?Mayflies? forces us to complicate Randall Jarrell?s neat formulation.Ã Here Wilbur has not just seen and shown ?the bright underside of? aÃ ?dark thing.? In a poem where the speaker stands in darkness looking at what ?animate[s] a ragged patch of glow? (l.4), we are left finally in a kind of grayness.Ã Ã We look from darkness into light and entertain an enchanting faith that we belong over there, in the immortal dance, but we aren?t there now.Ã We are in the machine-shop of poetry.Ã Its own fiat will not let us out completely. Ã Works Cited Jarrell, Randall. ?Fifty Years of American Poetry.? The Third Book of Criticism. NY: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1969. Wilbur, Richard.Ã ?Mayflies.? Mayflies: New Poems and Translations.Ã NY: Harcourt Brace, 2000.