a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Poetry readings: For C


Poetry readings: The Reader
Richard Wilbur Poet
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

My wife is one of the great readers of all time, and she's also one of the great re-readers. She recycles books, even books as big as War and Peace, every year, and this poem called The Reader is about her.

She is going back these days to the great stories

That charmed her younger mind. A shaded light

Shines on the nape, half-shadowed by her curls,

And a page turns now with a scuffing sound.

Onward they come again, the orphans reaching

For a first handhold in a stony world,

The young provincials who at last look down

On the city's maze, and will descend into it,

The serious girl, once more, who would live nobly,

The sly one who aspires to marry so,

The young man bent on glory, and that other

Who seeks a burden. Knowing as she does

What will become of them in bloody field

Or Tuscan garden, it may be that at times

She sees their first and final selves at once

As a god might to whom all time is now.

Or, having lived so much herself, perhaps

She meets them this time with a wiser eye,

Noting that Julien's calculating head

Is from the first too severed from his heart.

But the true wonder of it is that she,

For all that she may know of consequences,

Still turns enchanted to the next bright page

Like some Natasha in the ballroom door-

Caught in the flow of things wherever bound,

The blind delight of being, ready still

To enter life on life and see them through.

Since publishing that poem I've often heard from people who were themselves great readers and who want to know exactly which Balzac novels I'm thinking of when I speak of the young provincials and so on. I must prepare a list to send out to my correspondents.


Acclaimed US poet Richard Wilbur (1921-2017) published many books and was twice awarded the Pulitzer Prize. He was less well known for creating a musical version of Voltaire's “Candide” with Bernstein and Hellman which is still produced throughout the world today.

Listeners: David Sofield

David Sofield is the Samuel Williston Professor of English at Amherst College, where he has taught the reading and writing of poetry since 1965. He is the co-editor and a contributor to Under Criticism (1998) and the author of a book of poems, Light Disguise (2003).

Tags: The Reader

Duration: 2 minutes, 26 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008