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Poetry readings: In Limbo


Poetry readings: The Beacon
Richard Wilbur Poet
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Well, this is a poem called The Beacon.

Founded on rock and facing the night-fouled sea
A beacon blinks at its own brilliance,
Over and over with cutlass gaze
Solving the Gordian waters,
Making the sea-roads out, and the lounge of the weedy
Meadows, finding the blown hair
As it always has, and the buxom, lavish
Romp of the ocean-daughters.
Then, in the flashes of darkness it is all gone,
The flung arms and the hips, meads
And meridians, all; and the dark of the eye
Dives for the black pearl
Of the sea-in-itself. Watching the blinded waves
Compounding their eclipse, we hear their
Booms, rumours and guttural sucks
Warn of the pitchy whirl
At the mind's end. All of the sense of the sea
Is veiled as voices nearly heard
In morning sleep; nor shall we wake
At the sea's heart. Rail
At the deaf unbeatable sea, my soul, and weep
Your Alexandrine tears, but look:
The beacon-blaze unsheathing turns
The face of darkness pale
And now with one grand chop, gives clearance to
Our human visions, which assume
The waves again, fresh and the same.
Let us suppose that we
See most of darkness by our plainest light.
It is the Nereid's kick endears
The tossing spray; a sighted ship
Assembles all the sea.


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 Beacon

Duration: 1 minute, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2005

Date story went live: 29 September 2010