Marginalia

pond scene

Things concentrate at the edges; at the pond surface

Is bourne to fish and man and it is spread

In textile scum and damask light, on which

The lily pads are set; and there are also

            In laid ruddy twigs, becalmed pine leaves

            Air baubles, and the chain mail of froth.

Descending into sleep (as when the night lift

Falls past a brilliant floor) we glimpse a sublime

Décor and hear, perhaps, a complete music,

But this evades us, as in the night meadows

            The crickets’ million round song dies away

            From all advances, rising in every distance

Our riches are centrifugal, men compose

Daily, unwittingly, their final dreams

And those are our own voices whose remote

Consummate chorus rides on the whirlpool rim,

            Past which we flog are sails, toward which we drift,

            Plying our trades, in hopes of a good drowning

(Richard Wilbur)

“Marginalia” is a great philosophizing piece of poetry in which the poet has weaved some deep and strong messages. “Marginalia” is the margin of life and after reading this poem I was asking myself a question that isn’t it true that all human efforts are striving towards his end?

Man is mortal but the great conquerors, monarchs and kings of world had all lived a life with a notion of “immortality”. The poet has given us an example of a pond in which fish and man both exert a pressure towards its edges. Our riches are centrifugal. No matter how much we tried but sometimes we have to leave the center.

It reminds me of the story of “Heidi” in which she reluctantly leaves her house. Life in that city home was not easy for her, but the difficulties of that house changed her vision and when she returned she was not the same girl. The Heidi not only learned to keep her dress neat and clean but she also learned to read and write.

There is also a theme of dream versus reality here. I believe our daily activities are only keeping us busy. In the midst of tough schedules of life, our desires, hopes and aspirations find their way in our dreams. In our dreams, the sense of their very presence feels strong which clearly describes the fact that higher we ascent the steps of imagination, we’ll find reality at the edges not in the center.

It seems off the mark but I can’t help mentioning a movie dialogue here. I’m not much fan of watching horror movies but this is my favorite movie quote from “Abraham Lincoln and Vampire Hunters” and I think it somehow relates to the message in the above poem.

“Days are swift as an Indian arrow,

Flying like a shooting star,

The present day is here and then slides away in haste,

That we can never say is ours but only say is passed.”

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6 thoughts on “Marginalia

    1. 🙂
      In first reading the poem is little bit difficult to understand. Isn’t it?
      While reading the analysis of poem I found the theme interesting and that reminds me of Heidi and also that movie dialogue. I thought it would be a nice idea to share it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not familiar with Wilbur as a poet, but as I was reading his work here, several things stood out to me. There was a connection with nature, in particular between humans and nature. There is also a lot of imagery that is amazing, and I felt a sense of drifting. In particular that we are drifting through life and in the end we reach our final destination. These are some of the thoughts I was thinking.

        Like

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