A Courtyard Thaw

By Richard Wilbur

The sun was strong enough today
To climb the wall and loose the courtyard trees
(For two short hours, anyway)
From hardship of the January freeze.

Their icy cerements decayed
To silken moistures, which began to slip
In glints and spangles down, and made
On every twig a bauble at the tip.

No blossom, leaf or basking fruit
Showed ever such pure passion for the sun
As these cold drops that knew no root
Yet filled with light and swelled and one by one

(Or showered by a wingbeat, sown
From windbent branches in arpeggios)
Let go and took their shinings down
And brought their brittle season to a close.

O false gemmation! Flashy fall!
The eye is pleased when nature stoops to art,
Staging within a courtyard wall
Such twinkling scenes. But puzzling to the heart,

This spring was neither fierce nor gay,
This summary autumn fell without a tear:
No tinkling music-box can play
The slow, deep-grounded masses of the year.


Richard Wilbur, Collected Poems 1943–2004, Harcourt, 2004.