“Horsetail” – Richard Wilbur‏

by richibi


It grows anywhere.
This jointed stalk, with branches
like green floating hair,

Thrives in ditches and
Trackside gravel, and even
In oil-spattered sand.

Careless of all that,
Its foot-high grace enhances
Any habitat.

Like a proud exile,
It will not boast that elsewhere
It lived in high style;

And who, after all,
Would credit what its vague head
Must in dreams recall –

How it long looked down
On the backs of dinosaurs
Shadowed by its crown?

Richard Wilbur


rather than an avowal, as in the Romantic
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, this poem is
instead an observation, a disquisition on
the fly, instead of an intensely personal
revelation, it’s a meditation on time

note that everything in this poem rhymes,
something not immediately evident for its
clever mixture throughout of iambic and
trochaic meter, to blur the rhythms as well
as the matching sonorities of traditional

iambic, da dah, da dah, da dah,
“To be or not to be”

trochaic, dah da, dah da, dah da,
“Mary had a little lamb”

compounded with the intellectual immediacy
of the subject it’s not unusual one would
miss the rustle of particular trees, however
sweet, for the majesty of the primordial forest

but it’s well worth revisiting the bristling
babble of the branches in conversation
with any stray cavorting breeze


psst: anapaestic, da da dah, da da dah,
“Lullaby, and goodnight”

dactylic, dah da da, dah da da,
out of the frying pan, into the fire