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Richard Wilbur's 'Collected Poems'

Take the end of "Love Calls Us to the Things of this World," in which laundry hanging on a clothes line is likened to an angelic host, afloat in the breeze, welcoming the morning light. The poem grows into a meditation on the soul and the body, and concludes with this stanza:

Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;

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Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;

Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,

And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating

Of dark habits,

keeping their difficult balance.

It's tempting to keep quoting this marvel-filled poetry, but there's really no need. You should already be familiar with Richard Wilbur's work -- and if you're not, then you know what present to ask for this holiday season. •

Michael Dirda's new collection of essays, "Bound to Please," has just been published and his memoir "An Open Book" is now available in paperback. His email address is dirdam@washpost.com.

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