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;
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.