Richard Wilbur

(March 1, 1921)

Shame - Poem by Richard Wilbur

It is a cramped little state with no foreign policy,
Save to be thought inoffensive. The grammar of the language
Has never been fathomed, owing to the national habit
Of allowing each sentence to trail off in confusion.
Those who have visited Scusi, the capital city,
Report that the railway-route from Schuldig passes
Through country best described as unrelieved.
Sheep are the national product. The faint inscription
Over the city gates may perhaps be rendered,
"I'm afraid you won't find much of interest here."
Census-reports which give the population
As zero are, of course, not to be trusted,
Save as reflecting the natives' flustered insistence
That they do not count, as well as their modest horror
Of letting one's sex be known in so many words.
The uniform grey of the nondescript buildings, the absence
Of churches or comfort-stations, have given observers
An odd impression of ostentatious meanness,
And it must be said of the citizens (muttering by
In their ratty sheepskins, shying at cracks in the sidewalk)
That they lack the peace of mind of the truly humble.
The tenor of life is careful, even in the stiff
Unsmiling carelessness of the border-guards
And douaniers, who admit, whenever they can,
Not merely the usual carloads of deodorant
But gypsies, g-strings, hasheesh, and contraband pigments.
Their complete negligence is reserved, however,
For the hoped-for invasion, at which time the happy people
(Sniggering, ruddily naked, and shamelessly drunk)
Will stun the foe by their overwhelming submission,
Corrupt the generals, infiltrate the staff,
Usurp the throne, proclaim themselves to be sun-gods,
And bring about the collapse of the whole empire.


Comments about Shame by Richard Wilbur

  • (6/17/2017 10:05:00 AM)


    I am shocked that none seem to have anything to say about this one poem in particular; seeing as it precisely defines our current dilemma- or as some may still call it The New American Century. Post 911; that is, if you have interpreted this to have been Wilbur's predisposed environment and emblematic source of inspiration for writing this poem. Although, I could be wrong and simply suffer from having a self fulfilling bias, due to my single frame of reference that forces me to interpret everything through the lens of that one September morning that towers over my entire existence. I hope that one day we will all be able to enjoy a poem like this without having to face the fact that this is our sad reality. At this point it is unacceptable that we should be made to feel obligated to continue along as if nothing were wrong (the obvious point being made here.) Not to mention, the fact that the road ahead, will be paved by our own naivety and willful ignorance our only companion. To quote A Baroque Wall-Fountain in the Villa Sciarra WILL you be happy in all that loose collapse of water? Like Summer's calculus, WTC is now a Museum Piece and according to After the Last Bulletin in it's footprint the official memory has been reduced to an endless pool of deep water For the New Railway Station in Rome where negligence is rewarded with promotions and The Pardon while we get A Black November Turkey called The Patriot Act for our willing complicity as Still Citizen Sparrow never go Looking Into History. (Report) Reply

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Read poems about / on: city, happy, peace, people, sun, trust, hope



Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003



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