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Richard Wilbur Portrait

Born in New York and raised in New Jersey, Richard Wilbur was educated at Amherst College and Harvard. He served as a cryptographer during World War II and was stationed in Africa, France, and Italy. Since then he has taught regularly, done successful translations of Molière, coauthored an operetta (Candide, 1957) with Lillian Hellman, and written two books of children's poetry. Taking the English metaphysical poets as his models in his own work, Wilbur has excelled at polished, witty, self-contained lyrics with formal stanzas and controlled metrics. He believes, as with his signature poem "Love Calls Us to the Things of This World," in spiritual impulses grounded in ordinary life. Yet the most ordinary things can, in the intense elegance of a civilizing gaze, become extraordinary. In "A Baroque Wall-Fountain in the Villa Sciarra," his language creates the secular, aesthetic miracle of Baroque water. The exquisite, sensuous, and precise description in the poem is Wilbur's version of the human potential for grace.