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April 8, 2020: The Pardon

This is my all-time favorite "dog" poem. Exquisite phrasing, imagery, music.


THE PARDON

by Richard Wilbur (1921-2017)

My dog lay dead five days without a grave In the thick of summer, hid in a clump of pine And a jungle of grass and honey-suckle vine. I who had loved him while he kept alive Went only close enough to where he was To sniff the heavy honeysuckle-smell Twined with another odor heavier still And hear the flies' intolerable buzz. Well, I was ten and very much afraid. In my kind world the dead were out of range And I could not forgive the sad or strange In beast or man. My father took the spade And buried him. Last night I saw the grass Slowly divide (it was the same scene But now it glowed a fierce and mortal green) And saw the dog emerging. I confess I felt afraid again, but still he came In the carnal sun, clothed in a hymn of flies, And death was breeding in his lively eyes. I started in to cry and call his name, Asking forgiveness of his tongueless head. ... I dreamt the past was never past redeeming: But whether this was false or honest dreaming I beg death's pardon now. And mourn the dead.

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