Dream fluently, still brothers, who when young
Took with your mother’s milk the mother tongue,

In which pure matrix, joining world and mind,
You strove to leave some line of verse behind

Like still fresh tracks across a field of snow,
Not reckoning that all could melt and go.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Richard Wilbur's poem To the Etruscan Poets


  1. This is a beautiful poem, but the text here has a typo that diminishes the poem’s rhythmical subtlety and thematic punch. The fifth line should read: “Like a fresh track across a field of snow,” Please see Wilbur’s New and Collected Poems (1988), p.55, or his Collected Poems 1943-2004 (2004), p.130.

  2. AlbanyReader says:

    This poem is Wilbur’s elegant little answer to the generations of poets who have praised their lady’s (or lord’s) beauty, lamented its ultimate decay, and comforted the beloved with the thought that that beauty would be have eternal life in the poet’s words. The Etruscans were the predecessors to the Romans on the Italian peninsula. They had a vibrant literary culture, of which many inscriptions and one book have come down to us. Many in modern times have dedicated their lives in attempts to decipher the Etruscan language, but so far all have failed. One imagines that one of those indecipherable Etruscan texts said something like, “So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,/So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” Much as I love Shakespeare, I’ve always found this attitude of poets highly annoying, as well as vaguely insulting. (I would much more quickly be won by someone quoting from “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun.”) Therefore, I love Wilbur’s little “not so fast” warning to this kind of poetic egoism.

  3. aquapooh18 says:

    I am not trying to put anyone down it’s just that I think that you could make the poem more livly, but on the outher hand someone else might be able to understand it.

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