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Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

Love Calls Us to the Things of This World

by Richard Wilbur

Stanza 4 Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Line 18

From all that it is about to remember,

  • Oh, so that's what the soul's shrinking from—from what it's "about to remember.
  • From line 18 we can guess that the soul knows what's coming and doesn't like it. 
  • We can also guess that, because the soul already knows what's going to happen, this has happened before (maybe even on a daily basis). 
  • Instead of saying "all that is to come," Wilbur writes, "all that it is about to remember." This means the soul may have been bothered by this same memory before—it knows what's coming on some level.
  • If that's confusing, think about, say, the last day of summer. You've experienced it before, and knowing that it's coming again stirs up fresh dread in you. You remember the feeling, and you know when it's coming.

Lines 19-20

From the punctual rape of every blessed day,
And cries,

  • The soul, still shrinking, is shying away from something new—the "punctual rape" of day, to be exact. 
  • Yikes. That's quite the turn of phrase. But "rape" in this case, is figurative (since there are no people in sight). Basically, the speaker is saying that the day comes every day and takes this miraculous "false dawn" from the soul, against its will. 
  • So the soul is bracing for the day to come and take away this magical moment it's been having with the angels. 
  • This seems like a big warm-up for the sunrise and for people to come in and wreck things.
  • Line 20 lingers there, telling us that the soul is crying something, but we're not sure what yet. So read on, dear Shmoopers.

Lines 21-23

"Oh let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam

  • The soul speaks! And what does it say? A lot of nonsense about laundry and steam. 
  • Okay, okay, so it's not nonsense. Here's our take:
  • To begin with, earth gets its first mention of the poem. This might mean we're moving from the heavenly, magical space back down to reality. 
  • And laundry gets its first official mention, too. Maybe this is confirmation that those blouses and bed-sheets really were clothes drying on a line, blowing in the breeze. 
  • And with that laundry, the soul hopes to see nothing but "rosy hands in the rising steam." These hands seem kind of detached, as if there aren't actually any real humans out and about yet—just their hands pulling clothes off the line.
  • What's the tone of this line? It almost sounds a bit like a prayer, what with that "Oh let" at the beginning. The soul seems to want to cling to the magic of the people-less world, when everyone's still fast asleep.

Line 24

And clear dances done in the sight of heaven."

  • Ah, ambiguity. This line's chock full of it. 
  • We could read this line in a ton of different ways, but no matter what, it's clear that this is a continuation of the prayer or wish that started in line 22. We're still in quotation marks, after all. 
  • And what's the soul praying for this time around? Dancing near heaven, that's what.
  • "Clear dances" probably has to do with the purity and cleanliness that the soul appreciates about the moments before humans wake up. It might also be a similar image to what the soul saw in the angels, and even what the rosy hands looked like. 
  • In other words, the soul wants these moments to last. Stay asleep, people, for the love of Mike.

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