Study Guide

A Late Aubade Sound Check

By Richard Wilbur

Sound Check

Wilbur does a seriously impressive job of making the language of this poem sound familiar and intimate through the second person perspective, while also sticking to a strict rhyme scheme. It's tough to balance two very opposing modes—chatty, everyday, storytelling language—with the rules of formal poetry. In fact, we double dog dare you to try it. Try retelling what you did yesterday (or if you feel like copying Wilbur, what you could have done) while adhering to the same ABBA scheme, and sounding perfectly natural. It's not simple! But it is effective. Instead of sounding like a droning list of random things this woman could have done, the rhyme keeps the language lively and engaging. We head from the library ("carrel") to the department store ("Apparel") with an effortless bounce. Because the rhyme is pretty natural sounding, it doesn't disrupt the natural flow of the storytelling vibe, but enhances it.

But rhyme is not the only thing happening soundwise in this poem. This is about a couple lounging around together in bed, right? So it's only natural that we'd expect some fun and playful sounds to keep our couple company. For example, we get consonance in stanza 2, with a ton of soft S's to enhance our sultry mood:

You could be planting a raucous bed
Of salvia, in rubber gloves,
Or lunching through a screed of someone's loves
(5-7).

And check out the way the alliteration of all the W words in line 11 forces our mouths to pucker up when we read this out loud: "Wasting, and would not care to waste." The S consonance and W alliteration appear throughout this poem, actually (see especially the final stanza)—sonic flares that delight the ear and give our mouths a workout. Even on a subtle, sonic level, the poem is indicating the pure delight of the couple's situation. Good times.

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