The Reader

By Richard Wilbur

She is going back, these days, to the great stories

That charmed her younger mind.  A shaded light

Shines on the nape half-shadowed by her curls,

And a page turns now with a scuffing sound.

Onward they come again, the orphans reaching

For a first handhold in a stony world.

The young provincials who at last look down

On the city's maze, and will descend into it,

The serious girl, once more, who would live nobly,

The sly one who aspires to marry so,

The young man bent on glory, and that other

Who seeks a burden.  Knowing as she does

What will become of them in bloody field

or Tuscan garden, it may be that at times

She sees their first and final selves at once,

As a god might to whom all time is now.

Or, having lived so much herself, perhaps

She meets them at this time with a wiser eye,

Noting that Julien's calculating head

Is from the first too severed from his heart.

But the true wonder of it is that she,

For all that she may know of consequences,

Still turns enchanted to the next bright page

Like some Natasha in the ballroom door -

Caught in the flow of things wherever bound,

The blind delight of being, ready still

To enter life on life and see them through.