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A Plain Song For Comadre Analysis

Author: poem of Richard Wilbur Type: poem Views: 11

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Though the unseen may vanish, though insight


And doubter and downcast saint

Join in the same complaint,

What holy things were ever frightened off

By a fly's buzz, or itches, or a cough?

Harder than nails

They are, more warmly constant than the sun,

At whose continual sign

The dimly prompted vine

Upbraids itself to a green excellence.

What evening, when the slow and forced


Of sweat is done,

Does not the dark come flooding the straight


Or filling the well-made bowl?

What night will not the whole

Sky with its clear studs and steady spheres

Turn on a sound chimney?  It is seventeen


Come tomorrow

That Bruna Sandoval has kept the church

Of San Ysidro, sweeping

And scrubbing the aisles, keeping

The candlesticks and the plaster faces bright,

And seen no visions but the thing done right

>From the clay porch

To the white altar.  For love and in all weathers

This is what she has done.

Sometimes the early sun

Shines as she flings the scrubwater out, with a


Of grimy rainbows, and the stained studs flash

Like angel-feathers.

Submitted by Elizabeth Curry


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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||

.: :.

"Plain Song" in the title refers to the term "plainsong," the liturgical chant of the Roman Catholic Church.
To me, this is a poem about the holiness of faithfulness to ordinary work, particularly when ordered toward God. People who are faithful in this way are not "frighted off" from that faithfulness. In their resolve, they are "harder than nails," though in their love, "warmer than the sun." Like that same sun, which calls green plants to life, faithfulness enlivens creation with grace.
These faithful ones are not immune to the darkness of the world - it even upon their work - it fills the tilled furrow, the carefully hollowed bowl. But the thought of that same darkness leads in the poem to the universe - turning upon the "sound chimney" (more faithfulness to make that chimney, more holiness). And finally, we come to the focus of the poem ...
... Bruna, the humble maid, who keeps the church clean, "in love and all weathers." She is rewarded with "no vision but the thing done right," and that is enough. In a way, "the thing done right" is more a miraculous testimony to holiness than some kind of supernatural event.
It is with that understanding, then, that we can see in Bruna's grimy soap soads, "angel feathers," that is, the presence of God.

| Posted on 2010-05-02 | by a guest

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