I have loved the poetry of Richard Wilbur for about thirty years, and this poem was one of the first ones I encountered. I had the delight of meeting him, even standing in the lunch line with him! at the West Chester Poetry Conference about 10 years ago.
He takes a philosophical quotation and turns it into images which then turn it on its head.
A World Without Objects is a Sensible Emptiness
The tall camels of the spirit
Steer for their deserts, passing the last groves loud
With the sawmill shrill of the locust, to the whole honey of the
Sun. They are slow, proud,
And move with a stilted stride
To the land of sheer horizon, hunting Traherne’s
Sensible emptiness, there where the brain’s lantern-slide
Revels in vast returns.
O connoisseurs of thirst,
Beasts of my soul who long to learn to drink
Of pure mirage, those prosperous islands are accurst
That shimmer on the brink
Of absence; auras, lustres,
And all shinings need to be shaped and borne.
Think of those painted saints, capped by the early masters
With bright, jauntily-worn
Aureate plates, or even
Merry-go-round rings. Turn, O turn
From the fine sleights of the sand, from the long empty oven
Where flames in flamings burn
Back to the trees arrayed
In bursts of glare, to the halo-dialing run
Of the country creeks, and the hills’ bracken tiaras made
Gold in the sunken sun,
Wisely watch for the sight
Of the supernova burgeoning over the barn,
Lampshine blurred in the steam of beasts, the spirit’s right
Oasis, light incarnate.