“Beast” by Richard Wilbur

In “Beast” by Richard Wilbur, Wilbur uses poetic structures, paradox and the idea of balance between nature and humanity to display in the reader’s mind that nature is something that should not be looked down upon rather should be feared. In the first few stanzas, Wilbur displays the natural process that nature goes through, for example, he introduces paradox when the “ripped mouse” is “safe in the owl’s talon” stressing that there is balance within nature itself, additionally highlighting that nature is the source and creator of balance.

Furthermore, Wilbur adds another paradox by showing that a “freed beast is in slumber”, confusing the reader because free beast would roam the world and cause chaos and havoc to those that destroys the beast’s habitat. This further shows that, with nature by itself the beast does not awake; however, with humanity’s interference the beast awakes and is a “risen hunter.” All of these paradoxes stress the internal balance that nature creates and portrays that any interference with nature causes humanity to mimic the power that nature has; nonetheless, humanity’s interference ultimately leads to there downfall and an imbalance between humanity and nature.

As shown in the last three stanzas, humanity “suitors of excellence” wants to achieve perfection and unwavering power that nature possesses; yet, humanity is always stopped by nature with a “sigh” because any attempt to achieve nature’s equal makes nature to hunt humanity as a “risen hunter.” These last stanzas show the power that nature has cannot be copied or taken no matter how hard humanity tries, stressing the point that humanity’s interference with nature causes their own downfall and corruption.

Additionally, Wilbur’s poetic structure adds additionally voice into the poem that supports humanity’s interference as unconventional yet eminent. In the first stanza, Wilbur uses musical symbols such as “major”, “minor”, “plucked”, “dulcet”, “concordance”, and “lyric” to imply that nature is peaceful and at rest because there is nothing out of the balance that creates discordance.

However, Wilbur changes the tone of the poem around line 12 that causes dissonance because not only does the plot take an unexpected turn but also there where “no such darkness” but diction such as “warp”, “painful”, “werewolf”, and “sweaty” are type of words not found in the first half of the poem. Furthermore, uses rhetorical shifts, or volta, to change scenes from one place to another to show the difference between what nature is trying to achieve with its power and what humanity wants to do with their power.

For example, in lines 12 and 13 a volta is introduced to show not only the change in scenes but also the institution of acceptance verses internal transformation. In conclusion with nature’s overwhelming power, humanity continues on to dream despite their loss, making humanity a very flexible being, shown through their retreat “from their work construe;” however, through this humanity is free, “unbridled” adding onto humanity’s flexibility.

Generally, Wilbur’s “Beasts” is a struggle between humanity and nature fighting over for power, but in the end nature triumphs. In other words, nature’s balance with devastation and upheaval is shattered by humanity as they, mankind, attempt to stand alone, which ultimately leads to their downfall and fraudulence.

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