Study Guide

A Late Aubade Introduction

By Richard Wilbur

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A Late Aubade Introduction

Who said poetry is all doom and gloom? Sure Dickinson's down with death and Sylvia Plath has a flair for the (negatively) dramatic, but there are poets more than willing to put out positive vibes, and Richard Wilbur is one of them.

By the time Wilbur published "A Late Aubade," he already had his first Pulitzer Prize under his belt and six books to his name. He was well into the swing of his writing style, and this poem certainly reflects that. It has an everyday, approachable feeling to it, and a generally positive or celebratory tone.

There is speculation that because Wilbur fought on the front lines during WWII and experienced first-hand the atrocities of war, he aims to portray what is good in people and in the world around him. His poems also tend to have a clear narrative to them, so as readers we rarely feel lost or left out—we're always quite certain where we are from beginning, middle, to end. This poem definitely fits that mold. It's a poem that very straightforwardly and intimately tells about a morning full of loving. It's relaxed and intimate without being overly simple, or way too sappy. And like so many of Wilbur's poems, it has the ability to make you feel better about the world, if only in a small way, after you've read it.

What is A Late Aubade About and Why Should I Care?

You never know when you're going to get dumped. Things can be going along beautifully—she's wearing your varsity jacket, and you've just spent the third consecutive night staying up to g-chat long past your bedtime—when all of a sudden, you get a text message saying sayonara! Dating is weird and unexpected, so you might as well enjoy it while it lasts. This poem focuses on the joys of love, and the ability to live in the moment. Carpe diem, as Horace would say.

Richard Wilbur has a tendency to celebrate what's good in life. It's not that he denies the bad, but he chooses to embrace the good. This poem lingers over an intimate couple's long morning together, and their momentary ability to forget everything else that's going on in the world. So hit the pause button for a while and enjoy this sweet moment vicariously. (This would totally be the soundtrack to this poem if there were such a thing.)

A Late Aubade Resources


Modern American Wilbur
This is a pretty boss resource for commentary on Wilbur's work.

Poetry Foundation
Here's a great bio on Wilbur, plus scads more.


From the Horse's Mouth
(Wilbur's, really.) Hear him read "A Late Aubade."

The Birthday Boy
Here's a celebratory poetry reading for Wilbur's big nine-oh.


Key West=Umbrella Drinks and Poetry Readings
Wilbur reads and discusses several of his poems on KWLS.

Wit and Panache
Listen to Wilbur read his witty poem "The Prisoner of Zenda" and, if you're so inclined, LOL with the rest of the crowd.

Ride the Radio Waves
Wilbur reads his poem, "The Writer" on NPR.


Wilbur was a handsome young gent.

Wilbur's FB Profile Pic
A more recent shot.

Articles and Interviews

That's What He Said
No, seriously—here's a 1999 archive of an interview with Wilbur in The Atlantic.

What's the Scoop?
Wilbur dishes the details of his childhood and early work in this 1977 Paris Review interview.

Phyllis Rose talks a little about "A Late Aubade" and other of her favorite Wilbur poems.

Baby's First Poetry Spread
Hop in this time machine and check the slide show of Wilbur's first poems in Poetry magazine.


Walking to Sleep (Not an Ambien Reference)
Read Walking to Sleep: New Poems and Translations, where "A Late Aubade" appeared.

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