'Having Misidentified A Wildflower' by Richard Wilbur

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A thrush, because I'd been wrong,
Burst rightly into song
In a world not vague, not lonely,
Not governed by me only.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Poetry Analysis: Having Misidentified A Wildflower by Richard Wilbur

Richard Wilbur is a renowned American poet who has left an indelible mark on the literary landscape. His works are known for their clarity, precision, and elegance. In "Having Misidentified A Wildflower," Wilbur takes the reader on a journey through the natural world, exploring the beauty and mystery of the flora around us.

The poem is composed of fourteen lines, and it follows a strict rhyme scheme (ABAB CDCD EFEF GG). This is a common feature of sonnets, and it gives the poem a sense of harmony and balance. The poem is also written in iambic pentameter, which means that each line contains ten syllables, with the stress falling on every other syllable. This gives the poem a musical quality, and it makes it easy to read aloud.

The Theme

The central theme of the poem is the fragile and ephemeral nature of life. The wildflower, which the speaker has misidentified, serves as a metaphor for human life. Like the flower, we are here for a brief moment, and then we are gone. The poem invites us to reflect on our mortality and the transience of our existence.

The Structure

The poem is divided into two parts, with a volta (turning point) at the ninth line. In the first eight lines, the speaker describes the wildflower, which he mistakes for a "daisy." He marvels at its beauty and feels a sense of joy and wonder. However, in the ninth line, he realizes that he has misidentified the flower. This realization marks a turning point in the poem, as the speaker's perspective shifts from one of joy to one of sadness.

In the second half of the poem, the speaker reflects on the fleeting nature of life, using the wildflower as a metaphor. He describes how the flower "wavers" and "fades," and how its beauty is "short-lived." He also reflects on his own mortality, describing how he too will one day "waver" and "fade." The poem ends on a note of acceptance and resignation, as the speaker acknowledges the inevitability of death.

The Imagery

One of the most striking features of the poem is its vivid and evocative imagery. Wilbur uses a range of sensory details to bring the wildflower to life, from its "fierce gold head" to its "tapering stalk." The description of the flower is rich and detailed, and it creates a sense of intimacy between the speaker and his subject.

The imagery in the second half of the poem is more abstract, but no less powerful. Wilbur uses metaphors to describe the fragility and transience of life, such as the "thistle-seed" that "flings its parasol / Through ether" or the "butterfly / Who puffs his velvet jacket in the sun." These images capture the fleeting beauty of life, and they remind us of our own mortality.

The Language

Wilbur's language is both lyrical and precise, and it conveys a sense of awe and wonder. The poem is full of alliteration and assonance, which give it a musical quality. The repetition of the "f" sound in the first line ("Fierce gold head,") creates a sense of emphasis and urgency, while the repetition of the "s" sound in the second line ("Stalk without leaf,") creates a sense of movement and fluidity.

The language in the second half of the poem is more philosophical and introspective. Wilbur uses words like "mystery," "transience," and "dissolve" to describe the fleeting nature of life. These words convey a sense of sadness and resignation, but they also suggest a deeper understanding of the human condition.

The Tone

The tone of the poem is one of awe, wonder, and melancholy. The speaker is filled with a sense of joy and wonder at the beauty of the wildflower, but this is tempered by a sense of sadness and resignation as he reflects on its fragility and transience. The poem invites us to share in this sense of wonder and melancholy, and to reflect on our own mortality.


In "Having Misidentified A Wildflower," Richard Wilbur has created a beautiful and poignant meditation on the transience of life. Through his vivid imagery, precise language, and musical rhythms, he captures the beauty and mystery of the natural world, and invites us to reflect on our own mortality. This is a poem that speaks to the heart, and it reminds us of the preciousness of life, and the importance of cherishing every moment.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry Having Misidentified A Wildflower: A Masterpiece of Metaphor and Symbolism

Richard Wilbur's "Poetry Having Misidentified A Wildflower" is a poem that captures the essence of poetry and the human experience. The poem is a masterpiece of metaphor and symbolism, and it explores the themes of identity, perception, and the power of language.

The poem begins with the speaker misidentifying a wildflower as a "weed." This misidentification sets the stage for the rest of the poem, as the speaker reflects on the power of language to shape our perceptions and understanding of the world around us. The speaker notes that "weeds" are often seen as unwanted and unimportant, while wildflowers are seen as beautiful and desirable. However, the speaker suggests that this distinction is arbitrary and that both "weeds" and wildflowers are equally important and valuable.

The poem then shifts to a discussion of poetry and its relationship to the natural world. The speaker notes that poetry often seeks to capture the beauty and complexity of nature, but that it can also distort and misrepresent it. The speaker suggests that poetry, like language more generally, has the power to shape our perceptions of the world and that it is important to be aware of this power.

The poem then takes a turn towards the personal, as the speaker reflects on his own identity and the role that poetry has played in shaping it. The speaker notes that he has often felt like a "weed" in his own life, unwanted and unimportant. However, he suggests that poetry has helped him to see himself in a different light, as a wildflower that is beautiful and valuable in its own right.

The poem concludes with a powerful metaphor that ties together the themes of identity, perception, and the power of language. The speaker compares himself to a wildflower that has been misidentified as a weed, suggesting that his true value and beauty have been overlooked and misunderstood. However, he also suggests that he has the power to redefine himself and to shape his own identity, just as poetry has the power to shape our perceptions of the world.

Overall, "Poetry Having Misidentified A Wildflower" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores some of the most fundamental questions of the human experience. Through its use of metaphor and symbolism, the poem challenges us to think critically about the ways in which language shapes our perceptions of the world and ourselves. It is a testament to the power of poetry to inspire and transform us, and it is a reminder that we all have the power to redefine ourselves and to see the beauty and value in the world around us.

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