Museum Piece

The good grey guardians of art
Patrol the halls on spongy shoes,
Impartially protective, though
Perhaps suspicious of Toulouse.

Here dozes one against the wall,
Disposed upon a funeral chair.
A Degas dancer pirouettes
Upon the parting of his hair.

See how she spins! The grace is there,
But strain as well is plain to see.
Degas loved the two together:
Beauty joined to energy.

Edgar Degas purchased once
A fine El Greco, which he kept
Against the wall beside his bed
To hang his pants on while he slept.

— Richard Wilbur

2 Comments on “Museum Piece”

  1. The Storialist

    Ahh, Richard Wilbur. This is a great one. I love the description of Degas’s work (“beauty joined to energy”). I wonder if there is an anthology of poems about museums…there are some excellent ones.

  2. Amy Mosier

    I wrote a poem about museum artifacts, having volunteered at a historical museum. It obviously left an impression on me. I love the part where the guard fell asleep in a chair and since he’s below the painting, it looks like a ballerina is dancing on his head.


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