Where Light Breaks, and the Windows Are Tossed with Linden


Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house

Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,

My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing

From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys 5

Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff

Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:

I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses, 10

As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.

A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,

And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor

Of strokes, and again is silent. 15

I remember the dazed starling

Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;

How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;

And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door, 20

We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature

Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove

To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody, 25

For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits

Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,

Beating a smooth course for the right window

And clearing the sill of the world. 30

It is always a matter, my darling,

Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish

What I wished you before, but harder.



1.  The metaphor used in the first three stanzas compares ___.

A.  sitting in a room to perching in a tree

B.  writing to setting off on a voyage

C.  typing to working on a chain gang

D.  watching a child to waiting for a departure

E.  being a parent to bearing a burden

2.  The daughter’s ‘heavy’ cargo (8), refers to her ___.

A.  typewriter

B.  work

C.  body

D.  emotions

E.  age

3.  All of the following words can be related to one another except ___.

A.  prow (1)

B.  linden (2)

C.  chain (6)

D.  cargo (8)

E.  passage (9)

4.  The word ‘commotion’ (5) is echoed by which later phrase?

A.  “great cargo” (8)

B.  “stillness greatens” (12)

C.  “bunched clamor” (14)

D.  “dazed starling” (16)

E.  “smooth course” (29)

5.  The speaker implies that the goal of both growing up and writing is ___.

A.  “lucky passage” (9)

B.  “the wits to try it again” (26)

C.  “a smooth course” (29)

D.  “clearing the sill of the world” (30)

E.  “a matter… Of life and death” (31-32)

6.  Which of the following words from the poem does the speaker intend for us to read in two separate ways?

A.  commotion (5)

B.  passage (9)

C.  starling (14)

D.  course (29)

E.  death (32)

7.  The basic method and structure of the poem could best be described as ___.

A.  a series of imagined contrasts between the speaker and his daughter

B.  a single extended metaphor developed in 11 stages

C.  numerous brief, essentially unrelated images woven into a whole

D.  two main metaphors, each developed through several stanzas

E.  a formally balanced argument enlivened by occasional similes


1.  B

2.  D

3.  B

4.  C

5.  D

6.  B

7.  D