This piece from Songs for Married Lovers is a setting of a poem by American poet Richard Wilbur (b. 1921).
One of the most lyrical yet technically skilled of poets, Wilbur writes in sophisticated verse forms filled with wit and learning. His long career has been filled with honors and awards, including two Pulitzer prizes and a tenure as the Poet Laureate of the United States. He might be best known to musicians and music lovers as the lyricist for many of the songs in Leonard Bernstein’s Candide: “Glitter and Be Gay” and “We’ll Make Our Garden Grow” are two of the pieces from that opera/musical with lyrics by Wilbur.
I am deeply honored that he has allowed me to set “The Catch,” a charming and elegant poem describing that moment when a wife returns from a successful shopping trip.
“From the dress box’s plashing tissue paper
She pulls out her prize . . .”
The speaker in the poem, the husband, doesn’t appreciate the dress until she puts it on, with jewelry and
“A light perfume,
Whose subtle field electrifies the room.”
Now satisfied that her husband realizes the value of her purchase, the wife puts the dress away,
“. . . hung now in the fragrant dark
Of her soft armory.”
That last word, armory, with its layers of suggestion and its reference to the historical origins of the word armoire, is a small but typical example of the learning and wit of Wilbur’s poetry.
Musically, the setting oscillates its rhythm between the opening tango and a waltz (when , for example, the wife models the dress for her husband).
“The Catch” is available in Songs for Married Lovers, from Afghan Press, Melody’s Traditional Music, and other fine music stores.