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Posts tagged "Czeslaw Milosz"


Recovery – Czeslaw Milosz

As Milosz’s biographer, Andrzej Franaszek, says:

“In the spring of 1943, [Czeslaw Milosz] wrote a cycle of twenty short poems entitled The World: Naive Poems . . . a sequence of little cameos from childhood, images which would not be out of place if hung above a tiny bed, showing a guardian angel watching over a child and its night-time journeying. . . . Here we have the world, discovered with the eyes of a child and, at the same time, as it ought to be, given to human beings to live in – a world filled with sacred order, as if the poet raised a building of sense in spite of the nightmare surrounding him [ in occupied Poland], setting existence against nothingness.”

Here’s one from those twenty, entitled “Recovery” (ht KW).

“Here I am–why this senseless fear?
The night is over, the day will soon arise.
You hear. The shepherds’ horns already sound,
And stars grow pale over the rosy glow.

“The path is straight. We are at the edge.
Down in the village the little bell chimes.
Roosters on the fences greet the light
And the earth steams, fertile and happy.

“Here it is still dark. Fog like a river flood
Swaddles the black clumps of bilberries.
But the dawn on bright stilts wades in from the shore
And the ball of the sun, ringing, rolls.”

Veni Creator – Czeslaw Milosz

Come, Holy Spirit,
bending or not bending the grasses,
appearing or not above our heads in a tongue of flame,
at hay harvest or when they plough in the orchards or when snow
covers crippled firs in the Sierra Nevada.
I am only a man: I need visible signs.
I tire easily, building the stairway of abstraction.
Many a time I asked, you know it well, that the statue in church
lifts its hand, only once, just once, for me.
But I understand that signs must be human,
therefore call one man, anywhere on earth,
not me—after all I have some decency—
and allow me, when I look at him, to marvel at you.

Nonadaptation – Czeslaw Milosz

From the Polish master’s final volume of poetry, Second Space, brought to mind via Benjamin Self’s truly exquisite essay on the Impertinence of Beauty, ht KW:

41+5K2UvKRL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_I was not made to live anywhere except in Paradise.

Such, simply, was my genetic inadaptation.

Here on earth every prick of a rose-thorn changed into a wound.
whenever the sun hid behind a cloud, I grieved.

I pretended to work like others from morning to evening,
but I was absent, dedicated to invisible countries.

For solace I escaped to city parks, there to observe
and faithfully describe flowers and trees, but they changed,
under my hand, into the gardens of Paradise.

I have not loved a woman with my five senses.
I only wanted from her my sister, from before the banishment.

And I respected religion, for on this earth of pain
it was a funereal and a propitiatory song.

A (Prose) Poem for Good Friday: “Decency” by Czeslaw Milosz

“When I was, as they say, in harmony with God and the world, I felt I was false, pretending to be somebody else. I recovered my identity when I found myself again in the skin of a sinner and nonbeliever. This repeated itself in my life several times. For, undoubtedly, I liked the image of myself as a decent man, but, immediately after I put that mask on, my conscience whispered that I was deceiving others and myself.

“The notion of sacrum is necessary but impossible without experiencing sin. I am dirty, I am a sinner, I am unworthy, and not even because of my behavior but because of the evil sitting in me. And only when I conceded that it was not for me to reach so high have I felt that I was genuine.”

Religion Comes – Czeslaw Milosz

A fragment from his “Treatise on Theology”:

Religion comes from our pity for humans

They are too weak to live without divine protection.

Too weak to listen to the screeching noise of the turning of infernal wheels.

Who among us would accept a universe in which there was not one voice

Of compassion, pity, understanding?

To be human is to be completely alien amid the galaxies.

Which is sufficient reason for erecting, together with others, the temples of an unimaginable mercy.

From Czeslaw Milosz’s “The Separate Notebooks”

You talked but after your talking all the rest remains.
After your talking—poets, philosophers,
contrivers of romances—everything else,
All the rest deduced inside the flesh
Which lives & knows not just what is permitted.
I am a woman held fast now in a great silence.
Not all creatures have your need for words.
Birds you killed, fish you tossed into your boat,
In what words will they find rest & in what heaven?
You received gifts from me; they were accepted.
But you don’t understand how to think about the dead.
The smell of winter apples, of hoarfrost, and of linen.
There are nothing but gifts on this poor, poor Earth.

Final Three Stanzas of Milosz’s “A Poem for the End of the Century”

milosz01521745To whom should I turn
With that affair so dark
Of pain and also guilt
In the structure of the world,
If either here below
Or over there on high
No power can abolish
The cause and the effect?

Don’t think, don’t remember
The death on the cross,
Though everyday He dies,
The only one, all-loving,
Who without any need
Consented and allowed
To exist all that is,
Including nails of torture.

Totally enigmatic.
Impossibly intricate.
Better to stop speech here.
This language is not for people.
Blessed be jubilation.
Vintages and harvests.
Even if not everyone
Is granted serenity.

To Raja Rao - Czeslaw Milosz

To Raja Rao – Czeslaw Milosz

More mind-blowing verse from the Polish master, this one’s right up there with “An Alcoholic Enters the Gates of Heaven” in whatever list we might compile of our favorite poetry (i.e. non-poetry people might want to give this one a shot). A few words about the context can be found here, ht KW: Raja, I […]

Awakened – Czeslaw Milosz

In advanced age, my health worsening, I woke up in the middle of the night, and experienced a feeling of happiness so intense and perfect that in all my life I had only felt its premonition. And there was no reason for it. It didn’t obliterate consciousness; the past which I carried was there, together with my grief. And it was suddenly included, was a necessary part of the whole. As if a voice were repeating: “You can stop worrying now; everything happened just as it had to. You did what was assigned to you, and you are not required anymore to think of what happened long ago.” The peace I felt was a dosing of accounts and was connected with the thought of death. The happiness on this side was like an announcement of the other side. I realized that this was an undeserved gift and I could not grasp by what grace it was bestowed on me.

An Alcoholic Enters the Gates of Heaven - Czeslaw Milosz

An Alcoholic Enters the Gates of Heaven – Czeslaw Milosz

What kind of man I was to be you’ve known since the beginning, since the beginning of every creature. It must be horrible to be aware, simultaneously, of what is, what was, and what will be. I began my life confident and happy, certain that the Sun rose every day for me and that flowers […]

I Should Now – Czeslaw Milosz

I should now be wiser than I was.
Yet I don’t know whether I am wiser.

Memory composes a story of shame and amazements.

The shames I closed inside myself, but the amazements,
at a sun-streak on a wall, at the trill of an oriole, a face,
an iris, a volume of poems, a person, endure and return in brightness.

Such moments lifted me above my lameness.

You, with whom I fell in love, approach, and forgive me
my trespasses because I was dazzled by your beauty.

You were not perfect, but just that arch of eyebrow,
that tilt of head, that voice, reticent and seductive,
could only belong to a perfect creature.

I swore to love you eternally, but later on
my resolution wavered.

My fabric is woven of flickering glimpses,
it wouldn’t have been large enough to wrap a monument.

I was left with many unwritten odes in honor
of men and women.

Their incomparable bravery, devotion,
self-sacrifice passed away with them, and nobody knows of it.
Nobody knows for all eternity.

When I think this, I need an immortal Witness
so that he alone knows and remembers.

Many-Tiered Man – Czeslaw Milosz

When the sun rises
it illuminates stupidity and guilt
which are hidden in the nooks of memory
and invisible at noon.

Here walks a many-tiered man.
On his upper floors a morning crispness
and underneath, dark chambers
which are frightening to enter.

He asks forgiveness
from the spirits of the absent ones
who twitter far below
at the tables of buried cafes.

What does that man do?
He is frightened of a verdict,
now, for instance,
or after his death.