Last modified on 26 June 2014, at 21:05

Czesław Miłosz

In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.
I think that I am here, on this earth, to present a report on it, but to whom I don't know.

Czesław Miłosz (30 June 191114 August 2004) was a Polish poet and essayist, awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980.

QuotesEdit

What is this enigmatic impulse that does not allow one to settle down in the achieved, the finished? I think it is a quest for reality.
  • Every poet depends upon generations who wrote in his native tongue; he inherits styles and forms elaborated by those who lived before him. At the same time, though, he feels that those old means of expression are not adequate to his own experience.
  • What is this enigmatic impulse that does not allow one to settle down in the achieved, the finished? I think it is a quest for reality.
    • Nobel lecture (8 December 1980)
  • Only if we assume that a poet constantly strives to liberate himself from borrowed styles in search for reality, is he dangerous. In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot. And, alas, a temptation to pronounce it, similar to an acute itching, becomes an obsession which doesn't allow one to think of anything else. That is why a poet chooses internal or external exile. It is not certain, however, that he is motivated exclusively by his concern with actuality. He may also desire to free himself from it and elsewhere, in other countries, on other shores, to recover, at least for short moments, his true vocation — which is to contemplate Being.
    • Nobel lecture (8 December 1980)
  • During the thirty years I have spent abroad I have felt I was more privileged than my Western colleagues, whether writers or teachers of literature, for events both recent and long past took in my mind a sharply delineated, precise form. Western audiences confronted with poems or novels written in Poland, Czechoslovakia or Hungary, or with films produced there, possibly intuit a similarly sharpened consciousness, in a constant struggle against limitations imposed by censorship. Memory thus is our force, it protects us against a speech entwining upon itself like the ivy when it does not find a support on a tree or a wall.
    • Nobel lecture (8 December 1980)
And now they had nothing, except his eyes.
Stumbling, he walked and looked, instead of them,
On the light they had loved, on the lilacs again in bloom...
  • Przysięgam, nie ma we mnie czarodziejstwa słów.
    Mówię do ciebie milcząc, jak obłok czy drzewo.
    • I swear, there is in me no wizardry of word.
      I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree.
    • "Dedication" (1945)
    • Quoted in James McCorkle (ed.), Conversant Essays: Contemporary Poets on Poetry, Wayne State University Press, 1990, p. 69
  • It would be more decorous not to live. To live is not decorous,
    Says he who after many years
    Returned to the city of his youth.
    There was no one left
    Of those who once walked these streets
    And now they had nothing, except his eyes.
    Stumbling, he walked and looked, instead of them,
    On the light they had loved, on the lilacs again in bloom.
    • "City of My Youth" (1984)
When I die, I will see the lining of the world. The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset...
  • Masculinity and femininity, elapsed, met in him
    And every shame, every grief, every love.

    If ever we accede to enlightenment,
    He thought, it is in one compassionate moment
    When what separated them from me vanishes
    And a shower of drops from a bunch of lilacs
    Pours on my face, and hers, and his, at the same time.
    • "City of My Youth" (1984)
  • When I die, I will see the lining of the world.
    The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset.
    • "Meaning" (1991)
The resistance of tiny kernels of good, to which no one grants the power of causing far-reaching consequences, is entirely mysterious ... Such seeming nothingness not only lasts but contains within itself enormous energy which is revealed gradually.
  • — And if there is no lining to the world?
    If a thrush on a branch is not a sign,
    But just a thrush on the branch? If night and day
    Make no sense following each other?
    • "Meaning" (1991)
  • — Even if that is so, there will remain
    A word wakened by lips that perish,
    A tireless messenger who runs and runs
    Through interstellar fields, through the revolving galaxies,
    And calls out, protests, screams.
    • "Meaning" (1991)
  • Evil grows and bears fruit, which is understandable, because it has logic and probability on its side and also, of course, strength. The resistance of tiny kernels of good, to which no one grants the power of causing far-reaching consequences, is entirely mysterious, however. Such seeming nothingness not only lasts but contains within itself enormous energy which is revealed gradually.
    • "If Only This Could Be Said" To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays by Czesŀaw Miŀosz (2001) edited and translated by Bogdana Carpenter and Madeline G. Levine
We were permitted to shriek in the tongue of dwarfs and demons
But pure and generous words were forbidden...
  • And those who expected lightning and thunder
    Are disappointed.
    And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps
    Do not believe it is happening now.
    • "A Song On the End of the World"
  • Only a white-haired old man, who would be a prophet
    Yet is not a prophet, for he's much too busy,
    Repeats while he binds his tomatoes:
    No other end of the world will there be,
    No other end of the world will there be.
    • "A Song On the End of the World"
  • We were permitted to shriek in the tongue of dwarfs and demons
    But pure and generous words were forbidden

    Under so stiff a penalty that whoever dared to pronounce one
    Considered himself as a lost man.
    • "A Task"
And yet the world is different from what it seems to be and we are other than how we see ourselves in our ravings.
  • It's true that what is morbid is highly valued today,
    and so you may think that I am only joking
    or that I've devised just one more means
    of praising Art with the help of irony.
    • "Ars Poetica?"
  • There was a time when only wise books were read
    helping us to bear our pain and misery.

    This, after all, is not quite the same
    as leafing through a thousand works fresh from psychiatric clinics.

    And yet the world is different from what it seems to be
    and we are other than how we see ourselves in our ravings.

    • "Ars Poetica?"
Poems should be written rarely and reluctantly, under unbearable duress and only with the hope that good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument.
  • The purpose of poetry is to remind us
    how difficult it is to remain just one person,
    for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors,
    and invisible guests come in and out at will.
    • "Ars Poetica?"
  • What I'm saying here is not, I agree, poetry,
    as poems should be written rarely and reluctantly,
    under unbearable duress and only with the hope
    that good spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument.
    • "Ars Poetica?"
  • All was taken away from you: white dresses,
    wings, even existence.
    Yet I believe you,
    messengers.

    There, where the world is turned inside out,
    a heavy fabric embroidered with stars and beasts,
    you stroll, inspecting the trustworthy seams.

    • "On Angels"
They say somebody has invented you but to me this does not sound convincing for humans invented themselves as well.
  • They say somebody has invented you
    but to me this does not sound convincing
    for humans invented themselves as well.
    • "On Angels"
  • I have heard that voice many a time when asleep
    and, what is strange, I understood more or less
    an order or an appeal in an unearthly tongue:
day draws near
another one
do what you can.
  • "On Angels"
  • All my life to pretend this world of theirs is mine
    And to know such pretending is disgraceful.
    But what can I do? Suppose I suddenly screamed
    And started to prophesy. No one would hear me.
    Their screens and microphones are not for that.
    • "Not Mine"

Three Winters (1936)Edit

I have no wisdom, no skills, and no faith but I received strength, it tears the world apart...
  • I have no wisdom, no skills, and no faith
    but I received strength, it tears the world apart.
    I shall break, a heavy wave, against its shores
    and a young wave will cover my trace.
    • "Hymn" (1935), trans. by Czesŀaw Miŀosz

Rescue (1945)Edit

Only when two times, two forms are drawn together and their legibility disturbed, do you see that immortality is not very different from the present and is for its sake.
  • Only when two times, two forms are drawn
    Together and their legibility
    Disturbed, do you see that immortality
    Is not very different from the present
    And is for its sake. You pick a fragment
    Of grenade which pierced the body of a song
    On Daphnis and Chloe.
    • "A Book in the Ruins" (1941), trans. Renata Gorczynski and Robert Hass
I thought only
Of the loneliness of the dying,
Of how, when Giordano
Climbed to his burning
There were no words
In any human tongue
To be left for mankind,
Mankind who live on...
  • — How is it, Chloe, that your pretty skirt
    Is torn so badly by the winds that hurt
    Real people, you who, in eternity, sing
    The hours, sun in your hair appearing
    And disappearing? How is that your breasts
    Are pierced by shrapnel, and the oak groves burn,
    While you, charmed, caring not at all, turn
    To run through forests of machinery and concrete
    And haunt us with the echoes of your feet?
    • "A Book in the Ruins" (1941)
  • Someone will read as moral
    That the people of Rome or Warsaw
    Haggle, laugh, make love
    As they pass by martyrs' pyres.

    Someone else will read
    Of the passing of things human,
    Of the oblivion
    Born before the flames have died.

    But that day I thought only
    Of the loneliness of the dying,
    Of how, when Giordano
    Climbed to his burning
    There were no words
    In any human tongue
    To be left for mankind,
    Mankind who live on.

  • Those dying here, the lonely
    Forgotten by the world,
    Our tongue becomes for them
    The language of an ancient planet.
    Until, when all is legend
    And many years have passed,
    On a great Campo di Fiori
    Rage will kindle at a poet's word.
    • "Campo dei Fiori" (1943), trans. Louis Iribarne and David Brooks
Love means to look at yourself the way one looks at distant things for you are only one thing among many...
  • Love means to look at yourself
    The way one looks at distant things
    For you are only one thing among many.

    And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
    Without knowing it, from various ills —
    A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
    • "The World": Love (1943), trans. Czesŀaw Miŀosz
  • I will neither resurrect the past nor return.
    Sleep, Romeo, Juliet, on your headrest of stone feathers.
    I won't raise your bound hands from the ashes.
    Let the cat visit the deserted cathedrals,
    its pupil flashing on the altars. Let an owl
    nest on the dead ogive.
    • "Farewell" (1945), trans. Renata Gorczynski and Robert Hass
Was I born to become a ritual mourner? I want to sing of festivities, the greenwood into which Shakespeare often took me.
  • From life, from the apple cut by the flaming knife,
    what grain will be saved?

    My son, believe me, nothing remains,
    Only adult toil,
    the furrow of fate in the palm.
    Only toil,
    Nothing more.

    • "Farewell" (1945)
They used to pour millet on graves or poppy seeds
To feed the dead who would come disguised as birds...
  • How can I live in this country
    Where the foot knocks against
    The unburied bones of kin?
    I hear voices, see smiles. I cannot
    Write anything
    ; five hands
    Seize my pen and order me to write
    The story of their lives and deaths.
    Was I born to become
    a ritual mourner?

    I want to sing of festivities,
    The greenwood into which Shakespeare
    Often took me. Leave
    To poets a moment of happiness,
    Otherwise your world will perish.
    • "In Warsaw" (1945), trans. Czesŀaw Miŀosz, Robert Hass and Madeline Levine
  • They used to pour millet on graves or poppy seeds
    To feed the dead who would come disguised as birds.
    I put this book here for you, who once lived
    So that you should visit us no more.
    • "Dedication" (1945), trans. Czesŀaw Miŀosz

The Captive Mind (1953)Edit

As translated by Jane Zielonko (1990) Vintage ISBN 0-679-72856-2
Never has there been a close study of how necessary to a man are the experiences which we clumsily call aesthetic...
  • It isn't pleasant to surrender to the hegemony of a nation which is still wild and primitive, and to concede the absolute superiority of its customs and institutions, science and technology, literature and art. Must one sacrifice so much in the name of the unity of mankind?
    • "The Pill of Murti-Bing" (1951), trans. Jane Zielonko
  • I have known many Christians — Poles, Frenchman, Spaniards — who were strict Stalinists in the field of politics but who retained certain inner reservations, believing God would make corrections once the bloody sentences of the all-mighties of History were carried out. They pushed their reasoning rather far. They argue that history develops according to immutable laws that exist by the will of God; one of these laws is the class struggle; the twentieth century marks the victory of the proletariat, which is led in its struggle by the Communist Party; Stalin, the leader of the Communist Party, fulfills the law of history or in other words acts by the will of God, therefore one must obey him. Mankind can be renewed only on the Russian pattern; that is why no Christian can oppose the one — cruel, it is true — idea which will create a new kind of man over the entire planet. Such reasoning is often used by clerics who are party tools. "Christ is a new man. The new man is a Soviet man. Therefore Christ is a Soviet man!" said Justinian Marina, the Rumanian patriarch.
  • Never has there been a close study of how necessary to a man are the experiences which we clumsily call aesthetic. Such experiences are associated with works of art for only an insignificant number of individuals. The majority find pleasure of an aesthetic nature in the mere fact of their existence within the stream of life. In the cities, the eye meets colorful store displays, the diversity of human types. Looking at passers-by, one can guess from their faces the story of their lives. This movement of the imagination when a man is walking through a crowd has an erotic tinge; his emotions are very close to physiological sensations.
They are totally unaware of the fact that nothing is their own, that everything is part of their historical formation — their occupations, their clothes, their gestures and expressions, their beliefs and ideas...
  • What is the significance of the lives of the people he passes, of the senseless bustle, the laughter, the pursuit of money, the stupid animal diversions? By using a little intelligence he can easily classify the passers-by according to type; he can guess their social status, their habits and their preoccupations. A fleeting moment reveals their childhood, manhood, and old age, and then they vanish. A purely physiological study of one particular passer-by in preference to another is meaningless. If one penetrates into the minds of these people, one discovers utter nonsense. They are totally unaware of the fact that nothing is their own, that everything is part of their historical formation — their occupations, their clothes, their gestures and expressions, their beliefs and ideas. They are the force of inertia personified, victims of the delusion that each individual exists as a self. If at least these were souls, as the Church taught, or the monads of Leibnitz! But these beliefs have perished. What remains is an aversion to an atomized vision of life, to the mentality that isolates every phenomenon, such as eating, drinking, dressing, earning money, fornicating. And what is there beyond these things? Should such a state of affairs continue? Why should it continue? Such questions are almost synonymous with what is known as hatred of the bourgeoisie.
  • As long as a society's best minds were occupied by theological questions, it was possible to speak of a given religion as the way of thinking of the whole social organism. All the matters which most actively concerned the people were referred to it and discussed in its terms. But that belongs to a dying era. We have come by easy stages to a lack of a common system of thought that could unite the peasant cutting his hay, the student poring over formal logic, and the mechanic working in an automobile factory. Out of this lack arises the painful sense of detachment or abstraction that oppresses the "creators of culture."
  • Vulgarized knowledge characteristically gives birth to a feeling that everything is understandable and explained. It is like a system of bridges built over chasms. One can travel boldly ahead over these bridges, ignoring the chasms. It is forbidden to look down into them; but that, alas, does not alter the fact that they exist.
Human material seems to have one major defect: it does not like to be considered merely as human material...
  • Undoubtedly, one comes closer to the truth when one sees history as the expression of the class struggle rather than a series of private quarrels among kings and nobles. But precisely because such an analysis of history comes closer to the truth, it is more dangerous. It gives the illusion of full knowledge; it supplies answers to all questions, answers which merely run around in a circle repeating a few formulas.
  • The pressure of an all-powerful totalitarian state creates an emotional tension in its citizens that determines their acts. When people are divided into "loyalists" and "criminals" a premium is placed on every type of conformist, coward, and hireling; whereas among the "criminals" one finds a singularly high percentage of people who are direct, sincere, and true to themselves.
  • The masses in highly industrialized countries like England, the United States, or France are largely de-Christianized. Technology, and the way of life it produces, undermines Christianity far more effectively than do violent measures.
  • It is impossible to communicate to people who have not experienced it the undefinable menace of total rationalism.
  • Whoever saw, as many did, a whole city reduced to rubble — kilometers of streets on which there remained no trace of life, not even a cat, not even a homeless dog — emerged with a rather ironic attitude toward descriptions of the hell of the big city by contemporary poets, descriptions of the hell in their own souls. A real "wasteland" is much more terrible than any imaginary one. Whoever has not dwelt in the midst of horror and dread cannot know how strongly a witness and participant protests against himself, against his own neglect and egoism. Destruction and suffering are the school of social thought.
  • Human material seems to have one major defect: it does not like to be considered merely as human material. It finds it hard to endure the feeling that it must resign itself to passive acceptance of changes introduced from above.

Daylight (1953)Edit

He who invokes history is always secure.
The dead will not rise to witness against him.
  • Grow your tree of falsehood from a small grain of truth.
    Do not follow those who lie in contempt of reality.

    Let your lie be even more logical than the truth itself,
    So the weary travelers may find repose in the lie.

    • "Child of Europe" (1946), trans. Jan Darowski
He doesn't know birds live in another time than man. He doesn't know a tree lives in another time than birds...
  • He who invokes history is always secure.
    The dead will not rise to witness against him.

    You can accuse them of any deeds you like.
    Their reply will always be silence.

    Their empty faces swim out of the deep dark.
    You can fill them with any features desired.

    Proud of dominion over people long vanished,
    Change the past into your own, better likeness.

    • "Child of Europe" (1946)
A country without a past is nothing...
  • He doesn't know birds live
    In another time than man.
    He doesn't know a tree lives
    In another time than birds

    And will grow slowly
    Upward in a gray column
    Thinking with its roots
    Of the silver of underworld kingdoms.
    • "Birth" (1947), trans. Peter Dale Scott
  • Wherever he steps, there always
    Endures traced in sand
    A large-toed footprint
    Which clamors to be tried out
    By his childish foot arriving
    From the virgin forests.
    • "Birth" (1947)
  • For a country without a past is nothing, a word
    That, hardly spoken, loses its meaning,
    A perishable wall destroyed by flame,
    An echo of animal emotions.
    • "A Legend" (1949), trans. Czesŀaw Miŀosz and Robert Hass

King Popeil and Other Poems (1962)Edit

  • A man should not love the moon.
    An ax should not lose weight in his hand.
    His garden should smell of rotting apples
    And grow a fair amount of nettles.
    • "Should, Should Not" (1961), trans. Czesŀaw Miŀosz
  • Long into the night we were walking on the Piazza del Duomo.
    He: That I was too politicized.
    And I answered him more or less as follows:

    If you have a nail in your shoe, what then?
    Do you love that nail? Same with me.
    I am for the moon amid the vineyards
    When you see high up the snow on the Alps.

    • "In Milan" (1955), trans. Czesŀaw Miŀosz and Robert Hass

Bobo's Metamorphosis (1965)Edit

This is a place accepted, not chosen...
  • We are a poor people, much afflicted.
    We camped under various stars,
    Where you dip water with a cup from a muddy river
    And slice your bread with a pocketknife.
    This is a place accepted, not chosen.
    • "It Was Winter" (1964), trans. Czesław Miłosz, Robert Hass, Robert Pinsky and Renata Gorczynski
The features of my face melt like a wax doll in the fire.
And who can consent to see in the mirror the mere face of man?
  • And here I am walking the eternal earth.
    Tiny, leaning on a stick.
    I pass a volcanic park, lie down at a spring,
    Not knowing how to express what is always and everywhere
    :
    The earth I cling to is so solid
    Under my breast and belly that I feel grateful
    For every pebble, and I don't know whether
    It is my pulse or the earth's that I hear,
    When the hems of invisible silk vestments pass over me,
    Hands, wherever they have been, touch my arm,
    Or small laughter, once, long ago over wine,
    With lanterns in the magnolias, for my house is huge.
    • "It Was Winter" (1964), trans. Czesław Miłosz, Robert Hass, Robert Pinsky and Renata Gorczynski
  • Consciousness even in my sleep changes primary colors.
    The features of my face melt like a wax doll in the fire.
    And who can consent to see in the mirror the mere face of man?
    • "Rivers Grow Small" (1963), trans. Czesław Miłosz
  • I liked beaches, swimming pools, and clinics
    for there they were the bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.
    I pitied them and myself, but this will not protect me.
    The word and the thought are over.
    • "They Will Place There Telescreens" (1964), trans. Czesŀaw Miŀosz
  • And the city stood in its brightness when years later I returned,
    My face covered with a coat though now no one was left
    Of those who could have remembered my debts never paid,
    My shames not eternal, base deeds to be forgiven.
    And the city stood in its brightness when years later I returned.
    • "And the City Stood in Its Brightness" (1963), trans. Czesław Miłosz and Peter Dale Scott

City Without a Name (1969)Edit

I understand that signs must be human, therefore call one man, anyone on earth, not me — after all I have some decency — and allow me, when I look at him, to marvel at you.
  • 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
    lift its hand, only once, just once, for me.
    But I understand that signs must be human,
    therefore call one man, anyone on earth,
    not me — after all I have some decency —
    and allow me, when I look at him, to marvel at you.
    • "Veni Creator" (1961), trans. Czesław Miłosz and Robert Pinsky
  • You are a tongue of the debased,
    of the unreasonable, hating themselves
    even more than they hate other nations,
    a tongue of informers,
    a tongue of the confused,
    ill with their own innocence.

    But without you, who am I?
    Only a scholar in a distant country,
    a success, without fears and humiliations.
    Yes, who am I without you?
    Just a philosopher, like everyone else.

    • "My Faithful Mother Tongue" (1968), trans. Czesŀaw Miŀosz and Robert Pinsky

Uncollected Poems (1954-1969)Edit

I was left behind with the immensity of existing things...
  • I was left behind with the immensity of existing things. A sponge, suffering because it cannot saturate itself; a river, suffering because reflections of clouds and trees are not clouds and trees.
    • "Esse" (1954), trans. Czesław Miłosz and Robert Pinsky
  • Greece had to lose, her pure consciousness
    had to make our agony only more acute.

    We needed God loving us in our weakness
    and not in the glory of beatitude.

    • "To Raja Rao" (1969) (A poem written in English)

From the Rising of the Sun (1974)Edit

They waited, ready, for all those who would call themselves mortals, So that they might praise, as I do, life, that is, happiness.
Oaks stand in summer splendor, a jay flies and a kingfisher changes a river to a marvel.
And space, what it is like? Is it mechanical,
Newtonian? A frozen prison?
Or the lofty space of Einstein, the relation
Between movement and movement? No reason to pretend
I know. I don't know, and if I did,
Still my imagination is a thousand years old.
  • Leaves glowing in the sun, zealous hum of bumblebees,
    From afar, from somewhere beyond the river, echoes of lingering voices
    And the unhurried sounds of a hammer gave joy not only to me.
    Before the five senses were opened, and earlier than any beginning
    They waited, ready, for all those who would call themselves mortals,
    So that they might praise, as I do, life, that is, happiness.
    • "An Hour" (1972), trans. Czesŀaw Miłosz and Lillian Vallee
  • Tell me, as you would in the middle of the night
    When we face only night, the ticking of a watch,
    the whistle of an express train, tell me
    Whether you really think that this world
    Is your home? That your internal planet
    That revolves, red-hot, propelled by the current
    Of your warm blood, is really in harmony
    With what surrounds you? Probably you know very well
    The bitter protest, every day, every hour,
    The scream that wells up, stifled by a smile,
    The feeling of a prisoner who touches a wall
    And knows that beyond it valleys spread,
    Oaks stand in summer splendor, a jay flies
    And a kingfisher changes a river to a marvel.
    • "An Appeal" (1954), trans. Czesław Miłosz and Robert Hass
  • And space, what it is like? Is it mechanical,
    Newtonian? A frozen prison?
    Or the lofty space of Einstein, the relation
    Between movement and movement? No reason to pretend
    I know. I don't know, and if I did,
    Still my imagination is a thousand years old.
    • " An Appeal" (1954)

Hymn of the Pearl (1981)Edit

If I am all mankind, are they themselves without me?
  • Now I am not ashamed of my defeat.
    One murky island with its barking seals
    Or a parched desert is enough
    To make us say: yes, oui, si.
    • "A Magic Mountain" (1975), trans. Czesław Miłosz and Lillian Vallee
  • If I am all mankind, are they themselves without me?
    • "Study of Loneliness" (1975), trans. Czesław Miłosz and Lillian Vallee
  • The death of a man is like the fall of a mighty nation
    That had valiant armies, captains, and prophets,
    And wealthy ports and ships all over the seas.
    • "The Fall" (1975), trans. Czesław Miłosz and Lillian Vallee
  • When I curse Fate, it's not me, but the earth in me.
    • "Notes" (1978), trans. Czesław Miłosz and Lillian Vallee
  • A weak human mercy walks in the corridors of hospitals and is like a half-thawed winter.
    • "Before Majesty" (1978), trans. Czesław Miłosz and Robert Hass
Under various names, I have praised only you, rivers! You are milk and honey and love and death and dance.
  • Earth, what have I to do with thee?
    With your meadows where dumb beasts
    Grazed before the deluge without lifting their heads?
    What have I to do with your implacable births?
    So why this gracious melancholia?
    Is it because anger is no use?
    • "A Portal" (1976), trans. Czesław Miłosz and Robert Hass
  • Under various names, I have praised only you, rivers!
    You are milk and honey and love and death and dance.
    From a spring in hidden grottoes, seeping from mossy rocks,
    Where a goddess pours live water from a pitcher,
    At clear streams in the meadow, where rills murmur underground,
    Your race and my race begin, and amazement, and quick passage.
    • "Rivers" (1980), trans. Renata Gorczynski and Robert Hass
  • We go down with the bells ringing in all the sunken cities.
    Forgotten, we are greeted by the embassies of the dead,
    While your endless flowing carries us on and on;
    And neither is nor was. The moment only, eternal.
    • "Rivers" (1980), trans. Renata Gorczynski and Robert Hass

Unattainable Earth (1986)Edit

Our memory is childish and it saves only what we need.
  • Our memory is childish and it saves only what we need.
    • "Yellow Bicycle," trans. Czesław Miłosz and Robert Hass
Whatever takes place has meaning because it changes into memory.
  • I still think too much about the mothers
    And ask what is man born of woman.

    He curls himself up and protects his head
    While he is kicked by heavy boots; on fire and running,
    He burns with bright flame; a bulldozer sweeps him into a clay pit.
    Her child. Embracing a teddy bear. Conceived in ecstasy.
    • "Preparation," trans. Czesław Miłosz and Robert Hass
  • I think that I am here, on this earth,
    To present a report on it, but to whom I don't know.

    As if I were sent so that whatever takes place
    Has meaning because it changes into memory.
    • "Consciousness," trans. Czesław Miłosz and Robert Hass

New Poems (1985-1987)Edit

  • How it should be in Heaven I know, for I was there.
    By its river. Listening to its birds.

    In its season: in summer, shortly after sunrise.
    I would get up and run to my thousand works
    And the garden was superterrestrial, owned by imagination.
    • "How It Should Be in Heaven" (1986), trans. Czesŀaw Miŀosz and Robert Hass
  • But where is our, dear to us, mortality?
    Where is time that both destroys and saves us?
    This is too difficult for me. Peace eternal
    Could have no mornings and no evenings,
    Such a deficiency speaks against it.
    • "How It Should Be in Heaven" (1986), trans. Czesŀaw Miŀosz and Robert Hass
  • I knew that I would speak in the language of the vanquished
    No more durable than old customs, family rituals,
    Christmas tinsel, and once a year the hilarity of carols.
    • "1945" (1985), trans. Czesław Miłosz and Robert Hass

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