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Best Famous Czeslaw Milosz Poems

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by Czeslaw Milosz | |

Forget

 Forget the suffering
You caused others.
Forget the suffering Others caused you.
The waters run and run, Springs sparkle and are done, You walk the earth you are forgetting.
Sometimes you hear a distant refrain.
What does it mean, you ask, who is singing? A childlike sun grows warm.
A grandson and a great-grandson are born.
You are led by the hand once again.
The names of the rivers remain with you.
How endless those rivers seem! Your fields lie fallow, The city towers are not as they were.
You stand at the threshold mute.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

Lake

 Maidenly lake, fathomless lake,
Stay as you were once, overgrown with rushes,
Idling with a reflected cloud, for my sake
Whom your shore no longer touches.
Your girl was always real to me.
Her bones lie in a city by the sea.
Everything occurs too normally.
A unique love simply wears away.
Girl, hey, girl, we repose in an abyss.
The base of a skull, a rib, a pelvis, Is it you? me? We are more than this.
No clock counts hours and years for us.
How could a creature, ephemeral, eternal, Measure for me necessity and fate? You are locked with me in a letter-crystal.
No matter that you're not a living maid.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

Unde Malum

 Where does evil come from?
It comes
from man
always from man
only from man
- Tadeusz Rozewicz
Alas, dear Tadeusz,
good nature and wicked man
are romantic inventions
you show us this way
the depth of your optimism
so let man exterminate
his own species
the innocent sunrise will illuminate
a liberated flora and fauna
where oak forests reclaim
the postindustrial wasteland
and the blood of a deer
torn asunder by a pack of wolves
is not seen by anyone
a hawk falls upon a hare
without witness
evil disappears from the world
and consciousness with it
Of course, dear Tadeusz,
evil (and good) comes from man.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

Love

 Love means to learn 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.
Then he wants to use himself and things So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves: Who serves best doesn’t always understand.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

On Angels

 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 seems.
Shorts is your stay here: now and then at a matinal hour, if the sky is clear, in a melody repeated by a bird, or in the smell of apples at close of day when the light makes the orchards magic.
They say somebody has invented you but to me this does not sound convincing for the humans invented themselves as well.
The voice -- no doubt it is a valid proof, as it can belong only to radiant creatures, weightless and winged (after all, why not?), girdled with the lightening.
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 draw near another one do what you can.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

A Task

 In fear and trembling, I think I would fulfill my life
Only if I brought myself to make a public confession
Revealing a sham, my own and of my epoch:
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.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

Meaning

 When I die, I will see the lining of the world.
The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset.
The true meaning, ready to be decoded.
What never added up will add Up, What was incomprehensible will be comprehended.
- 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? And on this earth there is nothing except this earth? - 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.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

At a Certain Age

 We wanted to confess our sins but there were no takers.
White clouds refused to accept them, and the wind Was too busy visiting sea after sea.
We did not succeed in interesting the animals.
Dogs, disappointed, expected an order, A cat, as always immoral, was falling asleep.
A person seemingly very close Did not care to hear of things long past.
Conversations with friends over vodka or coffee Ought not be prolonged beyond the first sign of boredom.
It would be humiliating to pay by the hour A man with a diploma, just for listening.
Churches.
Perhaps churches.
But to confess there what? That we used to see ourselves as handsome and noble Yet later in our place an ugly toad Half-opens its thick eyelid And one sees clearly: "That's me.
"


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

Not Mine

 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.
Others like me wander the streets And talk to themselves.
Sleep on benches in parks, Or on pavements in alleys.
For there aren't enough prisons To lock up all the poor.
I smile and keep quiet.
They won't get me now.
To feast with the chosen—that I do well.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

Account

 The history of my stupidity would fill many volumes.
Some would be devoted to acting against consciousness, Like the flight of a moth which, had it known, Would have tended nevertheless toward the candle's flame.
Others would deal with ways to silence anxiety, The little whisper which, thought it is a warning, is ignored.
I would deal separately with satisfaction and pride, The time when I was among their adherents Who strut victoriously, unsuspecting.
But all of them would have one subject, desire, If only my own -- but no, not at all; alas, I was driven because I wanted to be like others.
I was afraid of what was wild and indecent in me.
The history of my stupidity will not be written.
For one thing, it's late.
And the truth is laborious.
Berkeley, 1980.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

In Black Despair

 In grayish doubt and black despair,
I drafted hymns to the earth and the air,
pretending to joy, although I lacked it.
The age had made lament redundant.
So here's the question -- who can answer it -- Was he a brave man or a hypocrite?


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

On Prayer

 You ask me how to pray to someone who is not.
All I know is that prayer constructs a velvet bridge And walking it we are aloft, as on a springboard, Above landscapes the color of ripe gold Transformed by a magic stopping of the sun.
That bridge leads to the shore of Reversal Where everything is just the opposite and the word 'is' Unveils a meaning we hardly envisioned.
Notice: I say we; there, every one, separately, Feels compassion for others entangled in the flesh And knows that if there is no other shore We will walk that aerial bridge all the same.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

Study Of Loneliness

 A guardian of long-distance conduits in the desert?
A one-man crew of a fortress in the sand?
Whoever he was.
At dawn he saw furrowed mountains The color of ashes, above the melting darkness, Saturated with violet, breaking into fluid rouge, Till they stood, immense, in the orange light.
Day after day.
And, before he noticed, year after year.
For whom, he thought, that splendor? For me alone? Yet it will be here long after I perish.
What is it in the eye of a lizard? Or when seen by a migrant bird? If I am all mankind, are they themselves without me? And he knew there was no use crying out, for none of them would save him.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

What Does It Mean

 It does not know it glitters
It does not know it flies
It does not know it is this not that.
And, more and more often, agape, With my Gauloise dying out, Over a glass of red wine, I muse on the meaning of being this not that.
Just as long ago, when I was twenty, But then there was a hope I would be everything, Perhaps even a butterfly or a thrush, by magic.
Now I see dusty district roads And a town where the postmaster gets drunk every day Melancholy with remaining identical to himself.
If only the stars contained me.
If only everything kept happening in such a way That the so-called world opposed the so-called flesh.
Were I at least not contradictory.
Alas.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

Window

 I looked out the window at dawn and saw a young apple tree
translucent in brightness.
And when I looked out at dawn once again, an apple tree laden with fruit stood there.
Many years had probably gone by but I remember nothing of what happened in my sleep.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

Woe!

 It is true, our tribe is similar to the bees,
It gathers honey of wisdom, carries it, stores it in honeycombs.
I am able to roam for hours Through the labyrinth of the main library, floor to floor.
But yesterday, looking for the words of masters and prophets, I wandered into high regions That are visited by practically no one.
I would open a book and could decipher nothing.
For letters faded and disappeared from the pages.
Woe! I exclaimed-so it comes to this? Where are you, venerable ones, with your beards and wigs, Your nights spent by a candle, griefs of your wives? So a message saving the world is silenced forever? At your home it was the day of making preserves.
And your dog, sleeping by the fire, would wake up, Yawn, and look at you, as if knowing.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

Encounter

 We were riding through frozen fields in a wagon at dawn.
A red wing rose in the darkness.
And suddenly a hare ran across the road.
One of us pointed to it with his hand.
That was long ago.
Today neither of them is alive, Not the hare, nor the man who made the gesture.
O my love, where are they, where are they going The flash of a hand, streak of movement, rustle of pebbles.
I ask not out of sorrow, but in wonder.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

And Yet The Books

 And yet the books will be there on the shelves, separate beings,
That appeared once, still wet
As shining chestnuts under a tree in autumn,
And, touched, coddled, began to live
In spite of fires on the horizon, castles blown up,
Tribes on the march, planets in motion.
“We are, ” they said, even as their pages Were being torn out, or a buzzing flame Licked away their letters.
So much more durable Than we are, whose frail warmth Cools down with memory, disperses, perishes.
I imagine the earth when I am no more: Nothing happens, no loss, it’s still a strange pageant, Women’s dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley.
Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born, Derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

A Hall

 The road led straight to the temple.
Notre Dame, though not Gothic at all.
The huge doors were closed.
I chose one on the side, Not to the main building-to its left wing, The one in green copper, worn into gaps below.
I pushed.
Then it was revealed: An astonishing large hall, in warm light.
Great statues of sitting women-goddesses, In draped robes, marked it with a rhythm.
Color embraced me like the interior of a purple-brown flower Of unheard-of size.
I walked, liberated From worries, pangs of conscience, and fears.
I knew I was there as one day I would be.
I woke up serene, thinking that this dream Answers my question, often asked: How is it when one passes the last threshold?


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

Magpiety

 The same and not quite the same, I walked through oak forests
Amazed that my Muse, Mnemosyne,
Has in no way diminished my amazement.
A magpie was screeching and I said: Magpiety? What is magpiety? I shall never achieve A magpie heart, a hairy nostril over the beak, a flight That always renews just when coming down, And so I shall never comprehend magpiety.
If however magpiety does not exist My nature does not exist either.
Who would have guessed that, centuries later, I would invent the question of universals?