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Best Famous Czeslaw Milosz Poems

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by Czeslaw Milosz | |

Song on the End of the World

 On the day the world ends
A bee circles a clover,
A Fisherman mends a glimmering net.
Happy porpoises jump in the sea, By the rainspout young sparrows are playing And the snake is gold-skinned as it it should always be.
On the day the world ends Women walk through fields under their umbrellas A drunkard grows sleepy at the edge of a lawn, Vegetable peddlers shout in the street And a yellow-sailed boat comes nearer the island, The voice of a violin lasts in the air And leads into a starry night.
And those who expected lightning and thunder Are disappointed.
And those who expected signs and archangels' trumps Do not believe it is happening now.
As long as the sun and the moon are above, As long as the bumblebee visits a rose As long as rosy infants are born No one believes it is happening now.
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 there will be, No other end of the world there will be.


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.


More great poems below...

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 | |

Dedication

 You whom I could not save
Listen to me.
Try to understand this simple speech as I would be ashamed of another.
I swear, there is in me no wizardry of words.
I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree.
What strengthened me, for you was lethal.
You mixed up farewell to an epoch with the beginning of a new one, Inspiration of hatred with lyrical beauty, Blind force with accomplished shape.
Here is the valley of shallow Polish rivers.
And an immense bridge Going into white fog.
Here is a broken city, And the wind throws the screams of gulls on your grave When I am talking with you.
What is poetry which does not save Nations or people? A connivance with official lies, A song of drunkards whose throats will be cut in a moment, Readings for sophomore girls.
That I wanted good poetry without knowing it, That I discovered, late, its salutary aim, In this and only this I find salvation.
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.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

Father Explains

 "There where that ray touches the plain
And the shadows escape as if they really ran,
Warsaw stands, open from all sides,
A city not very old but quite famous.
"Farther, where strings of rain hang from a little cloud, Under the hills with an acacia grove Is Prague.
Above it, a marvelous castle Shored against a slope in accordance with old rules.
"What divides this land with white foam Is the Alps.
The black means fir forests.
Beyond them, bathing in the yellow sun Italy lies, like a deep-blue dish.
"Among the many fine cities that are there You will recogni2e Rome, Christendom's capital, By those round roofs on the church Called the Basilica of Saint Peter.
"And there, to the north, beyond a bay, Where a level bluish mist moves in waves, Paris tries to keep pace with its tower And reins in its herd of bridges.
"Also other cities accompany Paris, They are adorned with glass, arrayed in iron, But for today that would be too much, I'll tell the rest another time


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 | |

Ars Poetica?

 I have always aspired to a more spacious form
that would be free from the claims of poetry or prose
and would let us understand each other without exposing
the author or reader to sublime agonies.
In the very essence of poetry there is something indecent: a thing is brought forth which we didn't know we had in us, so we blink our eyes, as if a tiger had sprung out and stood in the light, lashing his tail.
That's why poetry is rightly said to be dictated by a daimonion, though its an exaggeration to maintain that he must be an angel.
It's hard to guess where that pride of poets comes from, when so often they're put to shame by the disclosure of their frailty.
What reasonable man would like to be a city of demons, who behave as if they were at home, speak in many tongues, and who, not satisfied with stealing his lips or hand, work at changing his destiny for their convenience? 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 thehelp of irony.
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.
People therefore preserve silent integrity thus earning the respect of their relatives and neighbors.
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.
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.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

Campo di Fiori

 In Rome on the Campo di Fiori
Baskets of olives and lemons,
Cobbles spattered with wine
And the wreckage of flowers.
Vendors cover the trestles With rose-pink fish; Armfuls of dark grapes Heaped on peach-down.
On this same square They burned Giordano Bruno.
Henchmen kindled the pyre Close-pressed by the mob.
Before the flames had died The taverns were full again, Baskets of olives and lemons Again on the vendors' shoulders.
I thought of the Campo dei Fiori In Warsaw by the sky-carousel One clear spring evening To the strains of a carnival tune.
The bright melody drowned The salvos from the ghetto wall, And couples were flying High in the cloudless sky.
At times wind from the burning Would driff dark kites along And riders on the carousel Caught petals in midair.
That same hot wind Blew open the skirts of the girls And the crowds were laughing On that beautiful Warsaw Sunday.
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.
Already they were back at their wine Or peddled their white starfish, Baskets of olives and lemons They had shouldered to the fair, And he already distanced As if centuries had passed While they paused just a moment For his flying in the fire.
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 dci Fiori Rage will kindle at a poet's word.


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 | |

Incantation

 Human reason is beautiful and invincible.
No bars, no barbed wire, no pulping of books, No sentence of banishment can prevail against it.
It establishes the universal ideas in language, And guides our hand so we write Truth and Justice With capital letters, lie and oppression with small.
It puts what should be above things as they are, Is an enemy of despair and a friend of hope.
It does not know Jew from Greek or slave from master, Giving us the estate of the world to manage.
It saves austere and transparent phrases From the filthy discord of tortured words.
It says that everything is new under the sun, Opens the congealed fist of the past.
Beautiful and very young are Philo-Sophia And poetry, her ally in the service of the good.
As late as yesterday Nature celebrated their birth, The news was brought to the mountains by a unicorn and an echo.
Their friendship will be glorious, their time has no limit.
Their enemies have delivered themselves to destruction.


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 | |

I Sleep a Lot

 I sleep a lot and read St.
Thomas Aquinas Or The Death of God (that's a Protestant book).
To the right the bay as if molten tin, Beyond the bay, city, beyond the city, ocean, Beyond the ocean, ocean, till Japan.
To the left dry hills with white grass, Beyond the hills an irrigated valley where rice is grown, Beyond the valley, mountains and Ponderosa pines, Beyond the mountains, desert and sheep.
When I couldn't do without alcohol, I drove myself on alcohol, When I couldn't do without cigarettes and coffee, I drove myself On cigarettes and coffee.
I was courageous.
Industrious.
Nearly a model of virtue.
But that is good for nothing.
I feel a pain.
not here.
Even I don't know.
many islands and continents, words, bazaars, wooden flutes, Or too much drinking to the mirror, without beauty, Though one was to be a kind of archangel Or a Saint George, over there, on St.
George Street.
Please, Doctor, Not here.
No, Maybe it's too Unpronounced Please, Medicine Man, I feel a pain.
I always believed in spells and incantations.
Sure, women have only one, Catholic, soul, But we have two.
When you start to dance You visit remote pueblos in your sleep And even lands you have never seen.
Put on, I beg you, charms made of feathers, Now it's time to help one of your own.
I have read many books but I don't believe them.
When it hurts we return to the banks of certain rivers.
I remember those crosses with chiseled suns and moons And wizards, how they worked during an outbreak of typhus.
Send your second soul beyond the mountains, beyond time.
Tell me what you saw, I will wait.


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 | |

A Poem For the End of the Century

 When everything was fine
And the notion of sin had vanished
And the earth was ready
In universal peace
To consume and rejoice
Without creeds and utopias,

I, for unknown reasons,
Surrounded by the books
Of prophets and theologians,
Of philosophers, poets,
Searched for an answer,
Scowling, grimacing,
Waking up at night, muttering at dawn.
What oppressed me so much Was a bit shameful.
Talking of it aloud Would show neither tact nor prudence.
It might even seem an outrage Against the health of mankind.
Alas, my memory Does not want to leave me And in it, live beings Each with its own pain, Each with its own dying, Its own trepidation.
Why then innocence On paradisal beaches, An impeccable sky Over the church of hygiene? Is it because that Was long ago? To a saintly man --So goes an Arab tale-- God said somewhat maliciously: "Had I revealed to people How great a sinner you are, They could not praise you.
" "And I," answered the pious one, "Had I unveiled to them How merciful you are, They would not care for you.
" To 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.


by Czeslaw Milosz | |

Late Ripeness

 Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year,
I felt a door opening in me and I entered
the clarity of early morning.
One after another my former lives were departing, like ships, together with their sorrow.
And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas assigned to my brush came closer, ready now to be described better than they were before.
I was not separated from people, grief and pity joined us.
We forget - I kept saying - that we are all children of the King.
For where we come from there is no division into Yes and No, into is, was, and will be.
We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part of the gift we received for our long journey.
Moments from yesterday and from centuries ago - a sword blow, the painting of eyelashes before a mirror of polished metal, a lethal musket shot, a caravel staving its hull against a reef - they dwell in us, waiting for a fulfillment.
I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard, as are all men and women living at the same time, whether they are aware of it or not.


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 | |

Statue of a Couple

 Your hand, my wonder, is now icy cold.
The purest light of the celestial dome has burned me through.
And now we are as two still plams lying in darlmess, as two black banks of a frozen stream in the chasm of the world.
Our hair combed back is carved in wood, the moon walks over our ebony shoulders.
A distant cockcrow, the night goes by, silent.
Rich is the rime of love, withered the dowry.
Where are you, living in what depths of time, love, stepping down into what waters, now, when the frost of our voiceless lips does not fend off the divine fires? In a forest of clouds, of fcam, and of silver we live, caressing lands under our And we are wielding the might of a dark scepter to earn oblivion.
My love, your breast cut through by a clinel knows nothing anymore of what it was.
Of clouds at dawn, of angers at daybreak, of shallows in springtime it has no remembrance.
And you have led me, as once an angel led Tobias, onto the rusty mashes of Lombardy.
But a day came when a sign frightened you, a stinma of golden measure.
With a scream, with inunobile fear in your thin hands you fell into a pit that ashes lie over, where neither northern firs nor Italian yews could protect our andent bed of lovers.
What was it.
what is it, what will it be we filled the world with our cry and calling.
The dawn is back, the red moon set, do we know now? In a heavy ship A helmman comes, throws a silken rope and binds w tightly to eaah other, then he pours on friends, once enemies, a handful of snow.