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Best Famous Czeslaw Milosz Poems

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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 |

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 |

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 |

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 |

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 |

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 |

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 |

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 |

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 |

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.