Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

Meditation (on Czeslaw Milosz)

Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

Meditation (on Czeslaw Milosz)

Article excerpt

We weren't worthy or sure enough of ourselves

to catch hold of subjects beyond our reach

He must have known it if he encouraged simplicity

and warned against aiming too high even mocked it

But he warned in vain

because the very practice of art implies conceit

None of his young detractors outdid him

in the bad things he said about himself

He spoke courageously about faith

felt he was a Manichean but stayed faithful to orthodoxy

though doubts never left him

It was true-he admitted-he had a perverse mind

he was endowed more richly than others and he knew it

Sometimes he was hated for this

sometimes looked at grudgingly and rebuked

The half-educated would lecture him

there were those who tried with or without conviction

to move him to the bottom of the list

Like others he didn't avoid misdeeds

To be adored or rejected

he chose the path himself

never in the middle

He compared himself to Job

but some who observed from the side

saw only favors of fate

as if he entered an alliance with the devil

for his fame embraced two continents

and he had a high place on the tower of poetry

He was only too aware

he didn't know and couldn't know

about what is the most important

he wanted to show the real and succeeded

but an impenetrable space

always hovered above this reality

as if a land of happiness were built over sheol

Before his destined time arrived

he experienced the revelation of old age and slow extinction

Reluctantly and with delay the city

gave up its strongholds and ships

Translated from Polish by

John and Bogdana Carpenter

[Author Affiliation]

JULIA HARTWIG, born in Lublin in 1921 and currently a resident of Warsaw, has published numerous books of poetry in Poland as well as literary studies of Apollinaire and Gerard de Nerval. …

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