Czeslaw Milosz
August 16, 2004 1:19 PM   Subscribe

Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) - one of the greatest poets of the 20th century - passed away on Saturday in Krackow, Poland. I want to remember him here with this: "Conversation with Jeanne"
posted by lilboo (8 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

Still one more year of preparation
Tomorrow at the latest I'll start working on a
great book
In which my century will appear as it really was.
The sun will rise over the righteous and the
Springs and autumns will unerringly return,
In a wet thicket a thrush will build his nest
lined with clay
And foxes will learn their foxy natures.

And that will be the subject, with addenda.
Also: armies
Running across frozen plains, shouting a curse
In a many-voiced chorus; the cannon of a tank
Growing immense at the corner of a street; the
ride at dusk
Into a camp with watchtowers and barbed wire.

No it won't happen tomorrow. In five or ten
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
He burns with bright flame; a bulldozer sweeps
him into a clay pit.
Her child. Embracing a teddy bear. Conceived
in ecstasy.

I haven't learned yet to speak as I should, calmly.
posted by Turtles all the way down at 2:38 PM on August 16, 2004

Separated at birth?
posted by Wet Spot at 3:02 PM on August 16, 2004

Thanks, lilboo. Here's another one that seems particularly apt:

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.
And a nice photo.
posted by taz at 3:12 PM on August 16, 2004

Ah, that's one of my favorite of his poems too, Taz. RIP.
posted by scody at 3:33 PM on August 16, 2004

I used to know how to pronounce his name properly, but suddenly I had forgotten. So I looked it up:

"CHESS-wahf MEE-wosh"

There you have it.
posted by boredomjockey at 5:53 PM on August 16, 2004


No duties. I don't have to be profound.
I don't have to be artistically perfect.
Or sublime. Or edifying.
I just wander. I say: "You were running,
That's fine. It was the thing to do."
And now the music of the worlds transforms me.
My planet enters a different house.
Trees and lawns become more distinct.
Philosophies one after another go out.
Everything is lighter yet not less odd.
Sauces, wine vintages, dishes of meat.
We talk a little of district fairs,
Of travels in a covered wagon with a cloud of dust behind,
Of how rivers once were, what the scent of calamus is.
That's better than examining one's private dreams.
And meanwhile it has arrived. It's here, invisible.
Who can guess how it got here, everywhere.
Let others take care of it. Time for me to play hooky.
Buona notte. Ciao. Farewell.

(That and a prose poem are quoted in my obit post.)
posted by languagehat at 8:52 PM on August 16, 2004

Hearing Robert Hass, who translated much of Milosz's works, read Milosz's poems at poetry readings has always left me with a terrible sadness for being more or less monolingual. The other poets who have had this effect on me--Rilke, Neruda--were nevertheless as inaccessible as Homer in a certain--yes, timeless--way. But Milosz was a contemporary, and thus the possibility of my discerning more of the object beyond the shadow of translation on the cave wall always seemed more tangible somehow. It was a wholly irrational feeling of temporal affinity, and I'm saddened to say that for me, the death of this poet will never be kept from his poems. Funny how news from Krakow can remind one that there are so many unfamiliar stretches in this world.

I should travel.
posted by DaShiv at 9:52 PM on August 16, 2004

It's amazing how, occasionally, somehow, the right voice comes along or is made by history and circumstances. How was it that Milosz could observe and respond and write so wonderfully about what Stalinist Poland and other European fiefdoms were doing to individuals and writers?

Any MeFiers who are privileged enough to visit Poland should go to the monument outside the shipyard in Gdansk, built hurriedly and very permanently during 1980-81 before martial law, with quotes from the Polish Pope John Paul II (formerly Karol Wojtyla) and Milosz. The Captive Mind, Dolina Issy, and of course his poems are wonderful contributions to world literature, while being specifically European and Polish as well.

Czesc im pamiec [hope I remember that correctly]
posted by palancik at 4:11 AM on August 17, 2004

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