The Poor Poet / Czeslaw Milosz


The first movement is singing,

A free voice, filling mountains and valleys.

The first movement is joy,

But it is taken away.


And now that the years have transformed my blood

And thousands of planetary systems have been born and died in my flesh,

I sit, a sly and angry poet

With malevolently squinted eyes

And, weighing a pen in my hand,

I plot revenge.


I poise the pen and it puts forth twigs and leaves, it is covered with blossoms

And the scent of that tree is impudent, for there, on the real earth,

Such trees do not grow, and like an insult

To suffering humanity is the scent of that tree.


Some take refuge in despair, which is sweet

Like strong tobacco, like a glass of vodka drunk in the hour of annihilation.

Others have the hope of fools, rosy as erotic dreams.


Still others find peace in the idolatry of country,

Which can last for a long time,

Although little longer than the nineteenth century lasts.


But to me a cynical hope is given,

For since I opened my eyes I have seen only the glow of fires, massacres,

Only injustice, humiliation, and the laughable shame of braggarts.

To me is given the hope of revenge on others and on myself,

For I was he who knew

And took from it no profit for myself.



From “Rescue”, Warsaw, 1944