Monday, April 30, 2012

Tuesday Poeom--A Song on the End of the World by Czesław Miłosz

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 should always be.
On the day the world ends
Women walk through the 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 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:
There will be no other end of the world.
There will be no other end of the world.
Czesław Miłosz
Warsaw, 1944


  1. Yes, this is a poem that challenges us, especially give the place and the year ...

  2. It some ways it was the end of the world for what came after would never be the same especially what was unleashed by Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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  4. A very beautiful song written in a very dark time. Words take flight...

  5. A beautiful poem written in a dark time. I like the specificity of his observations in this, the poetry in nature in the face of perhaps the unnatural.

  6. The image of the binding of the tomatoes - such a domestic, everyday act - with the strength of that repetition in the last two lines - gosh, it really blew me away.

  7. The right poem at the right time...

    fantastic choice.

  8. the plain images of everyday life.

    we recently watched Shoah. not all of it, but a lot of it. what i found endlessly compelling was the side-by-side existence of the most ordinary lives, struggles--film footage of fields and farm animals, women sweeping their doorsteps--with the most extraordinary horrors. genocide. denial. puddles on a dirt road.

  9. Everyone, you're all right. It's an innocent day, with people doing ordinary things, tasks that have been done the same way for hundreds of years. And yet, we know by the date and the mumbling white-haired old man that nothing will ever be the same again. These days are already evaporated by the time we read them, they have been obliterated by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and come to us in images, as though light from a dead star. And Susan's point is exactly Milosz's other point, which he writes about more overtly in other poems: ordinary life is going on for some, while the world has already ended for other in Dachau and Auschwitz--this picture represents the denial we all had about what was really happening, just on the other side of the wall--it could not be true, could it? So it was denied. And 6 million and more died. The world on the other side of the wall has already ended; this beautiful day is just about to end. Powerful stuff, and Milosz does it with incredible pain and control.