Late Ripeness

By Czeslaw Milosz 1911–2004 Czeslaw Milosz
Not soon, as late as the approach of my ninetieth year,   
I felt a door opening in me and I entered   
the clarity of early morning.   

One after another my former lives were departing,   
like ships, together with their sorrow.   

And the countries, cities, gardens, the bays of seas   
assigned to my brush came closer,   
ready now to be described better than they were before.   

I was not separated from people,   
grief and pity joined us.   
We forget—I kept saying—that we are all children of the King.   

For where we come from there is no division   
into Yes and No, into is, was, and will be.   

We were miserable, we used no more than a hundredth part   
of the gift we received for our long journey.   

Moments from yesterday and from centuries ago—   
a sword blow, the painting of eyelashes before a mirror   
of polished metal, a lethal musket shot, a caravel   
staving its hull against a reef—they dwell in us,   
waiting for a fulfillment.   

I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard,   
as are all men and women living at the same time,   
whether they are aware of it or not.   

Czeslaw Milosz, "Late Ripeness" from Collected Poems, 1931-1987. Copyright © 1988 by Czeslaw Milosz Royalties, Inc. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.

Source: Collected Poems 1931-1987 (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1998)

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Poet Czeslaw Milosz 1911–2004

POET’S REGION Poland

Subjects Living, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Growing Old, Time & Brevity

Poetic Terms Elegy

 Czeslaw  Milosz

Biography

Czeslaw Milosz ranks among the most respected figures in twentieth-century Polish literature, as well as one of the most respected contemporary poets in the world: he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980. Born in Lithuania, where his parents moved temporarily to escape the political upheaval in their native Poland, as an adult, he left Poland due to the oppressive Communist regime that came to power following World . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Growing Old, Time & Brevity

POET’S REGION Poland

Poetic Terms Elegy

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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