By Czeslaw Milosz 1911–2004 Czeslaw Milosz
You whom I could not save
Listen to me.   
Try to understand this simple speech as I would be ashamed of another.   
I swear, there is in me no wizardry of words.   
I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree.

What strengthened me, for you was lethal.   
You mixed up farewell to an epoch with the beginning of a new one,   
Inspiration of hatred with lyrical beauty;   
Blind force with accomplished shape.

Here is a valley of shallow Polish rivers. And an immense bridge   
Going into white fog. Here is a broken city;   
And the wind throws the screams of gulls on your grave   
When I am talking with you.

What is poetry which does not save   
Nations or people?   
A connivance with official lies,   
A song of drunkards whose throats will be cut in a moment,   
Readings for sophomore girls.
That I wanted good poetry without knowing it,   
That I discovered, late, its salutary aim,   
In this and only this I find salvation.

They used to pour millet on graves or poppy seeds   
To feed the dead who would come disguised as birds.   
I put this book here for you, who once lived   
So that you should visit us no more.   

Warsaw, 1945

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

Source: The Collected Poems: 1931-1987 (The Ecco Press, 1988)

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Poet Czeslaw Milosz 1911–2004


Subjects Arts & Sciences, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Epistle, Metaphor

 Czeslaw  Milosz


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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SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Poetry & Poets


Poetic Terms Epistle, Metaphor

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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