Incantation

By Czeslaw Milosz 1911–2004 Czeslaw Milosz

Translated By Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Pinsky

Human reason is beautiful and invincible.
No bars, no barbed wire, no pulping of books,
No sentence of banishment can prevail against it.
It establishes the universal ideas in language,
And guides our hand so we write Truth and Justice
With capital letters, lie and oppression with small.
It puts what should be above things as they are,
Is an enemy of despair and a friend of hope.
It does not know Jew from Greek or slave from master,
Giving us the estate of the world to manage.
It saves austere and transparent phrases
From the filthy discord of tortured words.
It says that everything is new under the sun,
Opens the congealed fist of the past.
Beautiful and very young are Philo-Sophia
And poetry, her ally in the service of the good.
As late as yesterday Nature celebrated their birth,
The news was brought to the mountains by a unicorn and an echo.
Their friendship will be glorious, their time has no limit.
Their enemies have delivered themselves to destruction.

Berkeley, 1968

Czeslaw Milosz, "Incantation" 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

POET’S REGION Poland

Subjects Faith & Doubt, Religion, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 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 Faith & Doubt, Religion, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION Poland

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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