Dedication

Translated by 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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