May 5, 2017

5 05 2017

The tabloid at the supermarket shows a picture of the current president with the headline “World War 3 Is Coming”. Social Media continues to cry out in fear and anguish. This morning, I cannot get this poem out of my head. I am not generally one for poetry; I prefer prose. But there are some lines that are so intense with elusive meaning, eloquently and economically expressed, that they fasten onto the mind. This is one.

A Song on the End of the World

By Czeslaw Milosz
Translated by Anthony Milosz

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 the 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.

Warsaw, 1944

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