Sunday Poem 59

Apologies for the lateness of the Sunday Poem but the server has been down.

I was really struggling to find a poem for today.  I have more than a hundred poetry books, several poems already typed up ready to go and bookmarked pages to jog my memory of verses that catch my attention.  Whether it is that I’m tired, or jaundiced or bored, I couldn’t find anything on my poetry shelf that tickled my fancy.

And then I found this one by Czeslaw Milosz. He was born in 1911 in Lithuania, son of a civil engineer, and studied in Wilno, which at the time belonged to Poland. A co-founder of a literary group “Zagary”, he made his literary début in 1930, publishing two volumes of poetry, and he also worked for Polish Radio. During WW2 he spent most of his time in Warsaw working for the underground presses.

After the war he entered the diplomatic service for The People’s Poland, but he broke with the government in 1951 and settled in France where he wrote several books of prose. In 1960, at the invitation of the University of California, he moved to Berkeley and in 1961 became Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures.

And Yet the Books – by Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004 )
(translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Hass)

And yet the books will be there on the shelves, separate beings,
That appeared once, still wet,
As shining chestnuts under a tree in autumn,
And, touched, coddled, began to live
In spite of fires on the horizon, castles blown up,
Tribes on the march, planets in motion.
“We are,” they said, even as their pages
Were being torn out, or a buzzing flame
Licked away their letters.  So much more durable
Than we are, whose frail warmth
Cools down with memory, disperses, perishes.
I imagine the earth when I am no more:
Nothing happens, no loss, it’s still a strange pageant,
Women’s dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley.
Yet the books will be there o the shelves, well born,
Derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.


Filed under Poetry, Literature, Music and Art

8 responses to “Sunday Poem 59

  1. sara

    Lovely poem..i love my books more than is natural really…i have lots..i would be totally devastated if anything happened to them…that poem sums it up really..we come we go books endure…

    • wartimehousewife

      I agree entirely Sara. I’ve made it very clear to The Boys that if ever it was a choice between buying a book and feeding them, they would go hungry. Astonishingly, they understand!

  2. Sitting here surrounded by books, some of which I will never read, I too know that I have an unnatural love for book. I used to think that it was decadent to love these inanimate objects until one day I realized that they are inanimate only in the sense that they don’t move. They cause others to move. They have life and not only do they have life they are immortal.
    Now excuse me I have a book to read.

    • wartimehousewife

      What a brilliant response Oldfool. I feel like writing that down and putting it on the wall (next to a bookshelf, of course)

  3. sara

    Yes my children understand too..i think they too have the love that i have…i have now been limited to buying a book a month..slowly been overtaken by day i will have my own little library..

    • wartimehousewife

      Sara: I dream of having my own library room. It would be wood panelled and lined floor to ceiling with bookshelves and either a gallery or one of those really long ladders on wheels to get to the top. The only other furniture would be a couple of wing-backed armchairs and a sofa, and a table with a decanter of sherry and one glass on it on a silver tray.

      Have I thought this through too carefully?

  4. sara

    Err are you my long lost twin…thats my spend days in my i have a spare room(moved two baby girls in together)..the dream is ever closer…

    • Penny Beaumont

      I love my books as well, so does the ” best beloved”, one end of our sitting room is almost a library with 3 ceiling to floor book cases, the soft leather arm chairs; we haven’t got as far as the sherry on a little table, still prefer mugs of tea and the odd biscuit or two. Still have my childhood books, most of which were read as bedtime stories to our son and daughter; and are being read yet again to the grandsons when they come to stay.

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