Friday, May 2, 2008

Poem of the Day


by Czeslaw Milosz

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.

Czeslaw Milosz (at left) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980, at a time when his work was banned in his native Poland. "Incantation" was written in 1968, in Berkeley, California, where he was a Professor of Polish Literature. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mr. Milosz returned to his native country to live part-time in Kraków, where he died in 2004.

Above, a young climber ponders Poland's Tatras Mountains.

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