This is an easy column to write. A previous column I wrote about the great Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz, drew a lovely response from readers who told me by notes, emails, even phone calls, overseas and at home, that they enjoyed this poet very much.

I was surprised. Some said they would be looking to get his works. And some asked me to give a few more examples of his poetry.

So this column simply consists of my favourite of all Czeslaw Milosz’s poems. It was written when he was a young man, trapped in Warsaw 1944 when not only his world but all civilization seemed to be collapsing.

A Song  on the End of the World

 

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.

Milosz wrote that beautiful poem in the midst of death and destruction. Whatever our circumstances, there is always beauty – and there is always good work to do, mending the nets, binding the tomatoes.

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