Monday, 5 October 2009

The small end of the world

Koniec świata

W dzień końca świata
Pszczoła krąży nad kwiatem nasturcji,
Rybak naprawia błyszczącą sieć.
Skaczą w morzu wesołe delfiny,
Młode wróble czepiają się rynny
I wąż ma złotą skórę, jak powinien mieć.
W dzień końca świata
Kobiety idą polem pod parasolkami,
Pijak zasypia na brzegu trawnika,
Nawołują na ulicy sprzedawcy warzywa
I łódka z żółtym żaglem do wyspy podpływa,
Dźwięk skrzypiec w powietrzu trwa
I noc gwiaździstą odmyka.
A którzy czekali błyskawic i gromów,
Są zawiedzeni.
A którzy czekali znaków i archanielskich trąb,
Nie wierzą, że staje się już.
Dopóki słońce i księżyc są w górze,
Dopóki trzmiel nawiedza różę,
Dopóki dzieci różowe się rodzą,
Nikt nie wierzy, że staje się już.
Tylko siwy staruszek, który byłby prorokiem,
Ale nie jest prorokiem, bo ma inne zajęcie,
Powiada przewiązując pomidory:
Innego końca świata nie będzie,
Innego końca świata nie będzie.

by Czesław Miłosz

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 it should always be.
On the day the world ends
Women walk through 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:
No other end of the world there will be,
No other end of the world there will be.

Translation by Anthony Miłosz, poet’s son

Have you ever realised the end of the world occurs every day, every minute, every second? It’s mostly up to the reader how to interpret a poem, but in this case comparing this work to a biblical vision of apocalypse is at least inept.

I wondered today how unbearable it is for the bereaved to reconcile themselves that the world has not come to a halt with the departure of their dearest one. Somebody passes away and the world unrelentingly doesn’t notice the spirit flying away from the body. People hurry to work, cars jam the roads, journalists in the radio crack jokes, planes touch down and take off, weather doesn’t react, everything indifferently runs its course. And the fact is that pretty everyone is unconscious of the tragedies which take place round the corner. “It doesn’t affect me” – they’d say, contemporary culture pushes away the death from its collective mind. One the individuals bring it back, whenever the death reminds about its presence by taking away one of our relatives, friends, acquaintances. This morning world also did not cease to move on – the palpable injustice?

Memento Mori!


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