The Collected Poems: 1956 - 1998
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This outstanding new translation brings a uniformity of voice to Zbigniew Herbert's entire poetic output, from his first book of poems, String of Light, in 1956, to his final volume, previously unpublished in English, Epilogue Of the Storm. Collected Poems: 1956-1998, as Joseph Brodsky said of Herbert's Selected Poems, is "bound for a much longer haul than any of us can anticipate." He continues, "For Zbigniew Herbert's poetry adds to the biography of civilization the sensibility of a man not defeated by the century that has been most thorough, most effective in dehumanization of the species. Herbert's irony, his austere reserve and his compassion, the lucidity of his lyricism, the intensity of his sentiment toward classical antiquity, are not just trappings of a modern poet, but the necessary armor'in his case well-tempered and shining indeed'for man not to be crushed by the onslaught of reality. By offering to his readers neither aesthetic nor ethical discount, this poet, in fact, saves them from that poverty which every form of human evil finds so congenial. As long as the species exists, this book will be timely."
passing the iron rails here is my fragile beauty I lay out my singing gear on seashores on light sand the surf seeing my flightiness offers not a flower but a stone MATURITY It’s good what happened it’s good what’s going to happen even what’s happening right now it’s OK In a nest pleated from the flesh there lived a bird its wings beat about the heart we mostly called it: unrest and sometimes: love evenings we went along the rushing sorrow river in the river one could see
was held. That day the princess was even more beautiful than usual. Music played. Girls lovely as the moon danced downstairs. All right, but what came before that? Oh, let’s not even think about it. A dark fortune-teller knocks at the window like a moth. Forty thieves lost their long knives and beards during their flight and the dragon turned into a May bug is sleeping peacefully on an almond leaf. ON THE ROAD TO DELPHI It was on the road to Delphi. I was just passing a red rock when I
howl shaken by a shudder of disgust Apollo is cleaning his instrument only seemingly is the voice of Marsyas monotonous and composed of a single vowel A in reality Marsyas relates the inexhaustible wealth of his body bald mountains of liver white ravines of aliment rustling forests of lung sweet hillocks of muscle joints bile blood and shudders the wintry wind of bone over the salt of memory shaken by a shudder of disgust Apollo is cleaning his instrument now to the chorus
and forgive me also that I did not fight like Lord Byron for the happiness of oppressed peoples and studied only the rising moon and museums —I thank You that works created for Your greater glory yielded to me particles of their mystery and that with great presumption I thought that Duccio Van Eyck and Bellini painted for me also and also that the Acropolis which I never fully understood patiently revealed to me its mutilated body —I ask You to reward the gray old woman who unbidden brought me
Stifled tacitum ashamed of my own existence An unknowing boy The times we lived in were truly a tale told by an idiot Full of sound and cruelty Your severe gentleness delicate strength Taught me to weather the world like a thinking stone Patient indifferent and tender all at once You were surrounded by sophists and those who think with a hammer Dialectical frauds parishioners of nothingness—you looked at them Through spectacles slightly streaked with tears With an eye that forgives and