O Most High, you willed to create me a poet and now it is time
for me to present a report.
My heart is full of gratitude though I got acquainted with the
miseries of that profession.
By practicing it, we learn too much about the bizarre nature of
Who, every hour, every day and every year is possessed by self-
A self-delusion when building sandcastles, collecting postage
stamps, admiring oneself in a mirror.
Assigning oneself first place in sport, power, love, and the getting of money.
All the while on the very border, on the fragile border beyond
which there is a province of mumblings and wails.
For in every one of us a mad rabbit thrashes and a wolf pack
howls, so that we are afraid it will be heard by others.
Out of self-delusion comes poetry and poetry confesses to its flaw.
Though only by remembering poems once written is their author able to see the whole shame of it.
And yet he cannot bear another poet nearby, if he suspects him of being better than himself and envies him every scrap of praise.
Ready not only to kill him but smash him and obliterate him
from the surface of the earth.
So that he remains alone, magnanimous and kind toward his
subjects, who chase after their small self-delusions.
How does it happen then that such low beginnings lead to the
splendor of the word?
I gathered books of poets from various countries, now I sit
reading them and am astonished.
It is sweet to think that I was a companion in an expedition that
never ceases, though centuries pass away.
An expedition not in search of the golden fleece of a perfect form but as necessary as love.
Under the compulsion of the desire for the essence of the oak, of the mountain peak, of the wasp and of the flower of nasturtium.
So that they last, and confirm our hymnic song against death.
And our tender thought about all who lived, strived, and never
succeeded in naming.
For to exist on the earth is beyond any power to name.
Fraternally, we help each other, forgetting our grievances,
translating each other into other tongues, members, indeed, of a wandering crew.
How then could I not be grateful, if early I was called and the
incomprehensible contradiction has not diminished my wonder?
At every sunrise I renounce the doubts of night and greet the new day of a most precious delusion.
--TRANSLATED FROM THE POLISH BY THE AUTHOR AND ROBERT HASS
From "Facing the River: New Poems" by Czeslaw Milosz (The Ecco Press: 66 pp., $22)