Czeslaw Milosz quotes

Czeslaw Milosz photo
106   2

Czeslaw Milosz

Birthdate: 30. June 1911
Date of death: 14. August 2004
Other names: 米禾舒, Milosh Cheslav, چسلاو میلوش

Czesław Miłosz was a Polish poet, prose writer, translator and diplomat. His World War II-era sequence The World is a collection of twenty "naïve" poems. Following the war, he served as Polish cultural attaché in Paris and Washington, D.C., then in 1951 defected to the West. His nonfiction book The Captive Mind became a classic of anti-Stalinism. From 1961 to 1998 he was a professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. He became a U.S. citizen in 1970. In 1978 he was awarded the Neustadt International Prize for Literature, and in 1980 the Nobel Prize in Literature. In 1999 he was named a Puterbaugh Fellow. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, he divided his time between Berkeley, California, and Kraków, Poland.

Works

The Captive Mind
Czeslaw Milosz

„Love means to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.“

—  Czeslaw Milosz

"The World": Love (1943), trans. Czesŀaw Miŀosz
Rescue (1945)
Context: Love means to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills —
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

„Only if we assume that a poet constantly strives to liberate himself from borrowed styles in search for reality, is he dangerous. In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.“

—  Czeslaw Milosz

Nobel lecture (8 December 1980)
Context: Only if we assume that a poet constantly strives to liberate himself from borrowed styles in search for reality, is he dangerous. In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot. And, alas, a temptation to pronounce it, similar to an acute itching, becomes an obsession which doesn't allow one to think of anything else. That is why a poet chooses internal or external exile. It is not certain, however, that he is motivated exclusively by his concern with actuality. He may also desire to free himself from it and elsewhere, in other countries, on other shores, to recover, at least for short moments, his true vocation — which is to contemplate Being.

„Under various names, I have praised only you, rivers!“

—  Czeslaw Milosz

"Rivers" (1980), trans. Renata Gorczynski and Robert Hass
Hymn of the Pearl (1981)
Context: Under various names, I have praised only you, rivers!
You are milk and honey and love and death and dance.
From a spring in hidden grottoes, seeping from mossy rocks,
Where a goddess pours live water from a pitcher,
At clear streams in the meadow, where rills murmur underground,
Your race and my race begin, and amazement, and quick passage.

„They pushed their reasoning rather far.“

—  Czeslaw Milosz, book The Captive Mind

The Captive Mind (1953)
Context: I have known many Christians — Poles, Frenchman, Spaniards — who were strict Stalinists in the field of politics but who retained certain inner reservations, believing God would make corrections once the bloody sentences of the all-mighties of History were carried out. They pushed their reasoning rather far. They argue that history develops according to immutable laws that exist by the will of God; one of these laws is the class struggle; the twentieth century marks the victory of the proletariat, which is led in its struggle by the Communist Party; Stalin, the leader of the Communist Party, fulfills the law of history or in other words acts by the will of God, therefore one must obey him. Mankind can be renewed only on the Russian pattern; that is why no Christian can oppose the one — cruel, it is true — idea which will create a new kind of man over the entire planet. Such reasoning is often used by clerics who are party tools. "Christ is a new man. The new man is a Soviet man. Therefore Christ is a Soviet man!" said Justinian Marina, the Rumanian patriarch.

„Someone will read as moral
That the people of Rome or Warsaw
Haggle, laugh, make love
As they pass by martyrs' pyres.“

—  Czeslaw Milosz

Rescue (1945)
Context: Someone will read as moral
That the people of Rome or Warsaw
Haggle, laugh, make love
As they pass by martyrs' pyres.
Someone else will read
Of the passing of things human,
Of the oblivion
Born before the flames have died. But that day I thought only
Of the loneliness of the dying,
Of how, when Giordano
Climbed to his burning
There were no words
In any human tongue
To be left for mankind,
Mankind who live on.

„There was a time when only wise books were read
helping us to bear our pain and misery.“

—  Czeslaw Milosz

"Ars Poetica?"
Context: There was a time when only wise books were read
helping us to bear our pain and misery.
This, after all, is not quite the same
as leafing through a thousand works fresh from psychiatric clinics. And yet the world is different from what it seems to be
and we are other than how we see ourselves in our ravings.

„I think that I am here, on this earth,
To present a report on it, but to whom I don't know.“

—  Czeslaw Milosz

"Consciousness," trans. Czesław Miłosz and Robert Hass
Unattainable Earth (1986)
Context: I think that I am here, on this earth,
To present a report on it, but to whom I don't know.
As if I were sent so that whatever takes place
Has meaning because it changes into memory.

„How it should be in Heaven I know, for I was there.
By its river. Listening to its birds.“

—  Czeslaw Milosz

"How It Should Be in Heaven" (1986), trans. Czesŀaw Miŀosz and Robert Hass
New Poems (1985-1987)
Context: How it should be in Heaven I know, for I was there.
By its river. Listening to its birds.
In its season: in summer, shortly after sunrise.
I would get up and run to my thousand works
And the garden was superterrestrial, owned by imagination.

„It would be more decorous not to live. To live is not decorous,
Says he who after many years
Returned to the city of his youth.“

—  Czeslaw Milosz

"City of My Youth" (1984)
Context: It would be more decorous not to live. To live is not decorous,
Says he who after many years
Returned to the city of his youth. There was no one left
Of those who once walked these streets
And now they had nothing, except his eyes.
Stumbling, he walked and looked, instead of them,
On the light they had loved, on the lilacs again in bloom.

„Masculinity and femininity, elapsed, met in him
And every shame, every grief, every love.“

—  Czeslaw Milosz

"City of My Youth" (1984)
Context: Masculinity and femininity, elapsed, met in him
And every shame, every grief, every love.
If ever we accede to enlightenment,
He thought, it is in one compassionate moment
When what separated them from me vanishes
And a shower of drops from a bunch of lilacs
Pours on my face, and hers, and his, at the same time.

„Human material seems to have one major defect: it does not like to be considered merely as human material.“

—  Czeslaw Milosz, book The Captive Mind

The Captive Mind (1953)
Context: Human material seems to have one major defect: it does not like to be considered merely as human material. It finds it hard to endure the feeling that it must resign itself to passive acceptance of changes introduced from above.

„I hear voices, see smiles. I cannot
Write anything“

—  Czeslaw Milosz

"In Warsaw" (1945), trans. Czesŀaw Miŀosz, Robert Hass and Madeline Levine
Rescue (1945)
Context: How can I live in this country
Where the foot knocks against
The unburied bones of kin?
I hear voices, see smiles. I cannot
Write anything; five hands
Seize my pen and order me to write
The story of their lives and deaths.
Was I born to become
a ritual mourner?
I want to sing of festivities,
The greenwood into which Shakespeare
Often took me. Leave
To poets a moment of happiness,
Otherwise your world will perish.

„There were no words
In any human tongue
To be left for mankind,
Mankind who live on.“

—  Czeslaw Milosz

Rescue (1945)
Context: Someone will read as moral
That the people of Rome or Warsaw
Haggle, laugh, make love
As they pass by martyrs' pyres.
Someone else will read
Of the passing of things human,
Of the oblivion
Born before the flames have died. But that day I thought only
Of the loneliness of the dying,
Of how, when Giordano
Climbed to his burning
There were no words
In any human tongue
To be left for mankind,
Mankind who live on.

„All was taken away from you: white dresses,
wings, even existence.
Yet I believe you,
messengers.“

—  Czeslaw Milosz

"On Angels"
Context: All was taken away from you: white dresses,
wings, even existence.
Yet I believe you,
messengers. There, where the world is turned inside out,
a heavy fabric embroidered with stars and beasts,
you stroll, inspecting the trustworthy seams.

„We have come by easy stages to a lack of a common system of thought that could unite the peasant cutting his hay, the student poring over formal logic, and the mechanic working in an automobile factory.“

—  Czeslaw Milosz, book The Captive Mind

The Captive Mind (1953)
Context: As long as a society's best minds were occupied by theological questions, it was possible to speak of a given religion as the way of thinking of the whole social organism. All the matters which most actively concerned the people were referred to it and discussed in its terms. But that belongs to a dying era. We have come by easy stages to a lack of a common system of thought that could unite the peasant cutting his hay, the student poring over formal logic, and the mechanic working in an automobile factory. Out of this lack arises the painful sense of detachment or abstraction that oppresses the "creators of culture."

„I pass a volcanic park, lie down at a spring,
Not knowing how to express what is always and everywhere“

—  Czeslaw Milosz

"It Was Winter" (1964), trans. Czesław Miłosz, Robert Hass, Robert Pinsky and Renata Gorczynski
Bobo's Metamorphosis (1965)
Context: And here I am walking the eternal earth.
Tiny, leaning on a stick.
I pass a volcanic park, lie down at a spring,
Not knowing how to express what is always and everywhere:
The earth I cling to is so solid
Under my breast and belly that I feel grateful
For every pebble, and I don't know whether
It is my pulse or the earth's that I hear,
When the hems of invisible silk vestments pass over me,
Hands, wherever they have been, touch my arm,
Or small laughter, once, long ago over wine,
With lanterns in the magnolias, for my house is huge.

„Such seeming nothingness not only lasts but contains within itself enormous energy which is revealed gradually.“

—  Czeslaw Milosz

"If Only This Could Be Said" To Begin Where I Am: Selected Essays by Czesŀaw Miŀosz (2001) edited and translated by Bogdana Carpenter and Madeline G. Levine <!-- publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux -->
Context: Evil grows and bears fruit, which is understandable, because it has logic and probability on its side and also, of course, strength. The resistance of tiny kernels of good, to which no one grants the power of causing far-reaching consequences, is entirely mysterious, however. Such seeming nothingness not only lasts but contains within itself enormous energy which is revealed gradually.

Similar authors

Wisława Szymborska photo
Wisława Szymborska92
Polish writer
Stanisław Jerzy Lec photo
Stanisław Jerzy Lec28
Polish writer
Giorgos Seferis photo
Giorgos Seferis2
Greek poet and diplomat
Fernando Pessoa photo
Fernando Pessoa289
Portuguese poet, writer, literary critic, translator, publi…
Paul Claudel photo
Paul Claudel6
French diplomat
Cesare Pavese photo
Cesare Pavese137
Italian poet, novelist, literary critic, and translator
Gabriela Mistral photo
Gabriela Mistral2
Chilean poet-diplomat, writer, educator and feminist.
Seamus Heaney photo
Seamus Heaney29
Irish poet, playwright, translator, lecturer
Guillaume Apollinaire photo
Guillaume Apollinaire28
French poet
Today anniversaries
Bob Dylan photo
Bob Dylan518
American singer-songwriter, musician, author, and artist 1941
Joseph Brodsky photo
Joseph Brodsky17
Russian and American poet and Nobel Prize for Literature la… 1940 - 1996
Duke Ellington photo
Duke Ellington14
American jazz musician, composer and band leader 1899 - 1974
Nicolaus Copernicus photo
Nicolaus Copernicus20
Renaissance mathematician, Polish astronomer, physician 1473 - 1543
Another 57 today anniversaries
Similar authors
Wisława Szymborska photo
Wisława Szymborska92
Polish writer
Stanisław Jerzy Lec photo
Stanisław Jerzy Lec28
Polish writer
Giorgos Seferis photo
Giorgos Seferis2
Greek poet and diplomat
Fernando Pessoa photo
Fernando Pessoa289
Portuguese poet, writer, literary critic, translator, publi…
Paul Claudel photo
Paul Claudel6
French diplomat