Saturday, August 10, 2013


A tenderness so great welled up in him that upon seeing
A wounded sparrow, he was ready to burst into tears.
Beneath the flawless manners of a worldly gentleman he hid
His compassion for all that is living.
Some people perhaps could sense it, but it was certainly known,
In ways mysterious to us, to the small birds
That would perch on his head and hands when he stopped
In a park alley. They would eat from his hands
As if the law that demands that the smaller
Take shelter from the larger,
Lest it be devoured, was suspended.
As if time had turned back, and the paths
Of the heavenly garden shone anew.
I had trouble understanding this man
Since what he said betrayed his knowledge of the horror of the world,
A knowledge at some point known and experienced to the very core.
I thus asked myself how he had managed to quell
His rebellion and bring himself to such humble charity.
Probably because this world, evil but existing,
He thought better than one that did not exist.
But he also believed in the immaculate beauty of the earth
from before the fall of Adam.
Whose free decision had brought death upon humans and animals.
But this was already something my mind didn't know how to accept.

Czeslaw Milosz
translated from the Polish by Anthony Milosz