‘A Song On The End Of The World’, 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 should always be.

On the day the world ends
Women walk through the 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:
There will be no other end of the world,
There will be no other end of the world.

– Czesław Miłosz, ‘A Song On The End Of The World’, in Czesław Miłosz, ed., Postwar Polish Poetry: an anthology (Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983), 76–77.

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Need more Miłosz? Here’s a video of him reading some of his poetry, and talking about the poetry of Blake and Ginsberg:

4 thoughts on “‘A Song On The End Of The World’, by Czesław Miłosz

  1. “And those who expected lightning and thunder
    Are disappointed.”

    That has got to be one of the best subtle, yet explicit, turns in Miłosz’s work that I have read. Disclaimer: I am not extremely well read as regards CM, but this is still one of my favorites!

    Thanks for resharing!

    Like

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