Czeslaw Milosz (1911 - )
...a Polish-American poet, translator, and critic, received the 1980 Nobel
Prize for Literature. Milosz was born in Seteksniai, Lithuania, which became disputed territory after Poland was
declared an independent state in1918. In his youth, Milosz was a cofounder of the leftist literary group Zagary
(Polish for "charred wood"), a group of poets who predicted impending worldwide catastrophe. He was active
in the Resistance during the Nazi occupation of Poland and edited an anthology of anti-Nazi poetry. He later served
as a foreign diplomat before defecting to France and then immigrating to the US to become a professor at the University
of California at Berkely. Milosz is best known for his poetry, which is concerned
predominantly with the effect of historical circumstance on human morality, but has also written novels, an autobiography,
a history of Polish literature, and a collection of essays condemning the accomodation of Polish intellectuals
to communism. Although his poetyry has been officially banned in Poland since 1946, he continues to write in the
How ugly, those elderly specimens
With hair in the pit between breast and belly,
With their melancholy of bad teeth, reek of tobacco,
And their fat, experienced smiles.
They shuffle cards, whistle tangos
Popular in their youth, and reminisce
About ball games and terraces and adventures in the bushes.
One should probably pity
The women who associate with them, forced
Undoubtedly by some urgent need.
But they should be pitied as well,
Because they associate with the women,
Beautifully fetid lilies,
Rattles of throaty laughter if you shake them,
Stuffed with loose calculations.
Afterwards they comb their hair before a mirror.