Ars poetica or research for "more receptive
Poetry - its role and essence - is continually resumed in all
Milosz’s work. Let us have a closer look at different aspects of this:
- A) Poetry in service of a man:
PREFACE (Treatise on Poetry)
plain speech in the mother tongue.
Hearing it, you should be able to
Apple trees, a river, the bend of a road,
As if in a flash of summer
And it should contain more than images.
It has been lured
A daydream, melody. Defenseless,
It was bypassed by the
sharp, dry world.
You often ask yourself why you feel shame
you look through a book of poetry.
As if the author, for reasons unclear to
Addressed the worse side of your nature,
Pushing aside thought,
Seasoned with jokes, clowning, satire,
still knows how to please.
Then its excellence is much admired.
grave combats where life is at stake
Are fought in prose. It was not always
And our regret has remained unconfessed.
Novels and essays serve
but will not last.
One clear stanza can take more weight
Than a whole
wagon of elaborate prose.
In this piece of work, the concept of
moral poetry was formulated, that is to say, poetry which creates and at the
same time preserves values. Saving of nations and people is possible only through
identifying the Simplest values but ones that are essential for the spiritual nature of man as
This search for values starts with the protest: rejection of
violence, insensibility, evil (-> Look at „Campo dei Fiori” ) and „You Who
wronged” from volume „Daylight”:
YOU WHO WRONGED (Daylight)
You who wronged a simple man
Bursting into laughter at the crime,
And kept a pack of fools around you
To mix good and evil, to blur the line,
Though everyone bowed down before you,
Saying virtue and wisdom lit your way,
Strrking gold medals in your honor,
Glad to have survived another day,
Do not feel safe. The poet remembers.
You can kill one, but another is born.
The words are written down, the deed, the date.
And you'd have done better with a winter dawn,
A rope, and a branch bowed beneath your weight.
Washington, D.C., 1950
- B) Poetry helps to define position in life
„The purpose of poetry is to remind us now difficult it is to remain just one
person, for our house is open, there are no keys in the doors, and invisible
guests come in and out at will”
ARS POETICA? (City
I have always aspired to a more
that would be free from the claims of poetry or prose
would let us understand each other without exposing
the author or reader to
In the very essence of poetry there is something
a thing is brought forth which we didn't know we had in us,
we blink our eyes, as if a tiger had sprung out
and stood in the light,
lashing his tail.
That's why poetry is rightly said to be dictated by a
though it's an exaggeration to maintain that he must be an
It's hard to guess where that pride of poets comes from,
often they're put to shame by the disclosure of their frailty.
reasonable man would like to be a city of demons,
who behave as if they
were at home, speak in many tongues,
and who, not satisfied with stealing
his lips or hand,
work at changing his destiny for their
It's true that what is
morbid is highly valued today,
and so you may think that I am only
or that I've devised just one more means
of praising Art with the
help of irony.
There was a time when only wise books were
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
And yet the world is different from what it seems to be
we are other than how we see ourselves in our ravings.
preserve silent integrity,
thus earning the respect of their relatives and
The purpose of poetry is to remind us
how difficult it is
to remain just one person,
for our house is open, there are no keys in the
and invisible guests come in and out at will.
What I'm saying
here is not, I agree, poetry,
as poems should be written rarely and
under unbearable duress and only with the hope
spirits, not evil ones, choose us for their instrument.
translated by Czeslaw Milosz
This page, in its earlier 1997 version (use right mouse to open in new window), was created by Aleksandra Kolodziejczyk, Iwona Kowalska, and Dariusz Plygawko, students of the Fifth General Education Liceum in Bielsko-Biala. Marcin Tomana and Piotr Kowalski of the School's Informatics faculty and Urszula Zajaczek of the Polish Language faculty, acted as advisors. Linguistic editing of current version by Peter K. Gessner.
- C) Elaborating on the art of poetry: „Ars
poetica,” the title of the poem refers to ancient times, because such were
termed the treatises on poetry, explainig rules and norms it was supposed to
put into practice. The question mark included in the title suggests a kind of
hesitation: is it possible to establish any rules for the art of poetry?
Here, Milosz looks for a „more receptive form”, tries to cross the border
between poetry and so called „non-poetry.” He also creates a new hierarchy of
poetical values: understanding between the author and the reader, because it
guarantees the possibility of transmission of important messages; the ones
„helping us to bear our pain and misery.” One other thought also is present here:
that poetry can be in service of both, good and crazy artists. One may assume that according to Milosz it is abnormal to resign completely
to different order stimuli and imagination, with which the gradual
disappearance of consciousness is connected, and which results in the loss of
contact with reality and driveling take place. Such an art does not bring
relief to pain. In the poem „No More” the question „Who is it - a poet?” is
brought under discussion.
NO MORE(King Popiel and Other
I should relate sometime how I
My views on poetry, and how it came to be
That I consider
myself today one of the many
Merchants and artisans of Old Japan,
arranged verses about cherry blossoms,
Chrysanthemums and the full
If only I could describe the courtesans of Venice
As in a
loggia they teased a peacock with a twig,
And out of brocade, the pearls
of their belt)
Set free heavy breasts and the reddish weal
Where the buttoned dress
marked the belly)
As vividly as seen by the skipper of galleons
landed that morning with a cargo of gold;
And if I could find for their
In a graveyard whose gates are licked by greasy
A word more enduring than their last-used comb
That in the rot
under tombstones, alone, awaits the light,
Then I wouldn't doubt. Out
of reluctant matter
What can be gathered? Nothing, beauty at best.
so, cherry blossoms must suffice for us
And chrysanthemums and the full
translated by Anthony
„No more” Here the reflection appears: a poet, from being an
artist, becomes a craftsman. A question is asked: „ how did it happen ?”, „what
is the vocation of a poet ?” It seems that for the lyrical subject the value
of poetry is situated somewhere behind the aesthetical categories. And the
poet has to constantly fight with the stubborn words.
SO LITTLE (From the Rising of the
I said so little.
I said so
I couldn't keep up.
My heart grew weary
The jaws of Leviathan
closing upon me.
Naked, I lay on the shores
The white whale of the world
Hauled me down to its
And now I don't know
What in all that was
translated by Czeslaw Milost
In the poem one can note the analysis of chances a human
being has while realizing his or her wishes and ambitions. The datum here is the
biography of the artist