World Poetry Day: Czeslaw Milosz

Veni Creator

By Czeslaw Milosz (1911-2004) | Translated By Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Pinsky

Come, Holy Spirit,
bending or not bending the grasses,
appearing or not above our heads in a tongue of flame,
at hay harvest or when they plough in the orchards or when snow
covers crippled firs in the Sierra Nevada.
I am only a man: I need visible signs.
I tire easily, building the stairway of abstraction.
Many a time I asked, you know it well, that the statue in church
lifts its hand, only once, just once, for me.
But I understand that signs must be human,
therefore call one man, anywhere on earth,
not me—after all I have some decency—
and allow me, when I look at him, to marvel at you.
– Berkely, 1961

Czeslaw Milosz, “Veni Creator” from Collected Poems, 1931-1987. Copyright © 1988 by Czeslaw Milosz Royalties, Inc. Used by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. | Source: Collected Poems 1931-1987 (HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 1988)

miloszMilosz on Swedenborg

“Let me explain why Swedenborg merits scrutiny. It is a fact that the greatest poets and prose writers have borrowed liberally from him. The list is long: first Blake, as his direct spiritual descendant; then Goethe, a fervent reader of Swedenborg (as was Kant followed by Edgar Allan Poe, Baudelaire, Balzac, Mickiewicz, Slowacki, Emerson, Dostoevsky….” – Czeslaw Milosz, 1980 Nobel Prize, Literature

Lithuanian-born, but educated in Poland, Milosz wrote in Polish.  A poet, novelist, essayist, translator, critic and scholar, he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1980.  Milosz has acknowledged Swedenborg as one of his main sources of inspiration, along with Blake, Dostoevsky, Simone Weil and his own distant cousin, Oscar V de L Milosz (a French poet of Lithuanian origin who was a student of Swedenborg).

References:  C Milosz, Emperor of the Earth (1977), (contains the essay ‘Swedenborg and Dostoevsky), Modes of Eccentric Vision, The Rising of the Sun, and Unattainable Earth.

Read more on Swedenborg’s influence on other writers.

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