The Prophet’s Suffering
Suffering & Displaced Persons: Immigration and the Oklahoma Experience

A Great Milosz Poem

The final stanza of this poem is stunning. I suggest reading the poem through twice, since the second time you will know how it ends. The images throughout the poem are quite strong and evocative. The opening stanza makes a meta-ethical claim that I find to be convincing.

One More Day

Comprehension of good and evil is given in the running of the blood.
In a child's nestling close to its mother, she is security and warmth,
In night fears when we are small, in dread of the beast's fangs and in the terror of dark rooms,
In youthful infatuations where childhood delight finds completion.

And should we discredit the idea for its modest origins?
Or should we say plainly that good is on the side of the living
And evil on the side of a doom that lurks to devour us?
Yes, good is an ally of beign and the mirror of evil is nothing,
Good is brightness, evil darkness, good high, evil low,
According to the nature of our bodies, of our language.

The same can be said of beauty. It should not exist.
There is not only no reason for it, but an argument against.
Yet undoubtedly it is, and is different from ugliness.

The voices of birds outside the window when they greet the morning
And iridescent stripes of light blazing on the floor,
Or the horizon with a wavy line where the peach-colored sky and the dark-blue mountains meet.
Or the architecture of a tree, the slimness of a column crowned with green.

All that, hasn't it been invoked for centuries
As a mystery which, in one instant, will be suddenly revealed?
And the old artist thinks that all his life he has only trained his hand.
One more day and he will enter the core as one enters a flower.

And though the good is weak, beauty is very strong.
Nonbeing sprawls, everywhere it turns into ash whole expanses of being,
It masquerades in shapes and colors that imitate existence
And no one would know it, if they did not know that it was ugly.

And when people cease to believe that there is good and evil
Only beauty will call to them and save them
So that they still know how to say: this is true and that is false.

Wow! I'm particularly drawn to the line, "Nonbeing sprawls, everywhere it turns into ash whole expanses of being."

I am so captivated by language like this. I'm humbled and ennobled by the poets genius.


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I wanted to respond with something educated and clever, but instead I'll just say thank you.


I was just googling a line from this poem and found you've quoted the whole thing. Wonderful. This has been one of my favorite poems in the world for about ten years. I like the way the specificity and humility of the early lines builds to the metaphysics at the end.

I also love 'A Confession', 'On Prayer', 'Either/Or' and a certain poem that uses the phrase 'genetrixes with closed wombs'... and so many more ... all so beautiful.

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