Allen Ginsberg in Poland
czwartek, 17 września 2015
Czesław Miłosz - To Allen Ginsberg (translated by Czesław Miłosz and Robert Hass)
Allen, you good man, great poet of the murderous century, who persisting in folly attained wisdom.
I confess to you, my life was not as I would have liked it to be.
And now, when it has passed, is lying like a discarded tire by the road.
It was no different from the life of millions against which you rebelled in the name of poetry and of an omnipresent God.
It was submitted to customs in full awareness that they are absurd, to the necessity of getting up in the morning and going to work.
With unfulfilled desires, even with the unfulfilled desire to scream and beat one’s head against the wall, repeating to myself the command “It is forbidden.”
It is forbidden to indulge yourself, to allow yourself idleness, it is forbidden to think of your past, to look for the help of a psychiatrist or a clinic.
Forbidden from a sense of duty but also because of the fear of unleashing forces that would reveal one to be a clown.
And I lived in the America of Moloch, short-haired, clean-shaven, tying neckties and drinking bourbon before the TV set every evening.
Diabolic dwarfs of temptations somersaulted in me, I was aware of their presence and I shrugged: It will pass together with life.
Dread was lurking close, I had to pretend it was never there and that I was united with others in a blessed normalcy.
Such schooling in vision is also, after all, possible, without drugs, without the cut-off ear of Van Gogh, without the brotherhood of the best minds behind the bars of psychiatric wards.
I was an instrument, I listened, snatching voices out of a babbling chorus, translating them into sentences with commas and periods.
As if the poverty of my fate were necessary so that the flora of my memory could luxuriate, a home for the breath and for the presence of bygone people.
I envy your courage of absolute defiance, words inflamed, the fierce maledictions of a prophet.
The demure smiles of ironists are preserved in the museums, not as everlasting art, just as a memento of unbelief.
While your blasphemous howl still resounds in a neon desert where the human tribe wanders, sentenced to unreality.
Walt Whitman listens and says, “Yes, that’s the way to talk, in order to conduct men and women to where everything is fulfillment. Where they would live in a transubstantiated moment,”
And your journalistic cliches, your beard and beads and your dress of a rebel of another epoch are forgiven.
As we do not look for what is perfect, we look for what remains of incessant striving.
Keeping in mind how much is owed to luck, to a coincidence of words and things, to a morning with white clouds, which later seems inevitable.
I do not ask from you a monumental oeuvre that would rise like a medieval cathedral over a French flatland.
I myself had such a hope, yet half-knowing already that the unusual changes into the common.
That in the planetary mixture of languages and religions we are no more remembered than the inventors of the spinning wheel or of the transistor.
Accept this tribute from me, who was so different, yet in the same unnamed service.
For lack of a better term letting it pass as the practice of composing verses.
Translated by Czesław Miłosz and Robert Hass.
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