A Felicitous Life


His old age fell on years of abundant harvest.
There were no earthquakes, droughts, or floods.
It seemed as if the turning of the seasons gained in constancy,
Stars waxed strong and the sun increased its might.
Even in remote provinces no war was waged.
Generations grew up friendly to fellow men.
The rational nature of man was not a subject of derision.

It was bitter to say farewell to the earth so renewed.
He was envious and ashamed of his doubt,
Content that his lacerated memory would vanish with him.
Two days after his death a hurricane razed the coasts.
Smoke came from volcanoes inactive for a hundred years.
Lava spread over forests, vineyards, and towns.
And war began with a battle on the islands.


      Polish; trans. Peter Dale Scott & Czeslaw Milosz


Czeslaw Milosz, Polish, trans. Peter Dale Scott & Czeslaw Milosz, New and Collected Poems: 1931-2001, The Ecco Press, 2003.