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Polish Poems on the Underground
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Polish Poems on the Underground


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This set of poems contains three poems by major Polish poets – ‘Blacksmith Shop’ by Czeslaw Milosz, ‘Nothing Special’ by Zbigniew Herbert and ‘Star’ by Adam Zagajewski. …

This set of poems contains three poems by major Polish poets – ‘Blacksmith Shop’ by Czeslaw Milosz, ‘Nothing Special’ by Zbigniew Herbert and ‘Star’ by Adam Zagajewski.

The poets were close friends and associates, writing in the dark shadow of Polish suffering during and after the Second World War. Czesław Miłosz – a Nobel Laureate (1990) - translated the poems of Herbert and introduced Adam Zagajewski to English-speaking readers; Zagajewski wrote the Introduction to Herbert’s Collected Poems. All three poets were ‘makers’ in the oldest sense, artists building a world ‘from remnants’, celebrating the joys of ordinary life despite the ravages of history.

Three poems by British poets continue a theme of the power of poetry to record the world, to ‘tease out the melody’ and to give weight to memory and hope:

• ‘The Windhover’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins, written in Hopkins’ personal language of religious ecstasy.

• ‘At Sixty’ by the Shetlandic poet Christine de Luca, about reaching the age of sixty in the far north. The poem is written in Shetlandic, a Scots dialect still spoken in the Shetland Islands—which just happen to lie on the 60th parallel.

• ‘Ourstory’ by Carole Satyamurti, a tribute to the unsung ‘awkward women’ whose tenacity helped to liberate the lives of women today.

Published in: Education, Travel

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  • 1. Blacksmith Shop BI liked the bellows operated by rope. And horses hitched to be shod,A hand or foot pedal—I don’t remember which. Tossing their manes; and in the grass by the riverBut that blowing, and the blazing of the fire! Plowshares, sledge runners, harrows waiting for repair.And a piece of iron in the fire, held there by tongs,Red, softened for the anvil, At the entrance, my bare feet on the dirt floor,Beaten with a hammer, bent into a horseshoe, Here, gusts of heat; at my back, white clouds.Thrown in a bucket of water, sizzle, steam. I stare and stare. It seems I was called for this: To glorify things just because they are. Czesław Miłosz (1911-2004) Translated by Czesław Miłosz and Robert Hass Reprinted by permission of Penguin from New and Collected Poems 1931-2001 © Czesław Miłosz Royalties Inc., 1991 (2001)MAYOR OF LONDON Transport for London
  • 2. Star I returned to you years later, and wandered in the maze gray and lovely city, of narrow streets and illusions. unchanging city The sovereign of clocks and shadows buried in the waters of the past. has touched my brow with his hand, I’m no longer the student but still I’m guided by of philosophy, poetry, and curiosity, a star by brightness I’m not the young poet who wrote and only brightness too many lines can undo or save me. Adam Zagajewski (b. 1945) Translated by Clare Cavanagh Reprinted by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, from Eternal Enemies (2008)MAYOR OF LONDON Transport for London
  • 3. Nothing Special mr artist builds a world just as long as his look is wise not from atoms just as long as but from remnants his hand is sure — nothing special forest of arden and presto the world — boards paint from umbrella nails paste ionian sea hooks of flowers paper string from parkers quink on needles of grass clouds of wire drawn out by wind Zbigniew Herbert (1924-1998) Translated by Czesław Miłosz and Peter Dale Scott Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins from The Collected Poems 1956-1998 (2007) © 2007 The Estate of Zbigniew HerbertMAYOR OF LONDON Transport for London
  • 4. The Windhover rI caught this morning morning’s minion, king- Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion in his riding Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier! Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and stridingHigh there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillionIn his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear, As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion. and gliding Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hidingStirred for a bird,–the achieve of, the mastery of the thing! Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889)MAYOR OF LONDON Transport for London
  • 5. At SixtyDat line whaar birds, hurless, cross where birds, exhausted ta tree score year is harkin for dat line, to three-score listeninga treshel-tree, winter at der back, a threshold anidder saison o sang. Hit’s shivvin it’s pushingor a skirl o simmer afore dem. a shrill laugh of summer fornenst da door, liftin da sneck, takkin against the door, lifting the latchWhaar, alang da sixtieth parallel, da fiddle doon an tunin whit’s left ta maksheerlin on ringin strings vimmers birdsong trembles on da notes. Fingers rekk farder, trivvel reach further, grope gentlyon a nordern palette. Hingin in ringing strings da missin string, tize oot da melody. tease out the melody Hanging on Christine De Luca (b. 1947) Written in Shetlandic, Scots dialect of the Shetland Isles, lying on the 60th parallel Reprinted by permission of the author and Luath Press from North End of Eden (2010)MAYOR OF LONDON Transport for London
  • 6. Ourstory Let us now praise women who sang their own numbers, went uninsured, with feet glass slippers wouldn’t fit; knew best what they were missing. not the patient, nor even the embittered Our misfit foremothers are joining forces ones who kept their place, underground, their dusts mingling but awkward women, tenacious with truth, breast-bone with scapula, forehead whose elbows disposed of the impossible; with forehead. Their steady mass who split seams, who wouldn’t wait, bursts locks; lends a springing foot take no, take sedatives; to our vaulting into enormous rooms. Carole Satyamurti (b. 1939) Reprinted by permission of Bloodaxe from Stitching the Dark: New & Selected Poems (2005)MAYOR OF LONDON Transport for London