Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Prayer of the Traveler Mr. Cogito

(by Zbigniew Herbert)

       I thank you for creating the world beautiful and various

       and for allowing me in Your fathomless goodness to visit places which
were not the sites of my daily torments
       - that at night in Tarquinia I lay in the square by the well and a gunmetal
pendulum rang out from the tower Your wrath or forgiveness

       and that a little donkey on the island Corkyra sang to me from the
unfathomable bellows of its lungs the melancholy of the landscape

       and that in the ugly city of Manchester I discovered kindhearted and
sensible people

       nature repeated its wise tautologies: the forest was a forest the sea the
sea a cliff a cliff

       stars revolved and it was as it ought to be  - Iovis omnia plena

       - forgive me - that I thought only of myself while the lives of others
cruel and inexorable turned around me like the great astrological clock of
St Pierre in Beauvais

       that I was lazy distracted too timid in labyrinths and caves

       and forgive me also that I did not fight like Lord Byron for the happiness
of oppressed peoples and studied only the rising moon and museums

       - I thank you that works created for Your greater glory yielded to me
particles of their mystery and that with great presumption I thought that
Duccio Vaan Eyck and Bellini painted for me also

       and also that the Acropolis which I never fully understood patiently
revealed to me its mutilated body

       - I ask You to reward the gray old woman who unbidden brought me
fruit from her garden on the sunburned native island of the son of Laertes

       and Miss Helen of the foggy island of Mull in the Hebrides for offering
Greek hospitality and asking me to leave a lamp lit at night in the window
facing Holy Iona so that the lights of earth would greet each other

       and also all those who gave me directions and said kato kyrie kato

       and take under Your protection Mama from Spoleto Spiridion from
Paxos the good student from Berlin who saved me from oppression and
then when met unexpectedly in Arizona drove me to the Grand Canyon
which is like a hundred thousand cathedrals standing on their heads

       - Lord let me not think of my moist-eyed gray deluded persecutors
when the sun sets on the truly indescribable Ionian Sea

       let me understand other people other languages other sufferings
       and above all let me be humble that is to say one who longs for the

       I thank You Lord for creating the world beautiful and various and if this
is Your seduction I am seduced for good and past all forgiveness

1 comment:

  1. i discovered this poem via a quote next to a robert adams photograph in this show http://www.jeudepaume.org/index.php?page=article&idArt=2046&lieu=7 YESterday - thanks for providing the whole for me this morning. all things of beauty.