Sunday, May 18, 2014

I'm off to play music at Stutzman's Cafe this morning. By the way, the cafe has just been named Yankee Magazine's 2014 "Best Farm to Fork Restaurant in New England," so you might want to drop by for brunch one of these Sundays. It really is excellent.

I'm enjoying the conversation around yesterday's post, and I've received some thoughtful emails on the same topic, which I hope the writers will allow me to share with you.

And here are the closing lines of Czeslaw Milosz's "Late Ripeness," which somehow feels pertinent to this green and dripping day:
I knew, always, that I would be a worker in the vineyard,
as are all men and women living at the same time,
whether they are aware of it or not.


Christopher Woodman said...

I love this, Dawn -- and am very grateful for your having put it up just at this moment.

What I want to know is if these lines are really as "accessible" as they seem? I’d like to know how many of us are ready to deal with the title in relation to the lines, for example, and I mean the word "late" as in being hired late in the day at the vineyard yet still “living at the same time,” whether we are aware of it or not.

"Gnomic," I'd call that image in the context, and even "hard" in the same sense that Emily Dickinson is hard – as well as Jesus. It’s not just about knowing the parable either, it’s about having risen throughout one’s life to the challenge of that very hard, very unfair, very un-regulated story, if our modern-day economists might allow me to put it like that.

There aren’t any shortcuts in a poem like this but struggle – and I’d say that’s why such poetry is so inestimably valuable.


Christopher Woodman said...

Of course this is a translation, even though the Harper Collins citation on the Poetry Foundation page doesn't say it. I know Milosz worked very closely with a group of poets while he was at Berkley, including Robert Haas, and I suspect that by 1988 he had reached the point where his poems were actually being finalized in English.

At 80 Milosz had a universal message to deliver, and English was the language for that. I feel sure he wasn’t writing for poetry's sake, or even trying to write great poetry in English, but was struggling to share who he was and what he knew with as many people as he could. And we have to stretch ourselves to the limit to receive such a precious gift, and this poem is no exception.

I heard him read in Soho in the late 80s — you could have heard a pin drop.