Sunday, August 31, 2014

Goldfinch Roundbody

This must be a parent goldfinch; there are quite a few skinny olive-drab children around here
who are also consuming that good quality niger thistle seed. I am pleased by this round adult.

Some time ago I promised to give you some more early poems 
from a sequence called "The World" 
by celebrated poet Czeslaw Milosz. 
Here is one.

The Dining Room

A room with few windows, with brown shades,
Where a Danzig clock keeps silent in the corner;
A low leather sofa, and right above it
The sculpted heads of two smiling devils;
And a copper pan shows its gleaming paunch,

On the wall a painting that depicts winter.
A crowd of people skate on ice
Between the trees, smoke comes from a chimney
and crows fly in an overcast sky,

Nearby a second clock. A bird sits inside,
It pops out squawking and calls three times.
And it has barely finished its third and last call
When mother ladles out soup from a hot tureen.

Czeslaw Milosz

New and Collected POEMS (1931-2001) Ecco, 2001, page 39.

This poem bespeaks a kind of rather quiet, well-ordered European life that was enjoyed by a certain class of people in Europe for many, many years. It is interesting to think about how than shining copper pan and those two clocks and that painting represent a sort of life that differs from much of American life in my lifetime. My mother's and father's parents both were from Arizona pioneers, My father's family came from Arkansas and my mother's people were part of a series of Mormon migrations through Ohio, Illinois and so forth. Both of my parents became college graduates through strong efforts. But our home life was always materially quite simple (through rowdier) than that represented by this poem. I have just begun a book about the life of Dieterich Buxtehude (circa 1637-1707) that has reinforced for me how little I know about European history. I regret once again, not having taken more valuable and interesting historical courses (and acutally studied) when I was in school. More about this tomorrow, when I tell you about the long walk of Johann Sebastian Bach to Lubeck to find out more about Buxtehude's music. And now good night.

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