Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Advisor by Czeslaw Milosz

Well, it is true that the landscape changed a little, for a lot.
We have factories now and waste tanks where the forests were.
As we approach the river-mouth we hold our noses:
A current of oil and chlorine and methyl compounds.
A huge stain of synthetic colour poisons the fish of the sea.
Where the rushes grew, fringing the sea shore,
Are rusted and smashed machines, ashes, bricks.
We used to read in the ancient poets the scents of the earth,
And grasshoppers; now we take pains to avoid the fields,
And pedal as fast as we can through the chemical zone of the farmer.
The insect, the bird, are wiped out. Far away, a bored man
Drags dust with his tractor, umbrella against the sun.
But what do we regret? The tiger? The shark?
– It may be the case that when Adam awoke in the garden
The beasts licked the air, were yawning and friendly
While the scorpion’s tail was lashed to his back, fangs
Were only a figure, and the red-backed shrike,
Later, much later, named Lanius collurio,
Did not impale grubs on the spikes of blackthorn.
However, apart from and after that moment, our knowledge
Of Nature is not in its favour; our own was no worse.
And so, I beg you, no more of these lamentations.

Translated by Andrew McCulloch  and James Shearing (2004)

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