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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Invocation to Poetry

By Zygmunt Krasiński (1812–1859)

From ‘The Undivine Comedy’: Translation of Martha Walker Cook

STARS circle round thy head; and at thy feet

Surges the sea, upon whose hurrying waves

A rainbow glides before thee, cleaving the clouds!

Whate’er thou look’st upon is thine! Coasts, ships,

Men, mountains, cities, all belong to thee!

Master of Heaven as earth, it seems as naught

Could equal thee in glory!

To ears which heed thy lays, thou givest joys,

Raptures ineffable! Thou weavest hearts

Together, then untwin’st them like a wreath,

As wild caprice may guide thy flame-lit fingers!

Thou forcest tears, then driest them with a smile;

Thou scar’st away the smile from paling lips,

Perhaps but for a moment, a few hours,

Perhaps for evermore!

But thou!—What dost thou feel, and what create?

A living stream of beauty flows through thee,

But Beauty thou art not! woe, woe, to thee!

The weeping child upon its mother’s breast,

The field-flower knowing not its perfumed gift,

More merit have before the Lord than thou!

Whence com’st thou, fleeting shadow? to the Light

Still bearing witness, though thou know’st it not,

Hast never seen it, nor wilt ever see!

In anger or in mockery wert thou made?

So full of self-deceit that thou canst play

The angel to the moment when thou fall’st.

And crawlest like a reptile upon earth,

Stifled in mud, or feeding upon dust!

Thou and the woman have like origin!

Alas! thou sufferest too, although thy pangs

Bring naught to birth, nothing create, nor serve!

The groans of the unfortunate are weighed;

The lowest beggar’s sighs counted in heaven,

Gathered and sung upon celestial harps:

But thy despair and sighs fall to the earth,

Where Satan gathers them; adds them with joy

To his own lies, illusions, mockeries!

The Lord will yet disown them, as they have

Ever disowned the Lord!

Not that I rise against thee, Poetry,—

Mother of Beauty, of ideal Life!

But I must pity him condemned to dwell

Within the limits of these whirling worlds,

In dying agonies, or yet to be

Doomed to sad memories, or prophecies,

Perchance remorse, or vague presentiments,—

Who gives himself to thee! for everywhere

Thou ruinest wholly those who consecrate

Themselves, with all they are, to thee alone,

Who solely live the voices of thy glory!

Blessed is he in whom thou mak’st thy home,

As God dwelt in the world, concealed, unknown,

But grand and mighty in each separate part:

The unseen God, before whom creatures bow,

And kneeling cry, “Behold Him! He is here!”

A guiding star, he bears thee on his brow,

And no unfaithful word will sever him

From thy true love! He will love men, and be

A man himself, encircled by his brothers!

From him who keeps not with thee perfect faith,

Betrays thee to the hour, or his own needs,

Devotes thee to man’s perishable joys,

Painting the sensual with thy hues divine,—

Thou turn’st away thy face, while scattering

Perchance upon his brow some fading flowers,

Of which he strives to twine a funeral crown,

Spending his life to weave a wreath of death!

He and the woman have one origin!