From the Archive: “Presence” by Czesław Miłosz

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Presence,” by Czesław Miłosz, appeared in MQR’s Fall 2007 issue. Translated from Polish by Anthony Milosz.


When I ran barefoot in our gardens by the river Nieviaza

Something was there, that I didn’t then try to name:

Everywhere, between the trunks of linden trees, on the sunny side of the lawn,
on the path by the orchard,

A Presence resided, I didn’t know whose.

The air was full of it, it touched me, it held me close.

It spoke to me through the scents of grass, the flute voice of the oriole, the twitter of swallows.

Had I then been taught the names of gods,
I would easily have known their faces.

But I grew up in a Catholic family, and so my surroundings were soon teeming with devils, but also with the saints of the Lord.

Yet in truth I felt their Presence, all of them, gods and demons,

As if rising within one enormous unknowable Being.

[Tuesday, July 23rd, 2002]


Image: Czesław Miłosz during his first trip to Poland after emigration. Photo by Maciej Billewicz. From the archives of The Documentation Centre of Borderland Cultures.

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