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Polish War Poetry

Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski

Polish War Poetry

Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski (1921-1944)

Translated by Alex Kurczaba

Holiness ("Swietosc")

O you my inscrutable river,

I conceived you in marble slabs of light

And in the wood of fragrant pines,

With the chisels of oars.

I led you from the mighty mountains

From spaces full of voices

Where cataracts' knives shred snow

And songs rang forth like brass.

I peeled you off the portly apples

And with the hail's seed from clouds

I led you from plant stalks by a move of hand

Like skeins of glare.

I chiseled you out, I prayed you out

My heart crushing the chisel,

The chisel the rock, and now I possess you, power!

I possess you, penance!

Wherever I step, you pulsate like a living stream,

Vibrate like the organ,

And in my sleep I often see

Trees flowing through you.

But in your mane of golden sparks

Bloody mugs welter at night,

The ruddy jackals, manlike hammers,

Swords and the stares of beasts.

From them there grow in you at night

The twisted boughs of corpses' arms,

Black specters and dead hearts in graves

That lie to hearts.

And thus I have you, sacred river,

Am like a branch that's grown into you,

O soiled river, of clouds conceived,

That cannot be read by an oar.

November 26, 1942


Lullaby ("Kolysanka")

Fear not the night -- it locks out

flying trees and bird tones

in the indiscernible dusky music

forged in space - golden demons

who sprinkling phosphorus amid the glare

rise white, azure, pink

rise in funnels of yellow sand

raise their heads sculpted in clouds,

Fear not the night. The cosmos' drops,

animal herds guard its fluff;

in it open your eyes, then you'll feel

beneath your palm birds and quiet horses,

you'll grasp the forms that while passing

unknown through you -- you will become.

Fear not the night. It's I who lead it

this living stream of transformation,

shining spirits, animals' processions,

which I enchant by name of forms.

Lay in the cradle your welled up eyes,

your body on the wings of the demons of light,

then you'll swim through me like a leaf

fallen into the tiger's warm purr.

December 21, 1941


The Spring ("Zródlo")

For Barbara

Raise your head like the spring

from it color will rise

and the naming of things

and the flow of seasons.

See, all is fulfilled,

time poured to the brims

and heaven sated with heat

like a golden fount.

And you can fulfill all

anew and conceive

spectacles in clouds

spouting for your eyes.

And everything you recall

will be deaf as the time

upon which as upon your body

your spirit shall swirl.

For to love means to create

to conceive in storm's hue

a sculpture of bird and star

in the marble of red afterblaze.

March 1942



For you I'll open a golden heaven

in which a white thread of silence

like sounds' enormous kernel

will burst to live

with little green leaves

lakes' song, dusk's play,

till birds' whizz shows

its milky core

For you I'll transform the solid earth

into soft roe's fluid flow

Out of things I'll lead shadows,

that will stiffen like a cat,

fur sparkling they'll furl everything

into storms' color, little leaves' hearts,

the rains' gray plaits.

And the air's flaying streams

like smoke from an angelic thatch

I'll turn for you into long alleys

into the songlike fluid of translucent birches

till like a cello they play

sorrow -- the climbers' rose lights

hymn of bees' wings.

Only take out of these my eyes

the painful glass mirror -- image of days

which roll white skulls

through burning meadows of blood.

Only alter this crippled age,

cover the graves with the river's robe,

wipe from hair the battle dust,

The black dust

of these angry years.

June 15, 1943

The originals can be found in Krzysztof Kamil Baczynski, Utwory zebrane, vol. 1. Kraków: Wydawnictwo Literackie, 1994.


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