One has just been sent out as a biblical dove, has found nothing green, and slips back
into the darkness of the ark -- Kafka

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cyprian Norwid: September 24, 1821

Turns out Cyprian Norwid, Polish Romantic Poet (1821 - 1883), has a very special birthdate: September 24.

From Milosz's The History of Polish Literature we get a little glimpse of Norwid's philosophy on history and his sense of mission:
A man is born on this planet to give testimony to the truth. He should, therefore, know and remember that every civilization should be considered as a means and not as an aim--thus, to sell one's soul to a civilization and at the same time to pray in church is to be a pharisee.
Probably because I'm still so near (in time) to Coetzee's Elizabeth Costello Norwid's first sentence reminds me a little of Milosz's "secretary of the invisible" which Coetzee admittedly lifted (and filled with his own wind) for Costello.

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From Wikipedia:
On 24 September 2001, 118 years after his death in France, an urn containing soil from the collective grave where Norwid had been buried, from the Paris cemetery of Montmorency, was enshrined in the "Crypts of the Bards" at Wawel Cathedral. There, Norwid's remains were placed next to those of fellow Polish poets Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Slowacki.

The cathedral's Zygmunt Bell, heard only when events of great national and religious significance occur, resounded loudly to mark the poet's return to his homeland. During a special Thanksgiving Mass held at the cathedral, the Archbishop of Kraków, a cardinal Franciszek Macharski said that 74 years after the remains of Juliusz Slowacki were brought in, again the doors of the crypt of bards have opened "to receive the great poet, Cyprian Norwid, into Wawel's royal cathedral, for he was the equal of kings".[3]

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Cyprian Norwid
[from the Wikimedia Commons]




Fate

Mischance, ferocious, shaggy, fixed its look
On man, gazed at him, deathly grey,
And waited for the time it knew he took
To turn away.


But man, who is an artist measuring
The angle of his model's elbow joint,
Returned that look and made the churlish thing
Serve his aesthetic point.
Mischance, the brawny, when the dust had cleared
Had disappeared.


Translated by Jerzy Peterkiewicz and Burns Singer



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