(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

“Dedication,” written soon after the occupation and destruction of Warsaw, is an homage to those who died from one who survived. In it, Miosz acknowledges the difficulty of speaking about the unspeakable, reveals his guilt at having lived to tell the story of those years, and dedicates himself to writing poetry that will grapple with history and memory.

It begins by directly addressing those to whom it is dedicated—“You whom I could not save/ Listen to me”—as if the poet sees them before him and must speak to give their spirits rest. He then confesses his own lack of skill and expresses his decision to abandon the aesthetic of complexity that characterized his prewar writing: “Try to understand this simple speech as I would be ashamed of another./ I swear there is in me no wizardry of words.” In the second stanza, he tries to understand why he survived and fails. All he can say is that, somehow, “What strengthened me, for you was lethal.” He then recalls the excitement of the prewar years, when the catastrophists and other talented young people, now dead, faced anxiety with energy and art. “You mixed up farewell to an epoch with the beginning of a new one./ Inspiration of hatred with lyrical beauty,/ Blind force with accomplished shape.”

The third stanza links the dead with the destroyed city, nearly burned to the ground by the Germans while the Soviet army watched from the opposite bank of the Vistula River. “Here is the valley of shallow Polish rivers. And an immense bridge/ Going into white fog....

(The entire section is 633 words.)

Dedication Bibliography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Atlas, James. “Poet, Exile, Laureate.” The New York Times, October 10, 1980, p. A10.

Bayley, John. “Return of the Native.” The New York Review of Books 28 (June 25, 1981): 29-33.

Carnecka, Ewa, and Aleksander Fiut. Conversations with Czesaw Miosz. Translated by Richard Lourie. San Diego, Calif.: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1987.

Carpenter, Bogdana. “The Gift Returned: Czesaw Miosz and American Poetry.” In Living in Translation: Polish Writers in America, edited by Halina Stephan. New York: Rodopi, 2003.

Filkins, Peter. “The Poetry and Anti-Poetry of Czesaw Miosz.” The Iowa Review 19 (Spring/Summer, 1989): 188-209.

Haven, Cynthia, ed. Czesaw Miosz: Conversations. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006.

Hoffman, Eva. “The Poet of the Polish Diaspora.” The New York Times Magazine, January 17, 1982, p. 29.

Jastremski, Kim. “Home as Other in the Work of Czesaw Miosz.” In Framing the Polish Home: Postwar Cultural Constructions of Hearth, Nation, and Self, edited by Bozena Shallcross. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2002.

Malinowska, Barbara. Dynamics of Being, Space, and Time in the Poetry of Czesaw Miosz and John Ashbery. New York: P. Lang, 2000.

World Literature Today 52 (Summer, 1978). Special issue on Miosz.

Woroszylksi, Wiktor. “Miosz in Polish Eyes.” The New Republic 84 (May 23, 1981): 28-31.