The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“To Go to Lvov” depicts an imaginary journey, a dream journey, to Lvov, the city of poet Adam Zagajewski’s birth. Lvov was in a district that was appropriated from Poland by the Soviet Union after World War II; in consequence, Zagajewski’s family moved into western Poland where the poet grew up. This poem thus involves looking backward into the lost world of childhood, but it implies that everyone possesses such a landscape that is simultaneously lost and always available in memory. The poem consists of eighty-three lines of free verse in one long stanza. The lines have roughly ten syllables, although many are longer and the last five are noticeably shorter than the rest of the poem. In its translated version, it has no metrical pattern. Instead, its organization rests on its consistent tone and on certain elements that are repeated in the course of its descriptions of Lvov.

The poem begins with the speaker’s invitation to the reader to make the journey to Lvov, although from the very beginning it hints that Lvov may not exist at all except in dream. That is why the poem seems uncertain about whether this journey is taking place in September or March and even about which station is the right one “for Lvov.” The speaker goes on to describe the natural landscape of Lvov with its poplars and ash trees. In line 18, the speaker introduces an architectural element of the city: the Roman Catholic cathedral “as straight/ as Sunday.” It is one...

(The entire section is 458 words.)