“Return,” with thematic divisions consisting of single sentences or short paragraphs, is a meditative poem whose cadence conforms more to the rhythms of prose than to those of verse. The poem is written in the first person and is autobiographical. Although the poet includes the reader in his musings, there is no doubt that the focus is on the poet’s own life experiences. In fact, “Return” can be considered an emotional history of Czesaw Miosz’s life in capsule form.
The poet has returned home to the places of his youth. They, like him, are ostensibly the same and yet not the same. The passage of time has changed all the important details. The man and his homeland are now “incomprehensibly the same, incomprehensibly different.” Standing on the shore of a lake, the poet remembers the sufferings and despair of his younger self standing on this same shore, but the experience of many years has made him realize that such pain was not his alone but the inevitable result of living in a cruel world. However, he honors the boy and all young people who have not grown “sly,” who refuse to acquiesce, and who refuse to “participate for ever.”
The middle section of the poem changes in tone as the poet deals briefly with the gifts of the world, a woman’s body, and the beauty of a lake, but this mood is fleeting as the poet almost immediately asks if it has all been worthwhile. Many of Miosz’s poems written outside his native...
(The entire section is 452 words.)