The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Divided into four stanzas, this twenty-six-line poem with its portentous title turns out to be wryly quiet, an ironic contrast to the dramatic events some have expected would accompany the end of the world. Concentrating on a description of vivid yet commonplace, daily realities, Czesaw Miosz fashions a deliberately simple, naive narrative of events.

The first stanza is devoted to descriptions of what might be called miniature worlds: “a bee circles a clover,” describing quite literally the circumference of its world. Similarly, the fisherman mending a “glimmering net,” “happy porpoises” jumping in the sea, the young sparrows playing about the rainspout, and the “gold-skinned” snake each express a world or a dimension of the world “on the day the world ends.” There is a willed quality to this catalog of activities, a denial of change that is most explicit in the poet’s insistence on the snake’s color, which is “as it should always be.”

The second stanza shifts to an emphasis on collective and individual human activity—women walking through the fields “under their umbrellas,” a drunk growing sleepy “at the edge of a lawn,” vegetable peddlers shouting in the street—while off in the distance can be seen a “yellow-sailed boat.” Rather than the end of the world, again announced in the first line of the stanza, the descriptions seem to emphasize its continuity—like the “voice of a violin lasts in the...

(The entire section is 416 words.)