Cabbies were dozing by St. Mary’s tower.
Krakow was tiny as a painted egg
Just taken from a pot of dye on Easter.
In their black capes poets strolled the streets.
Nobody remembers their names today,
And yet their hands were real once
And their cufflinks gleamed above a table.
An Ober brings the paper on a stick
And coffee, then passes away like them
Without a name. Muses, Rachels in trailing shawls,
Put tongues to lips while pinning up their braids.
The pin lies with their daughters’ ashes now,
Or in a glass case next to mute seashells
And a glass lily. Angels of Art Nouveau
In the dark WCs of their parents’ homes,
Meditating on the link between sex and the soul,
Went to Vienna for migraines and the blues
(Dr. Freud, I hear, is also from Galicia),
and Anna Csilag grew her long, long hair.
Hussars’ tunics were trimmed out with braid.
News of the emperor spread through mountain villages.
Someone had seen his carriage in the valley.
This is our beginning. Useless to deny it.
Useless to recall a distant golden age.
We have to accept and take as our own
The moustache with pomade, the bowler hat acock,
Also the jingle of a tombac watch chain.
It’s ours, the worker’s song, the mug of beer
In factory towns black as heavy cloth.
The match struck at dawn and twelve hours
Labor to make wealth and progress out of smoke.
English translation: Czesław Miłosz and Robert Hass