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Lament IX

The Muse
Song II
Song IX
Song XXV
Lament IX
Sonnet II
Sonnet V
I'd buy you, Wisdom, with all of the world's gold
-But is there any truth in what we're told
About your power to purge our human thought
Of all its dread, and raise up the distraught
Spirit to heaven, to the highest sphere
Where angels dwell beyond distress and fear?
You see mere trifles in all human things;
Mourning and mirth are two extended wings
On which you bring us equanimity,
Yourself unmoved by Death, calm, changeless, free.
For you, the rich man is the one who owns
No more than what's enough ? no precious stones,
Or land, or rents; you see through to the truth,
The misery beneath the gilded roof;
But if poor people heed your sober voice,
You do not grudge the poor their simple joys.
To think that I have spent my life in one
Long climb towards your threshold! All delusion!
Wisdom for me was castles in the air;
I'm hurled, like all the rest, from the topmost stair.


Translated by Seamus Heaney 

In his series of Laments, Jan Kochanowski mourns the loss of his little daughter Urszula ('the first famous child in Polish literature'). This particular poem centers on the clash between the stoicism of the Renaissance poet and the grief of the father.




©2000 Jan Rybicki
This page was last updated on 02/12/01 .