KING POPIEL

Popiel, a legendary king of Polish prehistory,
is said to have been eaten by mice on his island
in the middle of a big lake.

Those were not, it is certain, crimes just like ours.
It was all about dugouts carved out of linden trunks
And some beavers' pelts. He ruled over marshes
Where the moose echoes in a moon of acid frosts
And lynxes walk in springtime onto the drying holms.

His palisade, his timber fort, and the tower
Built by the fins of the gods of night
Could be seen beyond the water by the hidden hunter
Who dared not push aside the branches with his bow.
Until one of them returned with the news. Over the deep into the rushes
The wind chased the largest boat, and it was empty.

Mice have eaten Popiel. The diamond-studded crown
He got later. And to him, who vanished forever,
Who kept in his treasury three Gothic coins
And bars of bronze, to him who went away,
No one knows where, with his children and women,
To him lands and seas were left by Galileo,
Newton and Einstein. So that, for long centuries
He might smooth, on his throne, his javelin with a knife.

CZESLAW MILOSZ
Mongeron, 1958

(CZESLAW MILOSZ is a poet and writer, a winner of the Nobel prize in literature 1980.)

 

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Jan Popiel  
&
Slawomir Popiel
 

This site was created on June 15, 1998 and updated on May 11, 2007
Copyright 1998. Jan Popiel & Slawomir Popiel.