stand in the glow of ripeness


Czesław Miłosz

Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart.
Without knowing it, from various ills –
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.

Thanks to Hallie for singling out this poem. I owe thanks to a common friend for my small enjoyment of poetry. It is good to read more by Miłosz.


  1. The last two lines put me in mind of this (slightly edited): “My Dad enumerated his atheist friend’s qualities to me and considered his friend a more powerful example of Christian ideals than himself. Because of this my father said that there was no possible way he could state that his friend would, when he died, spend eternity rueing his lack of a personal, individual faith.”

    Seems to me it might behoove he who *would* say such a person has eternal damnation coming, to add an additional couple of lines, beginning with “But it doesn’t matter who serves best:”

    Since I have no race in this dogma, the best I can do is speculate about what might follow that line. Though a satisfying “why” for that “what” beggars my imagination, I’m afraid.

  2. Thanks for sharing your impressions. I agree that the last two lines apply to God as much as (or more than) they do to all of His creations that we are to love. Part of your comment brings to mind the character of Emeth from the last book in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series. There’s a little discussion of the controversy on wikipedia:

    Although I would not see this as at all the main point for Miłosz in this poem, he would probably agree more fully with Lewis than I would on this question (which is ultimately one for God and not for us).

  3. Yeah, I wouldn’t say that’s Milosz’s main point either. You know me, teetering on a tautly tangential tightrope, awning o’er an asymptotic abyss.

  4. BTW, it still bugs me, months later, that I botched the race/fight thing and so neglected to use the much superior “no fight in this dogma” formulation.

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