Zbigniew Herbert

(29 October 1924 – 28 July 1998 / Lvov)

A ballad that we do not perish


Those who sailed at dawn
but will never return
left their trace on a wave--

a shell fell to the bottom of the sea
beautiful as lips turned to stone

those who walked on a sandy road
but could not reach the shuttered windows
though they already saw the roofs--

they have found shelter in a bell of air

but those who leave behind only
a room grown cold a few books
an empty inkwell white paper--

in truth they have not completely died
their whisper travels through thickets of wallpaper
their level head still lives in the ceiling

their paradise was made of air
of water lime and earth an angel of wind
will pulverize the body in its hand
they will be
carried over the meadows of this world

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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