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(30 June 1911 – 14 August 2004 / Kedainiai)

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Campo di Fiori

In Rome on the Campo di Fiori
Baskets of olives and lemons,
Cobbles spattered with wine
And the wreckage of flowers.
Vendors cover the trestles
With rose-pink fish;
Armfuls of dark grapes
Heaped on peach-down.

On this same square
They burned Giordano Bruno.
Henchmen kindled the pyre
Close-pressed by the mob.
Before the flames had died
The taverns were full again,
Baskets of olives and lemons
Again on the vendors' shoulders.

I thought of the Campo dei Fiori
In Warsaw by the sky-carousel
One clear spring evening
To the strains of a carnival tune.
The bright melody drowned
The salvos from the ghetto wall,
And couples were flying
High in the cloudless sky.

At times wind from the burning
Would driff dark kites along
And riders on the carousel
Caught petals in midair.
That same hot wind
Blew open the skirts of the girls
And the crowds were laughing
On that beautiful Warsaw Sunday.

Someone will read as moral
That the people of Rome or Warsaw
Haggle, laugh, make love
As they pass by martyrs' pyres.
Someone else will read
Of the passing of things human,
Of the oblivion
Born before the flames have died.

But that day I thought only
Of the loneliness of the dying,
Of how, when Giordano
Climbed to his burning
There were no words
In any human tongue
To be left for mankind,
Mankind who live on.

Already they were back at their wine
Or peddled their white starfish,
Baskets of olives and lemons
They had shouldered to the fair,
And he already distanced
As if centuries had passed
While they paused just a moment
For his flying in the fire.

Those dying here, the lonely
Forgotten by the world,
Our tongue becomes for them
The language of an ancient planet.
Until, when all is legend
And many years have passed,
On a great Campo dci Fiori
Rage will kindle at a poet's word.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003


Read poems about / on: pink, fish, wind, dark, lonely, sky, spring, beautiful, rose, fire, people, world, fishing, flower, girl

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Comments about this poem (Artificer by Czeslaw Milosz )

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  • Marilyn Hochfield (3/12/2009 5:48:00 PM)

    As one whose father lost most of his family in the Holocaust in Poland and who has mingled with the crowds oblivious to the statue of Giordano Bruno in the Campo di Fiori, this poem resonates so strongly it takes my breath away. I think it is a great poem and Milosz one of the greatest poets of all time.

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  • Maxine Cassin (7/3/2007 6:53:00 AM)

    I agree with the comment by Marcus Weyland i. Although CAMPO DI FIORI is one of the celebreated poems by Milosz, it is not as great as A POOR CHRSITIAN LOOKS AT THE GHETTO
    or POEM FOR THE END OF THE WORLD. The poem in question makes a fairly obvious statement about our general indifference to the suffering of others. He describes himself as a ' Jew of the Old Testament, ' ('one of the uncircumsized' who stood idly by while his fellowmen perished in the Holocaust. For more commentary on this and other poems see newpoetryreview.com, Click on Forum.

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