"Preface"

By Czeslaw Milosz

First, plain speech in the mother tongue. 
Hearing it, you should be able to see 
Apple trees, a river, the bend of a road, 
As if in a flash of summer lightning. 

And it should contain more than images. 
It has been lured by singsong, 
A daydream, melody. Defenseless, 
It was bypassed by the sharp, dry world. 

You often ask yourself why you feel shame 
Whenever you look through a book of poetry. 
As if the author, for reasons unclear to you, 
Addressed the worse side of your nature, 
Pushing aside thought, cheating thought. 

Seasoned with jokes, clowning, satire, 
Poetry still knows how to please. 
Then its excellence is much admired. 
But the grave combats where life is at stake 
Are fought in prose. It was not always so. 

And our regret has remained unconfessed. 
Novels and essays serve but will not last. 
One clear stanza can take more weight 
Than a whole wagon of elaborate prose.