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Poetry

Angels of Civilization

By Zbigniew Herbert
Translated from Polish by Alissa Valles

At the turn of the century it seemed that angels were leaving us forever and that every trace of them would be lost. They were still employed here and there by funeral services. They also held up unfashionable canopies. But essentially they went pale from inertia and slowly turned into pink powder.

The real renaissance of angels came with the development of airline companies. You could say without exaggeration they came back to earth and took on the flush of life. They provide aid in crossing a footbridge hung high above the oceans. From the intercom systems of airports their high unreal voices trickle smoothly as if they wanted to persuade us there’s still some salvation.

They speak all tongues, but they have one laugh for ascension and catastrophe.

(Uncollected)

English

At the turn of the century it seemed that angels were leaving us forever and that every trace of them would be lost. They were still employed here and there by funeral services. They also held up unfashionable canopies. But essentially they went pale from inertia and slowly turned into pink powder.

The real renaissance of angels came with the development of airline companies. You could say without exaggeration they came back to earth and took on the flush of life. They provide aid in crossing a footbridge hung high above the oceans. From the intercom systems of airports their high unreal voices trickle smoothly as if they wanted to persuade us there’s still some salvation.

They speak all tongues, but they have one laugh for ascension and catastrophe.

(Uncollected)

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