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Poetry

Principality

By Zbigniew Herbert
Translated from Polish by Alissa Valles

Marked in the guidebook with two stars (in reality there are more) the whole principality, that is to say the city, the sea and a stretch of sky, looks great at first glance. The graves are whitewashed, the houses are detached, the flowers are plump.

All the citizens are guardians of landmarks. Due to the low number of tourists, the work is easy – an hour in the morning and an hour at night.

In between there’s a siesta.

Over the principality a cloud of snores rises, red as a cauldron. Only the prince isn’t sleeping. He’s rocking the head of the local god to sleep.

The hotels and inns are occupied by angels, who took a liking to the principality for its hot baths, solemn customs and air destilled by the motion of feathers buffing memory.

From: Study of the Object (1961)

 

English

Marked in the guidebook with two stars (in reality there are more) the whole principality, that is to say the city, the sea and a stretch of sky, looks great at first glance. The graves are whitewashed, the houses are detached, the flowers are plump.

All the citizens are guardians of landmarks. Due to the low number of tourists, the work is easy – an hour in the morning and an hour at night.

In between there’s a siesta.

Over the principality a cloud of snores rises, red as a cauldron. Only the prince isn’t sleeping. He’s rocking the head of the local god to sleep.

The hotels and inns are occupied by angels, who took a liking to the principality for its hot baths, solemn customs and air destilled by the motion of feathers buffing memory.

From: Study of the Object (1961)

 

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