Seamus Heaney on Czeslaw Milosz

“For quite a while now, those who knew Czeslaw Milosz couldn’t help wondering what it was going to be like when he was gone. In the meantime he more than held his own, writing away for all he was worth in Kraków, in his early nineties, in an apartment where I had the privilege of visiting him twice. On the first occasion he was confined to his bed, too unwell to attend a conference arranged in his honor, and on the second he was ensconced in his living room, face-to-face with a life-size bronze head and torso of his second wife, Carol. His junior by some thirty years, she had died from a quick and cruel cancer in 2002, and as he sat on one side of the room facing the bronze on the other, the old poet seemed to be viewing it and everything else from another shore. On that occasion he was being ministered to by his daughter-in-law, and perhaps it was her hovering attentions as much as his translated appearance that brought to mind the aged Oedipus being minded by daughters in the grove at Colonus, the old king who had arrived where he knew he would die. Colonus was not his birthplace, but it was where he had come home to himself, to the world, and to the otherworld; and the same could be said of Milosz in Kraków.”

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