Reading: The second Madrigal by Anna Swir

Today my eye fell on Polish poet Anna Swir (Świrszczyńska) (1909-1984). I read the translation by Czeslaw Milosz:

The Second Madrigal
A night of love
exquisite as a
concert from old Venice
played on exquisite instruments.
Healthy as a
buttock of a little angel.
Wise as an
anthill.
Garish as air
blown into a trumpet.
Abundant as the reign
of a royal Negro couple
seated on two thrones
cast in gold.

A night of love with you,
a big baroque battle
and two victories.

Maybe there’s not much “new” here, no bizarre shift of perspective that haunts the reader. But the metaphors are beautiful and adequate. The concert from old Venice, we here Vivaldi playing, is only the beginning. The healthy buttock of a little angel is the kind of stuff I like, the ass-ociation of pure angels with obscene body parts. But the buttocks, by being part of an angel, cease to be obscene. The buttock is healthy, as is the love-making itself. Healthy and wise “as an anthill”, where everything though carried out in a seemingly chaotic fashion, has a precise purpose.

What about the garish air? I read that, according to Milosz, Swir’s central theme is  “Flesh. Flesh in love and ecstasy, in pain, in terror, flesh afraid of loneliness, giving birth, resting, feeling the flow of time or reducing time to one instant.” She wrote a poem titled ‘Large intestine’. The image of the garish air contrasts nicely with the healthy angel buttocks and the wisdom of the lovemaking. There is something strange going on at the same time. I can feel the joy of our poet when she came up with the image of the royal Negro couple on two (garish, of course) thrones.

Under the fold, “you” are mentioned. As we return to Venice, the concert (the madrigal) has turned into a battle. The outcome, “two victories”, would be rather boring, if it weren’t achieved through the wild imagery, which qualifies the victories.

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