Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Friday, March 26, 2010

Report from the Besieged City. Poem by Zbigniew Herbert (1924-1998).

The devastated city of Danzig. From

Too old to carry arms and fight like the others - 

they graciously gave me the inferior role of chronicler 

I record - I don't know for whom - the history of the siege 

I am supposed to be exact but I don't know when the invasion began 

two hundred years ago in December in September perhaps yesterday at dawn 

everyone here suffers from a loss of the sense of time 

all we have left is the place the attachment to the place 

we still rule over the ruins of temples spectres of gardens and houses 

if we lose the ruins nothing will be left 

I write as I can in the rhythm of interminable weeks 

monday: empty storehouses a rat became the unit of currency 

tuesday: the mayor murdered by unknown assailants 

wednesday: negotiations for a cease-fire the enemy has imprisoned our messengers 

we don't know where they are held that is the place of torture 

thursday: after a stormy meeting a majority of voices rejected 

the motion of the spice merchants for unconditional surrender 

friday: the beginning of the plague saturday: our invincible defender 

N.N. committed suicide sunday: no more water we drove back 

an attack at the eastern gate called the Gate of the Alliance 

all of this is monotonous I know it can't move anyone 

I avoid any commentary I keep a tight hold on my emotions I write about the facts 

only they it seems are appreciated in foreign markets 

yet with a certain pride I would like to inform the world 

that thanks to the war we have raised a new species of children 

our children don’t like fairy tales they play at killing 

awake and asleep they dream of soup of bread and bones 

just like dogs and cats 

in the evening I like to wander near the outposts of the city 

along the frontier of our uncertain freedom. 

I look at the swarms of soldiers below their lights 

I listen to the noise of drums barbarian shrieks 

truly it is inconceivable the City is still defending itself 

the siege has lasted a long time the enemies must take turns 

nothing unites them except the desire for our extermination 

Goths the Tartars Swedes troops of the Emperor regiments of the Transfiguration 

who can count them 

the colours of their banners change like the forest on the horizon 

from delicate bird's yellow in spring through green through red to winter's black 

and so in the evening released from facts I can think 

about distant ancient matters for example our 

friends beyond the sea I know they sincerely sympathize 

they send us flour lard sacks of comfort and good advice 

they don’t even know their fathers betrayed us 

our former allies at the time of the second Apocalypse 

their sons are blameless they deserve our gratitude therefore we are grateful 

they have not experienced a siege as long as eternity 

those struck by misfortune are always alone 

the defenders of the Dalai Lama the Kurds the Afghan mountaineers 

now as I write these words the advocates of conciliation 

have won the upper hand over the party of inflexibles 

a normal hesitation of moods fate still hangs in the balance 

cemeteries grow larger the number of defenders is smaller 

yet the defence continues it will continue to the end 

and if the City falls but a single man escapes 

he will carry the City within himself on the roads of exile 

he will be the City 

we look in the face of hunger the face of fire face of death 

worst of all - the face of betrayal 

and only our dreams have not been humiliated


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