On Translating Poetry

By Zbigniew Herbert

On Translating PoetryLike a clumsy bumblebee
he alights on a flower
bending the fragile stem
he elbows his way
through rows of petals
like the pages of a dictionary
he wants in
where the fragrance and the sweetness are
and though he has a cold
and can’t taste anything
he goes on trying
until he bumps his head
against the yellow pistel

and gets no further than that
it’s too hard
to push through the crown
into the root
so the bee takes off again
he emerges swaggering
loudly humming:
I was in there
and those
who don’t take his word for it
can take a look at his nose
yellow with pollen

From: Hermes, Dog and Star (1957)

A final reminder that we will be reading and discussing the poetry of Zbigniew Herbert this Thursday, May 26. See the SCHEDULE PAGE for a list of the featured poems.

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