Zbigniew Herbert’s Collected Poems 1956–1998 was published in English in 2007. The poem in this issue was prepared for a Polish edition of Herbert’s uncollected poems edited by Ryszard Krynicki. (June 2013)


From An Unwritten Theory of Dreams

The torturers sleep soundly their dreams are rosy
good-natured genocides—foreign and home-grown
already forgiven by brief human memory
a gentle breeze turns the pages of family albums
the windows of the house open to August the shade of an apple-tree in bloom

The End

And from now on I won’t be there in any group picture (proud proof of my death in the world’s book reviews) when someone says look see—that’s Zbyszek—pointing to a man struggling with a suitcase—it isn’t me no it’s someone who’s not even in the same …


   To the memory of Captain Edward Herbert Only the buttons were relentless and outlasted death the witnesses to the crime working their way from the depths they climb to the top the only monument on the grave’s surface they are to bear witness …

Mr. Cogito. Ars Longa

1 Bombastic manifestoes civil warfare pitched battles campaigns filled Mr. Cogito with boredom in every generation appear those who wish to snatch poetry from the claws of everydayness with stubbornness worthy of a better cause …

Two Poems

THREE POEMS BY HEART I I can’t find the title of a memory about you with a hand torn from darkness I step on fragments of faces soft friendly profiles frozen into a hard contour          circling above my head          empty as …

Three Poems

A NATIVE DEVIL 1 He came from the West, at the beginning of the tenth century. At first he was brimming with energy and ideas. The clatter of his hooves could be heard everywhere, the air smelled of brimstone. This virginal country, closer to hell than heaven, seemed to be …

Achilles. Penthesilea

When Achilles with his short sword pierced the breast of Penthesilea and as usual twisted the blade thrice in the wound, he noticed that the queen of the Amazons was lovely. He laid her carefully on the sand, took off her heavy helmet, unclasped her hair, …


Leonardo’s Disquiet

“Writing,” wrote Zbigniew Herbert, “must teach men soberness: to be awake.” One of Poland’s greatest poets, Herbert (1924–1998) was also a prolific essayist, and with the publication of his Collected Prose this week we can take in the full range of his brisk, erudite work.