“The Message of Mr Cogito” by Zbigniew Herbert

The Fountain Tarot

“Go where those others went to the dark boundary
for the golden fleece of nothingness your last prize

go upright among those who are on their knees
among those with their backs turned and those toppled in the dust

you were saved not in order to live
you have little time you must give testimony

be courageous when the mind deceives you be courageous
in the final account only this is important

and let your helpless Anger be like the sea
whenever you hear the voice of the insulted and beaten

let your sister Scorn not leave you
for the informers executioners cowards – they will win
they will go to your funeral with relief will throw a lump of earth
the woodborer will write your smoothed-over biography

and do not forgive truly it is not in your power
to forgive in the name of those betrayed at dawn

beware however of unnecessary pride
keep looking at your clown’s face in the mirror
repeat: I was called – weren’t there better ones than I

beware of dryness of heart love the morning spring
the bird with an unknown name the winter oak
light on a wall the splendour of the sky
they don’t need your warm breath
they are there to say: no one will console you

be vigilant – when the light on the mountains gives the sign- arise and go
as long as blood turns in the breast your dark star

repeat old incantations of humanity fables and legends
because this is how you will attain the good you will not attain
repeat great words repeat them stubbornly
like those crossing the desert who perished in the sand

and they will reward you with what they have at hand
with the whip of laughter with murder on a garbage heap

go because only in this way you will be admitted to the company of cold skulls
to the company of your ancestors: Gilgamesh Hector Roland
the defenders of the kingdom without limit and the city of ashes

Be faithful Go”

translated by Czeslaw Milosz


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7 Responses to “The Message of Mr Cogito” by Zbigniew Herbert

  1. “Be faithful go” wonderful message – and following ✍️ into that watery entry way within, loving Hermit. Have a wonderful New Year, Monica.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. herongrace says:

    Wow! The route of the flaming arrow. So much raw power in the Hermit card and the poem.
    I have never seen “The Fountain Tarot” but I love that card. I would love to see the Fool card.
    Perhaps..”keep looking at your Fool’s face in the mirror
    repeat: I was called- weren’t there better ones than I”
    Thank-you Monika.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This poem has been with me for years now. We’ve got so much great poetry in Polish but nothing surpasses this for me. I am glad you could feel the power through the translation. Well, the translator was a Nobel prize poet himself – he did an amazing job, I think.
      I had never heard of the Fountain Tarot, either, but it looks intriguing.


  3. litebeing says:

    So 12th house to me. The card is hauntingly beautiful. I have Cap on 12th house cusp so I associate Saturn with what is hidden from view.

    Happy 2018 Monika!

    love, Linda

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hello Linda, Happy New Year to you as well. I kind of have Saturn in the 12th house (if you believe in whole sign houses) so I totally see what you mean.


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