November always brings out the Slav in me. The year is drawing to a close, the earth is gathering itself for sleep, and darkness falls early and suddenly. It's all a bit melancholy but also strong and wise. Czeslaw Milosz is among my favorite Slavs--a poet every melancholic and philosopher should know. He won the 1980 Nobel Prize in Literature, back when that meant something.
This is from his later notebooks, titled "A Mirrored Gallery."
Pure beauty, benediction: you are all I gathered
From a life that was bitter and confused,
In which I learned about evil, my own and not my own.
Wonder kept seizing me, and I recall only wonder,
Risings of the sun over endless green, a universe
Of grasses, and flowers, opening to the first light,
Blue outline of the mountains and a hosanna shout.
I asked, how many times, is this the truth of the earth?
How can laments and curses by turned into hymns?
What makes you need to pretend, when you know better?
But the lips praised on their own, on their own the feet ran;
The heart beat strongly; and the tongue proclaimed its adoration.
And why all this ardor if death is so close?
Do you expect to hear and see and feel there?
And I have lived a life that makes me feel unable
To bring myself to write an accusation.
Joy would spurt in amid the lamentation.
So what, if, in a minute I must close the book:
Life's sweet, but it might be pleasant not to have to look.
~Czeslaw Milosz, "A Mirrored Gallery," in New and Collected Poems: 1931-2001