Zbigniew Herbert

:

The Longobards

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Translated by Czesław Miłosz
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An immense coldness from the Longobards
They sit tightly in the saddle of a pass as in abrupt chairs
In their left hand they hold auroras
In their right hand a whip and they lash glaciers beasts of burden
The crackling of fire the ash of stars the swing of a stirrup
Under their nails under eyelids
Nubs of alien blood are black and hard like flint
The burning of firs the barking of a horse the ash
On the crags they hang a snake beside a shield
Upright they march from the north sleepless
Nearly blind the women near the fires are rocking red children

An immense coldness from the Longobards
Their shadow sears the grass when they descend into the valley
Shouting their protracted   n o t h i n g    n o t h i n g    n o t h i n g

Reproduced by permission of the Herbert Foundation and the Wylie Agency.