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The Nobel Prize in Literature 1984
Jaroslav Seifert

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Poetry

 

An Umbrella from Piccadilly

If you're at your wits' end concerning love
try falling in love again —
say, with the Queen of England.
Why not!
Her features are on every postage stamp
of that ancient kingdom.
But if you were to ask her
for a date in Hyde Park
you can bet that
you'd wait in vain.

If you've any sense at all
you'll wisely tell yourself:
Why of course, I know:
it's raining in Hyde Park today.

When he was in England
my son bought me in London's Piccadilly
an elegant umbrella.
Whenever necessary
I now have above my head
my own small sky
which may be black
but in its tensioned wire spokes
God's mercy may be flowing like
an electric current.

I open my umbrella even when it's not raining,
as a canopy
over the volume of Shakespeare's sonnets
I carry with me in my pocket.

But there are moments when I am frightened
even by the sparkling bouquet of the universe.
Outstripping its beauty
it threatens us with its infinity
and that is all too similar
to the sleep of death.
It also threatens us with the void and frostiness
of its thousands of stars
which at night delude us
with their gleam.

The one we have named Venus
is downright terrifying.
Its rocks are still on the boil
and like gigantic waves
mountains are rising up
and burning sulphur falls.

We always ask where hell is.
It is there!

But what use is a fragile umbrella
against the universe?
Besides, I don't even carry it.
I have enough of a job
to walk along
clinging close to the ground
as a nocturnal moth in daytime
to the coarse bark of a tree.

All my life I have sought the paradise
that used to be here,
whose traces I have found
only on women's lips
and in the curves of their skin
when it is warm with love.

All my life I have longed
for freedom.
At last I've discovered the door
that leads to it.
It is death.

Now that I'm old
some charming woman's face
will sometimes waft between my lashes
and her smile will stir my blood.

Shyly I turn my head
and remember the Queen of England,
whose features are on every postage stamp
of that ancient kingdom.
God save the Queen!

Oh yes, I know quite well:
it's raining in Hyde Park today.

 

"An Umbrella from Piccadilly" from The Poetry of Jaroslav Seifert
Translated from the Czech by Ewald Osers
Edited by George Gibian
Copyright © 1998 by Ewald Osers and George Gibian
Used by permission of Catbird Press
All rights reserved

 

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MLA style: "Jaroslav Seifert - Poetry: An Umbrella from Piccadilly". Nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 23 Aug 2014. <http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1984/seifert-poetry-umbrella.html>

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