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   s t o r y    a b o u t    k i n g    m i d a s

--- Z B I G N I E W   H E R B E R T

		At last the golden stags
		     soundly sleep in the meadows

		     and also the mountain goats
		     head on shoulder

		     the bison the one-horns the squirrels
		     and in general the various critters
		     predatory as well as docile
		     and also the birds of all kinds

		     king Midas no longer hunts

		     he fancied for himself
		     capturing a silenus

		     three days he chased him
		     until he caught him
		     and having whacked him by fist
		     between the eyes asked:
		     -- what is best for a human?

		     the silenus neighed
		     and said:
		     -- to be nothing
		     -- to die

		     returns king Midas to the palace
		     but the heart of the wise silenus is not to his taste

		     walks around pulls on the beard
		     and asks old people
		     -- how many days does an ant live
		     -- why does a dog howl before it dies
		     -- how tall will be the mountain
		     piled of bones
		     of all the previous animals and people

		     then he commanded to have summoned a man
		     who on vermillon vases
		     inscribes with a pen black quails
		     weddings processions and chases
		     and when asked by Midas
		     why he preserves the life of shadows
		     -- because the neck of a galloping horse
		is beautiful
		     and the dresses of girls playing a ballgame
		     are like a brook alive and unrepeatable

		     allow me to sit by you
		     asks the painter of vases
		     we will talk of people
		     who with mortal seriousness
		     give back one seed to the earth
		     and gather ten
		     who are repairing a sandal and a democracy
		     compute the stars and obols
		     write poems and stoop to pick up
		     a clover lost in the sand

		     we will drink some
		     and philosophize some
		     and maybe both of us
		     who are of blood and deceit
		     will in the end emancipate ourselves
		from the crushing lightness of pretense

					translated from the Polish	
					   by Marek Lugowski

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