a silent walk in remembrance of those affected by conflict
marking the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War
30 July, 2014, free, booking essential
a pair of poems will be read and poppy seeds scattered
31 July – 11 November, 2014
Czesław Miłosz ‘A Polka-Dot Dress’
John Balaban ‘For the Missing in Action’
A Polka-dot Dress
Her polka-dot dress – that’s all I know of her.
Once, walking silently with my gun in a forest thicket
I stumbled upon her lying with Michael
On a blanket spread in the clearing.
A plump little thing,
They say she was an officer’s wife.
Her name must have been Zosia.
To the black waters I arrived at dusk.
All of them are dead, it was long ago.
Peace to you, Zosia, and to your adventures.
Going on a vacation, it is not usual
To expect that something might happen:
A dark-haired man from the cards, or a blond one like Michael,
Just for some change in everyday yawning,
Calls to a girlfriend, cake in a tea shop.
We are induced to sin by boredom and curiosity.
But besides that we are innocent.
You should understand, Zosia, what trouble I have
When I want to think of your life attentively
And find here, where you are mine, what is unique
In you, though it’s covered by common form.
Perhaps you helped build a barricade.
Perhaps you sacrificed yourself for a sick child.
Perhaps, suffering pain from a wound or illness,
You came to a high degree of resignation.
However it was, whether you perished with your burning city,
Or, old, wandered in it, not recognizing the streets,
I try to be everywhere with you, yet in vain.
And all I can do is touch your too-round breasts
Remembering your dress, red, with white polka-dots.
Czesław Miłosz (1911–2004)
translated from the Polish by the author and Robert Hass
For the Missing in Action
Hazed with heat and harvest dust
the air swam with flying husks
as men whacked rice sheaves into bins
and all across the sunstruck fields
red flags hung from bamboo poles.
Beyond the last treeline on the horizon
beyond the coconut palms and eucalyptus
out in the moon zone puckered by bombs
the dead earth where no one ventures,
the boys found it, foolish boys
riding buffaloes in craterlands
where at night bombs thump and ghosts howl.
A green patch on the raw earth.
And now they’ve led the farmers here,
the kerchiefed women in baggy pants,
the men with sickles and flails, children
herding ducks with switches – all
staring from a crater berm; silent:
In that dead place the weeds had formed a man
where someone died and fertilized the earth, with flesh
and blood, with tears, with longing for loved ones.
No scrap remained; not even a buckle
survived the monsoons, just a green creature,
a viney man, supine, with posies for eyes,
butterflies for buttons, a lily for a tongue.
Now when huddled asleep together
the farmers hear a rustly footfall
as the leaf-man rises and stumbles to them.
John Balaban (1943–)
Czesław Miłosz (1911 - 2004)
Czeslaw Milosz studied law at Stefan Butony Univeristy and in Paris, subsequently spending much of the period of World War II in Warsaw (although he did not participate in the Warsaw Uprising). After World War II Milosz served the People’s Republic of Poland cultural attaché in Paris, eventually defecting from Poland to France in 1951. Throughout his life, Milosz refused to identify himself as either Lithuanian or Polish, and emigrated to the US in 1960, gaining US citizenship in 1970. He received the 1980 Nobel Prize for Literature, and is one of the non-Jews honoured at Yad Vashem as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’.
Czeslaw Milosz, ‘A Polka Dot Dress’, trans. by the author and Robert Hass
in Facing the River, Ecco, 1995
American poet and author John Balaban also translates from the Vietnamese, and incorporates various traditional Vietnamese verse-forms in his poetry. He was a conscientious objector in the Vietnam War, traveling to Vietnam with the IVS and teaching at a university until it was bombed in the Tet Offensive. He was injured in the bombing, but after he had recovered he worked with children who had been injured from the war.
‘For the Missing in Action’
in Locusts at the Edge of Summer: New and Selected Poems, Copper Canyon Press, 1997 / http://www.johnbalaban.com/poems.html
Captain Geoffrey Wolrych-Whitmore, who instigated the gifting of Dudmaston Estate to the National Trust served behind the lines on the Eastern front in WW1. He survived the war, but was affected by the loss of friends and family in the conflict and his own frustration with not being able to serve on the front line due to his deafness. Dudmaston also has a Spanish art collection which documents many artists’ responses to Spain’s internal conflicts under the Franco regime.
A circular walk at Dudmaston Estate starting at the visitor reception building, returning via St Andrews Church in Quatt. The walk us guided by poet Ken Cockburn.
2 miles, duration approx 1.5 hours. The walk starts at 14:00pm. Minimum age: 12 years.
Please wear sensible footwear and bring waterproofs in case of rain. Walks may take place on uneven ground and use stiles. Children must be accompanied by an adult.
The West front of Dudmaston,
© National Trust Images: Michael Caldwell
Lakeside path, Dudmaston Estate,
© National Trust Images: Clive Nichols
A Trust New Art commission for National Trust, supported by Arts Council England