Blessed is the nation that in the course of a century could give the world two poets of Czeslaw Milosz's and Zbigniew Herbert's scope. Doubly blessed is the English-reader, for in this volume he gets Zbigniew Herbert's work rendered by Czeslaw Milosz: like the poor, or better yet like nature herself, Polish genius takes care of its own.
This collection is bound for a much longer haul than any of us can anticipate. For Zbigniew Herbert's poetry adds to the biography of civilization the sensibility of a man not defeated by the century that has been most thorough, most effective in dehumanization of the species. Herbert's irony, his austere reserve and his compassion, the lucidity of his lyricism, the intensity of his sentiment toward classical antiquity, are not just trappings of a modern poet, but the necessary armor--in his case well-tempered and shining indeed--for man not to be crushed by the onslaught of reality. By offering to his readers neither aesthetic norethical discount, this poet, in fact, saves them frorn that poverty which every form of human eviI finds so congenial. As long as the species exists, this book will be timely.-- Joseph Brodsky