Monday, November 8, 2010

Oscar Vladslas de Lubicz Milosz

An evening reading the poems of Oscar Vladslas de Lubicz Milosz (one of the more glorious names in the annals of literature). He was a distant cousin of the Nobel laureate, Czeslaw Milosz, whom he treated as a son. Born of a Russian father and a Polish Jewish mother at his family's estates in Belarus, he was educated by solitude and in France and chose to write in French. France became his home after the Russian revolution though he originally chose the citizenship of Lithuania and represented them as a diplomat at Versailles and subsequently.

His closest poetic antecedent is a writer he probably did not know: William Blake. He is a poet of visionary intensity who seeks to offer a different world perspective from that of scientific materialism. He evokes a world of symbolic meaning where everything is translucent to a sacred ordering.

I encountered him first in the third edition of Temenos and one of his aphorisms in particular has always sung through my mind:

"To be free is to have the power to recognize that the nobler one is, the less one belongs to oneself and that one can only give because one has first of all received".

It is once so simple and yet, of course, works on a number of planes  - we are given into being by multiple actors - divine and human - and we give to others more deeply from the gratitude we feel for what we have received. That freedom too is not freedom from but freedom for and that freedom is deepened paradoxically as our obligation to others' gifts deepens.

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