In a Nutshell: a Poem by Milosz

The organic dynamic between philosophy and lyric has many facets, historical (starting with Plato’s abuse and practice of poetry) and analytical. The latter may be put thus: meditate/mediate. In the given between of composition, we mediate the ‘that it is at all,’ the wonder that compels meditation.

The poem below elucidates the process of meditation / mediation. It embodies the narrative peculiar to lyric. The narrator starts with the givens of common experience. Maps of determinate experience, memory of ‘the feast of motion’—-the Eros driving the self beyond itself. Time passes. But now he wants things without desire, things as they are in themselves—-the vision bare of personal attachment—- the ‘this only,’ the ‘that it is at all.’

So I suggest that ‘This Only’ is a poem by Milosz in which he considers the wonder of being at all through the various senses of his being. For the reader, reading the poem is an act of philosophy in Hadot’s sense, ‘a spiritual exercise.’ Like a musical composition, one must practice it lovingly.


Chord Progression as Final Form in Milosz Poem


The powerful emotions expressed here may make us assume a lack of structure. Let’s say it has a chord progression, from objective reality through an increasingly complex intersubjective sequence. Passion becomes dialectical but no less erotic for that. And as if in a flash of lightning a kind of posthumous agapeic apocalypse establishes a new ground for the poem. I call this moment Metaxyturn: it establishes a luminous space that comprehends the poetry itself. It’s this chord progression that allows the final form of the poem to emerge.