Wednesday, February 17, 2021

"the oblivion born before the flames have died"


Giordano Bruno by Fidus, 1900

Someone will read as moral
that the people of Rome or Warsaw
haggle, laugh, make love
as they pass by the martyrs' pyres.
Someone else will read
of the passing of things human,
of the oblivion
born before the flames have died.

But that day I thought only
of the loneliness of the dying,
of how, when Giordano
climbed to his burning
he could not find
in any human tongue
words for mankind,
mankind who live on.

Giordano Bruno was condemned for heresy and burned at the stake in Rome on February 17, 1600. The precise nature of his heresy is a matter of dispute. In any case, his executioners feared his words enough that they clamped his tongue before burning him alive.  

*An interview with Czeslaw Milosz that includes discussion of "Campo dei Fiori" is here

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