When reading a poem such as “A Song on the End of the World” by Czeslaw Milosz, one has the option of learning the history behind the poem since the poem makes sense either way, but a great deal more meaning can be gleaned from it when history is taken into account.
The poem presents a picture of what seems to be a very peaceful day. The author shows his readers the insects drifting over the flowers, the daily peaceful activities of the people as they mend nets, take leisurely walks, sell vegetables, consider napping on a green lawn, tend to their gardens and play music that greets the night time sky. Animals are present too as the birds play in some remnant rain water, a snake moves through the area and “happy porpoises jump in the sea” (4). There is nothing overly aggressive or threatening in the scene presented other than the author’s assertion that this is the day the world ended. In presenting these descriptions, the author works to use as few abstract terms as possible, giving the reader a sense that he is being very specific as to his subject. However, this is somewhat misleading as it becomes clear that none of these actions, each an indication of a quiet, small-town lifestyle, provide any specific detail as to where these actions are taking place. The closest he comes to providing actual specifics as to location is when he points to a “yellow-sailed boat” that “comes nearer the island” (11). The porpoises are ‘happy’, the bee ‘circles’ and the people are ‘disappointed’, but each of these abstract terms are given specific definition by their context within the poem. This confines the reader on the page and within the vision the author is bringing forward.
The way in which Milosz wrote this poem seems to discourage people from looking beyond the text of the poem itself for meaning. Although some abstract terms are used, as has been discussed, they are used in specific ways that seem to