Vigil and Other Poems", an anthology of the poetry written by Pope John Paul II between 1950 and 1966.
Easter Vigil and Other Poems by Karol Wojtyla: translated by Jerzy Peterkiewicz (Hutchinson £2.25).
Langland's "Piers Plowman", as I was laid) reminded In a Polish friend from Krakow, says that one may become a spiritual nian, a worldly man or a complete man. Our conversation arose from these poems by Karol Weityla published in Poland between 1950 and 1966 under the pseudonym "Andrzej Jassien".
My Polish visitor aptly indicated Pope John Paul II as Langland's complete man, the complete human being. Our Holy Father is certainly an exceptionally all-round Pope, a Pope for all seasons perhaps, or the exemplar of "all things to all men".
Worker, actor, priest, philosopher. mountaineer. All these aspects are reflected in this very slender volume. Since his election, the variety and fluency of the Papal output of words, written and spoken, astounds the oorld. Noo he is revealed, and very directly, in this fine English translation, as a poet too.
the long, complex poem, " Ihe Quarrs ," echoes his oartime experience as a storker in the quarries outside Krakow, of the texture and rhythms of stone, as well BS of the agonies of 1956 in Communist-dominated Europe. It is also a striking parallel with Andrzej Wajda's film "Man of Marble".
A shorter poem, "Actor" epitomises the paradox of the actor oho spends himself creating others:
Being each ()likein always imperfect Myself to myself, too near,
lie who survives can he ever
Look at himself without fear?
The opening poem "Her Amazement at Her Only Child" and three more from the cycle "Mother" radiate the profound Polish devotion to Our Lady. Several meditations invoke evidently consistent preoccupations with Simon of Cyrene, the Samaritan woman or St Mary Nlagdalene.
As their translator comments: " this is poetry of thought, sometimes difficult." But this small sample makes clear the Pope's possession of the gift common Co poets and mystics of direct apprehension of a complex or profound idea.
His mountaineering self speaks in the two poems headed " [he Birth of Confessors", one on the " l'houghts of a Bishop about to
administer ...", the other on " l'houghts of a man receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation in a mountain village". [he latter ends:
When 1 contain the dual weight Of terror and hope
And reach depths translucent aN
lhen no one will say
Thar I simplifi'.
Only one poem is printed in the original Polish alongside the. English. lhis is this last of "Easter Vigil 1966", when Poland celebrated 1000 years of Christianity. the "Insoeation to Man who became the Insdy of history."
The translator, Jerzy Peterkiewicz is the most suCcessful contemporary translator of English poetry into Polish. Peterkievsicz was in fact a Polish poet when he came to this country earls in the war.
Ile has spent some of his years here writing novels (including thrillers) besides being Director of Slavonic Studies at London University, where he is now Professor of Polish Literature.
rhe high honour of translating the Pope's poems is a just reward for the rare achievement of becoming a bilingual poet. It ^has certainly enabled him to complete the image of our all-round Polish Pope and to fulfil his claim: -I believe the poems in this book provide a subtle key to the rich personality of Pope John Paul II."