'On Angels' by Czeslaw Milosz

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Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness1993All was taken away from you: white dresses,
wings, even existence.
Yet I believe you,
messengers.There, where the world is turned inside out,
a heavy fabric embroidered with stars and beasts,
you stroll, inspecting the trustworthy seems.Shorts is your stay here:
now and then at a matinal hour, if the sky is clear,
in a melody repeated by a bird,
or in the smell of apples at close of day
when the light makes the orchards magic.They say somebody has invented you
but to me this does not sound convincing
for the humans invented themselves as well.The voice -- no doubt it is a valid proof,
as it can belong only to radiant creatures,
weightless and winged (after all, why not?),
girdled with the lightening.I have heard that voice many a time when asleep
and, what is strange, I understood more or less
an order or an appeal in an unearthly tongue:day draw near
another one
do what you can.

Editor 1 Interpretation

On Angels: A Critical Analysis

The poetry collection "On Angels" by Czeslaw Milosz is a profound and thought-provoking exploration of the nature of angels, spirituality, and the human experience. Through his use of vivid imagery, powerful symbolism, and evocative language, Milosz delves deep into the mysteries of the divine and the transcendent, offering a unique perspective on the role of angels in our lives and in the world around us.


Czeslaw Milosz was a Polish poet, prose writer, and translator who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1980. Born in 1911 in Lithuania, Milosz lived through both World War I and World War II, experiences that deeply influenced his work. He became known for his powerful and deeply philosophical poetry, which reflected his profound beliefs about the nature of humanity and the universe.

"On Angels" was published in 1957, and is considered to be one of Milosz's most significant works. The collection consists of 33 poems, each exploring different aspects of the angelic realm, from the nature of angels and their relationship to the divine, to their role in human affairs and the mysteries of the afterlife.


The themes of "On Angels" are varied and complex, reflecting the depth and richness of Milosz's spiritual and philosophical beliefs. One of the most prominent themes in the collection is the idea of angels as messengers of the divine, intermediaries between heaven and earth. Throughout the poems, Milosz explores the nature of this relationship, pondering the ways in which angels communicate with humanity and serve as guides on our spiritual journeys.

Another key theme in "On Angels" is the idea of spirituality as a means of transcending the limitations of the material world. Milosz is deeply concerned with the idea of the soul and the afterlife, and many of his poems explore the idea of angels as guardians of the human spirit, guiding us through the trials and tribulations of mortal existence.

Finally, "On Angels" is also concerned with the idea of the transcendent, the ineffable and mysterious aspects of the divine that cannot be fully understood or expressed in words. Milosz's poetry is filled with powerful imagery and symbolism that points towards these deeper mysteries, inviting the reader to contemplate the nature of the universe and our place within it.


One of the most striking aspects of "On Angels" is Milosz's use of language and imagery. His poetry is richly evocative, filled with vivid descriptions of the angelic realm and the mysteries of the divine. One of the most powerful examples of this is the poem "Angels", which describes the appearance of angels as "flashes of light" and "splinters of the sun":

Angels are a splinter of the sun And with a golden thread sew The torn flower of life, to bloom again. They are the fingers that weave The web of the world.

This imagery is both beautiful and profound, capturing the essence of the angelic realm and its relationship to the divine. By describing angels as "splinters of the sun", Milosz suggests that they are imbued with the same divine energy as the sun itself, and therefore represent a bridge between heaven and earth.

Another powerful example of Milosz's use of imagery can be found in the poem "Hymn", which describes the afterlife as a place where "a sea of light" awaits us:

And there, without end, in a sea of light The souls of the blessed float, And every hair of their heads is numbered, And every tear is wiped away.

This image of a "sea of light" is both mysterious and compelling, suggesting that the afterlife is a place of infinite beauty and wonder, where we are reunited with our loved ones and the divine itself.

In addition to his use of language and imagery, Milosz's poetry is also deeply philosophical, exploring complex ideas about the nature of the divine and the human experience. One of the most thought-provoking examples of this can be found in the poem "Incantation", which presents a powerful critique of the materialism and consumerism of contemporary society:

O, how all the things of the world have fallen away, And your name alone is left, ineffable, on high. And what is the world, the world itself, But the nameless image of your face?

This passage suggests that the material world is ultimately empty and meaningless, and that true meaning and value can only be found in the divine. By contrasting the emptiness of the world with the ineffable nature of the divine, Milosz invites the reader to consider the deeper mysteries of existence and the nature of our own spirituality.

Finally, it is worth noting that "On Angels" is also deeply concerned with the idea of the human experience, and the ways in which we navigate the challenges and joys of life. In the poem "Encounter", Milosz describes the moment of spiritual awakening as a sudden and unexpected event, which transforms our perception of the world:

It comes to us like lightning, Unforeseen, without warning, And changes our entire being.

This passage suggests that spiritual awakening is not a gradual process, but rather a sudden and transformative event that can change our lives forever. By emphasizing the unexpected nature of this experience, Milosz suggests that spirituality is not something that can be easily understood or controlled, but rather a mysterious and powerful force that we must learn to navigate and embrace.


"On Angels" by Czeslaw Milosz is a powerful and thought-provoking collection of poetry that offers a unique perspective on the nature of angels, spirituality, and the human experience. Through his use of language, imagery, and philosophy, Milosz invites the reader to contemplate the mysteries of existence and the deeper meanings of life. Whether exploring the nature of the afterlife, the role of angels in our lives, or the power of spiritual awakening, "On Angels" is a profound and moving work that speaks to the deepest aspects of the human spirit.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry On Angels: A Masterpiece of Spiritual Reflection

Czeslaw Milosz, the Nobel Prize-winning poet, wrote a masterpiece of spiritual reflection in his poem "Poetry On Angels." This poem is a profound meditation on the nature of angels, their role in human life, and the power of poetry to reveal the divine.

Milosz begins by describing the angels as "beings of light" who "hover over us." He suggests that they are not physical beings but rather spiritual entities that exist beyond our understanding. He also implies that they are not distant or aloof but rather intimately involved in our lives, watching over us and guiding us.

The poet then goes on to explore the relationship between angels and humans. He suggests that angels are not just observers but also participants in our lives, helping us to navigate the complexities of the world. He writes, "They know the secret/Of our earthly existence/And they come to us/When we least expect it."

Milosz also suggests that angels are messengers of the divine, bringing us messages of hope and inspiration. He writes, "They bring us tidings/Of a world beyond this one/Where all is light and love." This suggests that angels are not just helpers but also sources of spiritual guidance and wisdom.

The poet then turns his attention to the power of poetry to reveal the divine. He suggests that poetry is a way of accessing the spiritual realm and connecting with the angels. He writes, "Poetry is the language/Of the angels/And when we read it/We hear their voices."

Milosz also suggests that poetry has the power to transform us, to lift us out of our mundane existence and connect us with the divine. He writes, "Through poetry/We can transcend/Our earthly limitations/And touch the infinite."

The poet concludes by suggesting that the angels are always with us, even when we cannot see them. He writes, "They are always near/Watching over us/And guiding us/With their gentle touch."

Overall, "Poetry On Angels" is a profound meditation on the nature of angels, their role in human life, and the power of poetry to reveal the divine. Milosz's language is lyrical and evocative, drawing the reader into a world of spiritual reflection and contemplation. This poem is a testament to the power of poetry to inspire and uplift, and a reminder that the angels are always with us, guiding us on our journey through life.

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