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Karol Wojtyla
* 1920 in Wadowice / Poland
Pope John Paul II
His Holiness John Paul II.

  • 1938 began to study literature and drama in Cracow's Jagellonian University
  • 1941 worked in a stone quarry an dchemical plant
  • 1942 began studying for the priesthood in Jagellonian University's underground theological departement
  • hidden from the German occupation forces by the Archbishop of Cracow
  • November 1, 1946 ordained a piest
  • philosophy degree at Rome's Angelicum
  • thaught theology and ethics at the Catholic University of Lublin
  • 1958 named bishop of Cracow
  • 1964 archbishop
  • 1967 cardinal
  • October 16, 1978 elected pope

He published his poems between 1946 and 1979 mainly in two Catholic periodicals: Tygodnik Powszechny and Znak in Cracow - he used the pen names Andrzej Jawien and Stanislaw Andrzej Gruda.

He has also written six plays, numerous essays and several works of philosophy.


Translation from the Polish original
by Jerzy Peterkiewicz ( Copyright © of the translation),
Professor of Polish Literature at St. Andrews University and King's Collegue, University of London until 1980 -
the only English translation authorized by the Vatican.
© 1979, 1982 by Liberia Editrice Vaticana

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So many grew around me, through me,
from my self, as it were.
I became a channel, unleashing a force
called man.
Did not the others crowding in, distort
the man that I am?
Being each of them, always imperfect,
myself to myself too near,
he who survives in me, can he ever
look at himself without fear?

under the Pen Name
Andrzej Jawien
Aktor 1957
under the Pen Name
Andrzej Jawien
Dziewczyna zawiedziona w milosci
Girl Disappointed in Love

With mercury we measure pain
as we measure the heat of bodies and air;
but this is not how to discover our limits—
you think you are the center of things.
If you could only grasp that you are not:
the center is He,
and He, too, finds no love—
why don’t you see?

The human heart—what is it for?
Cosmic temperature. Heart. Mercury.

Shores of Silence

Wybrzeza pelne ciszy, 1944


The distant shores of silence begin
at the door. You cannot fly there
like a bird. You must stop, look deeper, still deeper,
until nothing deflects the soul
from the deepmost deep.

No greenery can now satisfy your sight:
the captive eyes will not come home.
And you thought life would hide you from
the other Life that overhangs the depths.

You must know—there is no return
from this flow, this embrace within the mysterious
beauty of Eternity.
Only endure, endure, do not interrupt
the flight of shadows—only endure
clear and simple—more and more.

Meanwhile you always step aside for Someone
from beyond,
who closes the door of your small room.
His coming softens with each step
and with this silence strikes
the target of the depths.


He is your Friend. Your memory always meanders
back to that morning in winter.
For many years you believed, knew for certain
and still you are lost in wonder.

Bent over a lamp, a sheaf of light in a knot
over your head. You look up no more,
not knowing—is he out there, or
here in the depth of closed eyes?

There, he is there. Only a tremor here,
only words retrieved from nothingness.
Oh—and a particle still remains
of that amazement which will become the essence
of eternity.


As long as you receive the sea,
those waving circles of the sea
into your open eyes,
you feel all depth, every frontier
drowning in you.

But your foot touches a wave
and you think: it is the sea
that dwelt in me,
spreading such calm around, such cool.
Oh, to drown! to be drowned, first leaning out,
then slowly slipping—
you can’t feel steps in the ebb,
trembling you rush down.
A soul, only a human soul sunk in a tiny drop,
the soul snatched into the current.


The element of light is not like this.
The sea soon hides you, melts
into the silent deep.
Then the light breaks, a vertical shaft of reflection
torn from each wave as it trails.
Slowly the sea ends: brightness flows in.

And then, visible from everywhere
in mirrors far and near,
you see your own shadow.
In this Light, how can you hide?
You are not transparent enough
while brightness breathes from every side.

Look into yourself: here is your Friend,
a single spark, yet Luminosity itself
Encompassing this spark within yourself
you see no more,
no longer feel
by what Love you are embraced.


Love explained all for me,
all was resolved by love,
so this love I adore
wherever it may be.

I am open space for a placid tide
where no wave roars, clutching at rainbow branches.
Now a soothing wave uncovers light in the deep
and breathes light onto unsilvered leaves.

In such silence I hide,
a leaf released from the wind,
no longer anxious for the days that fall.
They must all fall, I know.


For long
Someone was leaning over me—
on the line of my eyebrows
his shadow had no weight.
Like a light filled with green,
like green with no shade,
an ineffable green that rests
on drops of blood.

That leaning gesture, both cool and hot,
slides into me, yet stays overhead,
it passes close by, yet turns to faith
and fullness.
That gesture, both cool and hot,
a silent reciprocity.

Locked in such an embrace,
a gentle touch against my face:
then amazement falls,
and silence, the silence without a word,
which comprehends nothing, and the balance is nil.
And in this silence I lift
God’s leaning gesture
above me still.


The Lord taking root in the heart is a flower
that longs for the warmth of the sun,
so flood in light from the day’s inconceivable depths
and lean upon my shore.

Do not bum too close to heaven,
nor burn too far.
You should remember, heart, that gaze
in which all eternity
awaits you, dazed.

My heart, bend down. And bend your coastal towers
you sun, still misty in the depths of eyes,
bend over the unreachable flower,
one rose.


What does it mean that I see that much
in seeing nothing?
When the last bird sinks below the horizon,
and the wave hides it in its glass,
still lower I fall, plunging with the bird
into the tide of cool glass.

The more I strain my sight, the less I see.
Water bends over the sun to bring the reflection nearer,
the farther the shadow divides
the water from the sun,
the farther it divides the sun from my life.

For in the dark there is as much light
as there is life in the open rose,
as there is God descending from the heights
to the shores of the soul.


Slowly I take away from words
their brightness, I round up thoughts
like shadows in herds.
Slowly I infuse all with the nothingness
that waits for the day of creation—

So I can open up space
for your outstretched hands,
so that eternity can come closer
to receive your breath.

Not filled with one day of creation
I desire a far greater nothingness
to bring my heart’s inclination
close to the breath of your Love.


For this moment of strange death
swept by vast tides of eternity,
for the touch of the distant heat
that makes the garden hold its breath—The moment mingles
....with eternity,
the drop embraces the ocean,
and the sun’s stillness in slow motion
falls into this flooded depth.

Is life a wave of wonder higher than death?
Deepest silence, flooded bay, solitary human breast.
Sailing from here into heaven
behold, when you lean out,
under the boat
children’s twittering
mingles with wonder.


I adore you, fragrant hay, because in you
no pride ripens as in ears of corn;
I adore you, fragrant hay, because you cuddled
a barefoot baby, manger-born.

I adore you, rough wood, because I find
no complaint in your fallen leaves;
I adore you, rough wood: you covered His shoulders
with blood-drenched twigs.

And you, pale light of wheat bread, 1 adore.
In you eternity dwells but for a while,
flowing in to our shore
along a secret path.


God has come as far as that,
stopped but a step from nothingness,
so near our eyes.
It seemed to simple hearts,
to open hearts it seemed
that He was lost amidst the ears of corn.

And when the starved disciples husked the grains of wheat,
He waded deeper into the field.
Learn from me, my dear ones, how to hide,
for where I am hidden I abide.

Ears of corn, lofty in your sway,
tell, do you know his hiding place?
Where should we look, tell the way
to find Him in these fertile fields.


God and the universe dwelt at the heart,
but the universe was losing light,
slowly becoming the song of His Reason,
the lowest planet.

I bring you good news of great wonder, Hellenic masters:
it is pointless to watch over existence
which slips out of our hands,
for there is a Beauty more real
concealed in the living blood.

A morsel of bread is more real
than the universe,
more full of existence, more full of the Word—
a song overflowing, the sea,
a mist confusing the sundial—
God in exile.


Son, you will be gone. Before rime began
I saw in your depth
everything that was to be.
Father, love must surge with glory.

Son, look at the swelling ears of corn
on the verge of your luminosity;
one day they will take it from you
when I give your light to the earth.

Look, Father, my eyes
are near to my love,
gazing eternally
at this day bursting with green.

They will take your hands
away from my arms—Son, can you see
this annihilation—when the day comes
I will give your bright light
to the corn on the swelling earth.

Father, my hands lost from your arms
I will weld to a tree
stripped of its green,
and with the pale light of wheat
fill this great brightness
that you change into ears of corn.

When you go, my Son—eternal Love,
who will first hold you in his closest current?

Father, I leave your sun-flooded gaze.
I choose human eyes
and meet their gaze
flooded with the light of wheat.


Standing before You, looking with eyes
in which the routes of stars converge.
Eyes unaware of Him who is in you,
diminishing the immeasurable brightness
in Himself and the stars.

To know even less, to believe even more:
eyelids slowly closing in the trembling light,
then with the strength of sight
push back the stars’ tide, the shore
over which the day hangs.

God, you are so near:
transform our closed eyes into eyes open wide,
encircle the soul’s frail breeze,
rose petals trembling
in mighty wind from every side.


I often think of that day of vision:
it will be filled with amazement
at the Simplicity
that can hold the world.
And the world dwells in it, untouched
until now, and beyond.

And then the simple necessity grows
to a still greater yearning
for that one day
embracing all things
with the immeasurable Simplicity
that love’s breathing can bring.


Take me to Ephraim, Master, let me stay with you there
where the distant shores of silence fall
on the wings of birds,
as the greenness, as the full wave falls
undisturbed by the touch of the oar,
as wide rings spread on the water
not startled by the shadow of fear.

I thank you for giving the soul a place
far removed from the din and clamor,
where your friend is a strange poverty.
You, Immeasurable, take but a little cell,
you love places uninhabited and empty.

You are the Calm, the great Silence,
free me then from the voice.
In the tremor of Your being let me shiver
with the wind,
borne on the ripe ears of corn.

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