Wednesday, October 27, 2010


I wrote some time ago about Vermeer's Milkmaid. I have used her for the desktop on my computer.

She pours, and the world endures -- a thought I take from a poem in Nobelist Wislawa Szymborska's new collection, Here (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010).

And here is the poem, in the original Polish (minus accents):

Dopoki ta kobieta z Rijksmuseum
w namalowanej ciszy I skupieniu
mleko z dzbanka do miski
dzien po dniu przelewa,
nie zasluguje Swiat
na koniec swiata.
And translated by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak:
So long as that woman from the Rijksmuseum
in painted quiet and concentration
keeps pouring milk day after day
from the pitcher to the bowl
the World hasn't earned
the world's end.
How does Google Translator do the job?
As long as the woman with the Rijksmuseum
painted in silence and recollection
milk jug into a bowl
day after day are handled,
The world does not deserve
at the end of the world.
Ah, yes, human translators still have the edge. Give Bing's translator a go:
As long as this woman from Rijksmuseum in silence And concentration covered with milk jug to bowls day after day of the Yung JOC zasluguje not credited at the end of the stay worldwide.
Google gets the laurels on this one.

Anyway, there she is. The milk has been curling into the bowl for 352 years, the milkmaid's concentration unbroken. Apocalyptic fervors have come and gone. Nuclear annihilation has so far been averted. We've escaped an Earth-shattering asteroid impact. The milkmaid in her quiet rapture holds the cool pitcher in her hands. The stream of milk is the still axis of the world. The world turns.