A Byzantine Mosaic


“O Theotropia, my empress consort.”


“O Theodendron, my consort emporer.”


“How fair thou art, my hollow-cheeked beloved.”


“How fine art thou, blue-lipped spouse.


“Thou art so wondrous frail

beneath thy bell-like gown,

the alarum of which, if but removed,

would waken all my kingdom.”


“How excellently mortified thou art,

my lord and master,

to mine own shadow a twinnèd shade.”


“Oh how it pleaseth me

To see my lady’s palms,

Like unto palm leaves verily,

clasped to her mantle’s throat.”


“Wherewith, raised heavenward,

I would pray thee mercy for our son,

For he is not such as we, O Theodendron.”


“Heaven forfend, O Theotropia.

pray, what might he be,

begotten and brought forth

in godly dignity?”


‘I will confess anon, and thou shalt hear me.

Not a princeling but a sinner have I borne thee.

Pink and shameless as a piglet,

plump and merry, verily,

all chubby wrists and ringlets came he

rolling unto us.”


“He is roly-poly?”


“That he is.”


“He is voracious?”


“Yes, in truth.”


“His skin is milk and roses?”


“As thou sayest.”


“What, pray, does our archimandrite say,

a man of most penetrating gnosis?

What say our consecrated eremites,

most holy skeletesses?

How should they strip the fiendish infant

of his swaddling silks?”


“Metamorphosis miraculous

still lies within our Saviour’s power.

Yet thou, on spying

the babes unsightliness,

shalt not cry oyt

and rouse the sleeping demon from his rest?”


Wisława Szymborska              

(from No End of Fun 1967)

“I am thy twin in horror.

Lead on, Theotropia.”