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The Fable About A Nail

For lack of a nail the kingdom has fallen —according to the wisdom of nursery schools—but in our kingdom there have been no nails for a long time there aren’t and won’t be either the small ones for hanging a picture on a wall or large ones for closing a coffin but despite this or maybe because of it the kingdom persists and is even admired by others how can one live without a nail paper or string bricks oxygen freedom and whatever else obviously one can since the kingdom lasts and lasts people live in homes in our country not in caves factories smoke on the steppe a train runs through the tundra and a ship bleats on the cold ocean there is an army and police an official seal hymn and flag in appearance everything like anywhere in the world but only in appearance for our kingdom is not a creation of nature or a human creation seemingly permanent built on the bones of mammoths in reality it is weak as if brought to a stop between act and thought being and nonbeing         what is real—a leaf and a stone—falls         but spectres live long obstinately despite         the rising and setting of the sun revolutions of heavenly bodies         on the shamed earth fall the tears of objects

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Zbigniew Herbert

Zbigniew Herbert (29 October 1924 – 28 July 1998) was a Polish poet, essayist, drama writer and moralist. He is one of the best known and the mo…

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