Zbigniew Herbert

Here you will find the Poem The Monster of Mr Cogito of poet Zbigniew Herbert

The Monster of Mr Cogito


Lucky Saint George 
from his knight's saddle 
could exactly evaluate 
the strength and movements of the dragon 

the first principle of strategy 
is to assess the enemy accurately 

Mr Cogito 
is in a worse position 
he sits in the low 
saddle of a valley 
covered with thick fog 

through fog it is impossible to perceive 
fiery eyes 
greedy claws 

through fog 
one sees only 
the shimmering of nothingness

the monster of Mr Cogito 
has no measurements 
it is difficult to describe 
escapes definition 

it is like an immense depression 
spread out over the country 

it can't be pierced 
with a pen 

with an argument 
or spear 

were it not for its suffocating weight 
and the death it sends down 
one would think 
it is the hallucination 
of a sick imagination 
but it exists 
for certain it exists 

like carbon monoxide it fills 
houses temples markets 

poisons wells 
destroys the structures of the mind 
covers bread with mould 

the proof of the existence of the monster 
is its victims 

it is not direct proof 
but sufficient


reasonable people say 
we can live together 
with the monster 

we only have to avoid 
sudden movements 
sudden speech 

if there is a threat assume 
the form of a rock or a leaf 

listen to wise Nature 
recommending mimicry 

that we breathe shallowly 
pretend we aren't there 

Mr Cogito however 
does not want a life of make-believe 
he would like to fight 
with the monster 
on firm ground 

so he walks out at dawn 
into a sleepy suburb 
carefully equipped 
with a long sharp object 

he calls to the monster 
on the empty streets 
he offends the monster 
provokes the monster 

like a bold skirmisher 
of an army that doesn't exist 

he calls - 
come out contemptible coward 

through the fog 
one sees only 
the huge snout of nothingness

Mr Cogito wants to enter 
the uneven battle 
it ought to happen 
possibly soon 

before there is 
a fall from inertia 
an ordinary death without glory 
suffocation from formlessness