TEA AND COMPASSION

After the Manchester terror attack: ‘Local hotels gave free rooms to those affected by the concert explosion, while locals opened their doors offering cups of tea.’ IndependentMay 23, 2017

‘Londoners responded in classic British fashion after a terror attack rocked their city on Saturday evening -- offering cups of tea to those affected.’ CNN June 4, 2017

These reports echo the cycle of poems, A Cup Of Tea, which Maria wrote in 1941 after the Manchester Blitz. Was she inspired by similar headlines at the time?

The poems were recently published in Modern Poetry in Translation (NO.3 2016), and you can find out more here:

http://www.mptmagazine.com/author/maria-pawlikowskajasnorzewska-5978/

http://www.mptmagazine.com/article/basia-howard-translating-maria-pawlikowskajasnorzewska-92/

Dedicating these translations to all those touched by the recent attacks, where a cup of tea again manifested the compassion of ordinary people, we include them here:

A CUP OF TEA

To the bombed, the homeless, the wounded... 

Who will weep for you? Not John and not Mary.
Neither Percy nor William. Not Gladys - nor Sybil
Hardened by the cold and tough as the seagulls.
But a sad woman from Krakow will. She was born next to Wawel castle,
In a country where we were taught to cry our eyes out by the birches,
By the robins in the park, by Chopin, by black cherries.
From a land with a culture of tears, a land of melancholy...

I raise a toast to you with a cup of tea,
I serve you with my grief– my country’s natural resource.

The Wartime Niobe

Alice, the Manchester Niobe, lost her
Entire family, survives alone amidst the rubble
Confused - as the Earth herself would be confused,
Confused and astonished, fazed and hapless,
To see the sudden absence of the sun, moon, planets
Swept from the sky by one brief and horrific tremor...

But this Niobe is no model for sculptors
Because as she strains not to upset or frighten the others
She holds back her gesture of despair and tries to smile,
And she rubs at her face with all her might
To hide the emotion betrayed by her pallor,
And from the hands of her nice friendly neighbours, in silence,
She accepts a cup of merciful tea... 

Ann

When the enemy parachutist after a doomed flight,
Wounded, broken and weak, landed in the meadow
Next to the small house that Ann owned - Ann, the farmer’s wife -
Ann took him prisoner, saying, ‘Sorry’.
She dressed his wounds by the fire and
Seized by mercy poured him a hot cup of tea.

Into the hell of anger, into the furious abyss of the nations,
An absurd ray of light burst, shining into the rubble
Of the Satanic scrapheap... and there arose the scent
Of Biblical balsam... nard from Palestine...

It’s beautiful, the aroma of English tea.

George

George shielded the dog and two children with his body.
Scottie and the babies are alive – but George is dead.

Such kindly arms, whose wide reach protected
Animal and human lives –
Prized so unequally in the world’s eyes –
In the humble wisdom that comes before death.

Someone took the children. Scottie, howling sadly, has been left behind –
Someone is running, bringing – carefully – a cup of tea for George.

(1941)