Oscar Milosz

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Oscar Vladislas de Lubicz Milosz
Oskaras Milašius.jpg
Oscar Vladislas de Lubicz Milosz
Born (1877-05-28)May 28, 1877
Čareja (near Mogilev in present day Belarus)
Died March 2, 1939(1939-03-02) (aged 61)
Cause of death Heart Attack
Nationality Lithuanian / French
Other names Lithuanian: Oskaras Milašius
Education École des langues orientales
Occupation Poet, Playwright, Diplomat

Oscar Vladislas de Lubicz Milosz (Lithuanian: Oskaras Milašius) (May 28, 1877 – March 2, 1939) was a French-Lithuanian[1][2] poet, playwright, essayist and representative of Lithuania at the League of Nations.[2] His literary career — as manifested through his many poems, two novels and three plays — passed from its beginnings in the late symbolist movement of la Belle Époque towards a highly personal and dense Christian cosmology comparable to that of Dante and Milton. A recluse and metaphysician, his poems were visionary and tormented, concerned with love and loneliness and full of alchemical imagery.[3] He was a distant cousin of Polish writer Czesław Miłosz, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 1980.


I am a Lithuanian poet, writing in French[4]

— Oscar Milosz

Oscar Milosz was born in Čareja (near Mogilev in present-day Belarus). Earlier these lands had belonged to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and later to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, but at the time was part of the Russian Empire. It was here that he spent his childhood. He was baptized on July 2, 1886, at St. Alexander's Church in Warsaw. His father, Vladislas de Lubicz Milosz, was a former officer in the Russian army and his mother, Marie Rosalie Rosenthal, was a Polish Jew from Warsaw. His parents did not marry until Oscar Milosz was 17. In 1889, Milosz's parents placed him at the Lycée Janson de Sailly in Paris. He began writing poems in 1894 and started to frequent artistic circles, meeting Oscar Wilde and Jean Moréas. After finishing at the Lycée, he enrolled at the École des langues orientales, where he studied Syriac and Hebrew.

His first book of verse, Le Poème des Décadences, appeared in 1899. Milosz travelled widely in Europe and North Africa and explored many foreign literatures. He was an excellent linguist and was fluent in English, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian and Polish, as well as being able to read Latin and Hebrew. Later in life, he would learn Lithuanian and Basque too. He chose to write his works in French.

On December 14, 1914, following on an intensive reading of the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, Milosz experienced an illumination, a divine vision that he described to one of his friends as "I have seen the spiritual sun."[5] On the wake of this vision, his poetry became more hermetic and more mature. He began the study of alchemy, the Kabbalah, Jacob Boehme, Paracelsus, the history of secret esoteric orders. At the same time, he engaged in Catholic meditative practices.[6]

In 1916, during World War I, Milosz was conscripted to the Russian division of the French army and was assigned to the press corps. Here he learned about the growing movement for Lithuanian independence. By the end of the war when both Lithuania and Poland were effectively independent again, Milosz chose to identify with Lithuania - even though he did not yet speak Lithuanian — because he believed that it had been the original homeland of his ancestors in the 13th century. After the Russian revolution of 1917, Milosz's estate at Čareja came under Soviet control and was seized by the Bolsheviks. In 1920 when France recognized the independence of Lithuania, he was appointed officially as Chargé d'Affaires for the new state. In 1931 he became a French citizen and was awarded the Légion d'honneur.

Ill with cancer, he died of a heart attack at his house in Fontainebleau in 1939.[7]


Milosz collected Lithuanian folk tales, and wrote fiction, drama, and essays. Largely neglected during his lifetime, Milosz has increasingly come to be considered as an important figure in French poetry. ″He tried to integrate into Christian metaphysics the mystical writings of the Kabbalah, Neoplatonic tradition, and other Hermetic sciences. In this regard, Milosz considered himself the disciple and follower of Renaissance alchemists. In a letter of 1926 to James Chouvet, he confesses that "... studies taught me the only thing they could, namely, that the truth is one and that some respect and love are enough to discover it in the depths of our consciousness. "″.[8]

Some of his works in French:

  • 1899 : Le Poème des Décadences (poetry)
  • 1906 : Les Sept Solitudes (poetry)
  • 1910 : L'Amoureuse Initiation (novel)
  • 1911 : Les Éléments (poetry)
  • 1913 : Miguel Mañara. Mystère en six tableaux. (play)
  • 1915 : Poèmes
  • 1917 : Épitre à Storge (first part of Ars Magna)
  • 1918 : Adramandoni (six poems)
  • 1919 : Méphisobeth (play)
  • 1922 : La Confession de Lemuel
  • 1924 : Ars Magna (philosophy)
  • 1926-27 : Les Arcanes (poetry)
  • 1930 : Contes et Fabliaux de la vieille Lithuanie (translation of folk tales)
  • 1932 : Origines ibériques du peuple juif (essay)
  • 1933 : Contes lithuaniens de ma Mère l'Oye (translation of folk tales)
  • 1936 : Les Origines de la nation lithuanienne (essay)
  • 1938 : La Clef de l'Apocalypse

Works translated into English:

  • 1928, a collection of 26 Lithuanian songs
  • 1930 Lithuanian Tales and Stories
  • 1933 Lithuanian Tales
  • 1937 The origin of the Lithuanian Nation, in which he tried to persuade the reader that Lithuanians have the same origin as Jews from the Iberian Peninsula.
  • 1952 The Fourteen Poems of O.V. De L. Milosz, translated by Kenneth Rexroth with illustrations by Edward Hagedorn
  • 1985 The Noble Traveller: The Life and Writings of Oskar Milosz, ed. Christopher Bamford (Lindisfarne Press)
  • 1993 Poems of Milosz, translated by David Gascoyne (Enitharmon Pamphlets, 1993); reprinted in Selected Verse Translations, David Gascoyne (Enitharmon Press, 1996)

Opera based on his poems:


  1. ^ A century's witness. Retrieved 2009-12-23
  2. ^ a b Czesław Miłosz, Cynthia L. Haven. Czesław Miłosz. 2006p.203
  3. ^ a b "Scottish Arts Council - Books of Silence". Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  4. ^ Oskaras Milašius, 1877-1939. retrieved on 2009-03-10
  5. ^ Bamford (ed.), 1985, p. 449.
  6. ^ Buzaite, Saule, ″Psychobiography: Oskaras Milašius″, Lituanus (Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences), vol. 46, no. 4, Winter 2000.
  7. ^ "Biography of Oscar Milosz". Retrieved 2008-02-13. 
  8. ^ Buzaite, S., ″Psychobiography″.
  • Bamford, C. (ed. ), The Noble Traveler: The Life and Writings of O. V. de L. Milosz. New York: Inner Tradition Lindisfarne Press, 1985.
  • La Berline arrêtée dans la nuit: Anthologie poétique, ed. Jean-Baptiste Para with a preface by Jean-Bellemin Noël and an afterword by Czesław Miłosz (Poésie/Gallimard, Paris, 1999)
  • Kavaliūnas, Jolita, ″O. V. de L. Milosz and Certain Aspects of His Work″, Lituanus (Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences), vol. 23, no. 2, Summer 1977.
  • Native Realm by Czeslaw Milosz(1959)
  • The Land of Ulro by Czeslaw Milosz (1977)
  • "Oskar Milosz and the Vision of the Cosmos." Temenos 6 (1985) : 284-297, by Philip Sherrard.
  • Human Image: World Image. Ipswich, England: Golgonooza Press (1992), by Philip Sherrard.

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