A Poem Worthy of Our Attention: “Brief Thoughts on Maps” by Miroslav Holub

The Alps, not the Pyrenees. Image source
The poem below was mentioned in the book I posted about earlier, The Idle Traveller by Dan Kieran. I love poems that inspire me, or cause me to smile unexpectedly, and this poem certainly delivers. I’d like to find more of Holub’s work. His poems – originally written in Czech – were often influenced by his work as an immunologist; certainly interesting to consider.
Brief Thoughts on Maps

“The young lieutenant of a small Hungarian detachment in the Alps
sent a reconnaissance unit out onto the icy wasteland.
It began to snow
snowed for two days and the unit
did not return.
The lieutenant suffered:
he had dispatched
his own people to death.

But the third day the unit came back.
Where had they been? How had they made their way?
Yes, they said, we considered ourselves
lost and waited for the end. And then one of us
found a map in his pocket. That calmed us down.
We pitched camp, lasted out the snowstorm and then with the map
we discovered our bearings.
And here we are.

The lieutenant borrowed this remarkable map
and had a good look at it. It was not a map of the Alps
but of the Pyrenees”

Miroslav Holub. TLS, Feb 4, ’77


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