Adam Zagajewski

Try to Praise the Mutilated World by Adam Zagajewski

‘Try to Praise the Mutilated World’ by Adam Zagajewski focuses on the most important ways that people can find happiness in their everyday lives. They can step out into nature or return to memories.

Nature and memories can be a source of happiness during troubling times, looking at past events and remembering the joy associated with them. Although things can, and will, go wrong, it is important to always focus on finding positives.

Try to Praise the Mutilated World by Zagajewski


The poem begins with ‘try’, suggesting that ‘to praise the mutilated world’ is something that must be worked at. Yet, this balance changes throughout the poem, ending with the imperative command ‘Praise the mutilated world.” After giving an example after example of moments where things aren’t perfect and can go wrong, Zagajewski asks the reader to be happy for what they have, and find positivity in those harder moments.

Structure and Form

Zagajewski’s Try to Praise the Mutilated World is split into 21 lines, with no continuous rhyme scheme or perceivable rhythm. It is written in one single stanza.

The final line is shorter than the rest of Try to Praise the Mutilated World, only measuring two words. This places emphasis on the last idea of the poem, the image of light always returning. This reflects the idea that although things may seem bad at the moment, the light will always return, things will go back to normal, and there will be happiness again.

You can read the full poem here.

Literary Devices

There is frequent employment of caesura within Try to Praise the Mutilated World, with Adam Zagajewski disrupting the meter, causing a stalled and jittery rhythm. This interruption, but with the poem always continuing, could be a reflection of how Zagajewski is asking us to focus on the good things within the bad, although they may be unsightly and odd. The caesura can be understood as a representation of the bad, with the drive to continue an echo of the message that bids the reader to find positives in life.

Try to Praise the Mutilated World Analysis

Lines 1-3

Try to praise the mutilated world.
and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.

Try to Praise the Mutilated World begins by echoing the title, and the poet asks us to ‘praise the mutilated world’ to find beautiful things within chaos, disorder, and darkness. The first word of the poem, ‘try,’ suggests that this is not an easy thing to do. It must be worked at, a skill to be developed. Indeed, the choice of ‘mutilated’ shows how distraught situations can be, with the destruction implied by choice of word elevating the sense of chaos the first line holds.

Zagajewski then follows this plea by reminding the reader of the good parts of the world, ‘June’s long days / and wild strawberries, drops of rosé wine.’ All these images compound a sense of the world’s beauty, the focus on ‘wild strawberries’ looking at nature as a source of both nourishment but also happiness. Indeed, it seems that Zagajewski focuses mainly on Summer as a season, with ‘June’s long days’ looking at days filled with light.

Lines 4-5

The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.

The first negative image of Try to Praise the Mutilated World arrives swiftly after the elevation of summer. The focus on ‘nettles’ that grow over ‘the abandoned homesteads of exiles’ is an image of nature overtaking manmade objects. The domination of man over nature at first seems threatening. Yet, there is an order in this chaos, the use of ‘methodically’ suggesting that Zagajewski finds peace in how orderly and practiced this movement is. Although something bad, Zagajewski demonstrates how to find peace in the chaos. Even in his negative images, he finds elements of hope.

Lines 6 – 9

You must praise the mutilated world.
while salty oblivion awaited others.

Line 6 shows the first change in the repeating chime throughout the poem, ‘praise the mutilated world’ now changed from the first line’s ‘Try to’ to ‘You must.’ The command becomes much more direct, with Zagajewski suggesting that this is something imperative that ‘must’ be followed.

He touches on a sense of jealousy, the ‘stylish yachts, and ships that sail away being ‘watched’ in Try to Praise the Mutilated World. Yet, things can go badly, even for beautiful things in life – ’salty oblivion’ awaits some of the boats leaving the harbor, their sinking showing the downfall of beauty. Indeed, out of all the boats, only ‘one of them had a long trip ahead of it,’ suggesting that the jealously at the leaving boats is totally misplaced. It is better to be content with what you have rather than focus your energy on jealousy and wanting more.

Lines 10-12

You’ve seen the refugees going nowhere,
You should praise the mutilated world.

There are people in worst situations than you, ‘refugees going nowhere, unable to go home, and unable to find a new place to be. The displacement is starkly contrasted against the earlier riches of ‘stylish yacht,’ showing the spectrum of unbalanced wealth within the world.

Even ‘executioners’ can find elements of joy in their words, ‘sing[ing] joyfully’ while they work. Zagajewski is showing examples of situations in which people make the most of their situation, indeed ‘praising the mutilated world.’

Lines 13-15

Remember the moments when we were together
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.

These lines focus on a happy memory, the poet recalling when “we were together.” The ‘white room’ can be understood as a symbol of happiness, ‘white’ here reflecting purity and joy. The slight ‘flutter’ of the ‘curtain’ suggests a light breeze. Zagajewski is drawing upon different senses, sight, and touch, to expand the impact of his poetry, displaying the two people in a state of contentment.

The ‘flared’ ‘music’ is a reference to some sort of party, with the joyous scene being another that Zagajewski uses to present the beauty of life. He consistently wants to remind the reader of the positive parts of life. Although this is a memory, ‘Remember,’ it is something that can be happy again – situations can improve and change, going back to something better.

Lines 16-17

Zagajewski uses these lines to present another happy memory, using it as a spark of joy during a darker time. The ‘autumn’ ‘park’ is a beautiful scene, Zagajewski remembering when ‘you gathered acorns.’ This moment of peace is another scene that draws upon nature for happiness. The poet is using the beauty of nature and the moments associated with it as something which inspires him to continue.

Lines 20-21

and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

The ‘gentle light’ reflects happiness, ‘light’ being a symbol of good. Indeed, the fact it ‘strays and vanishes /and returns’ is the meaning of the poem condensed into a single image. Happiness comes, goes, and comes back again. Although you might be passing through a bad moment right now, it is exactly just that, a bad moment, one that will pass and transform into something better.

The separation of ‘and vanishes / and returns’ through the beginning a new line shows a time separation between happy and sad events. The sentence is connected as there is no grammatical break, showing that bad situations can quickly change. Yet, due to the line separation, the time it takes for this change to happen is unknown. Zagajewski rallies his point, suggesting that perseverance is key during these darker moments.

The use of polysyndeton, with the repetition of ‘and’, shows how these moments are always shifting. The bad is connected to the good, which is only a pace away from reverting again. Circumstances can change; Zagajewski wants us to remember this. However, even in bad moments, we must find happiness, and find ways to ‘Praise the mutilated world’.

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Jack Limebear Poetry Expert
Jack is undertaking a degree in World Literature and joined the Poem Analysis team in 2019. Poetry is the intersection of his greatest passions, languages and literature, with his focus on translation bridging the gap.
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