From his early years as a quarry worker, seminary student, and priest, Karol Wojtyla--the man who would become Pope John Paul II--wrote poetry. For years his verses were published under pseudonyms in Poland until his election as pope, when they were identified and published around the world. Below is a selection of his poems from the book "The Place Within: The Poetry of Pope John Paul II" (Random House, 1994).

Over This Your White Grave
Over this your white grave
the flowers of life in white-
so many years without you-
how many have passed out of sight?

Over this your white grave
covered for years, there is a stir
in the air, something uplifting
and, like death, beyond comprehension.

Over this your white grave
oh, mother, can such loving cease?
for all his filial adoration
a prayer:
Give her eternal peace-

-Cracow, spring 1939

Song of the Brightness of Water
From this depth-I came only to draw water
in a jug-so long ago, this brightness
still clings to my eyes-the perception I found,
and so much empty space, my own
reflected in the well.

Yet it is good. I can never take all of you
into me. Stay then as a mirror in the well.
Leaves and flowers remain, and each astonished gaze
brings them down
to my eyes transfixed more by light
Than by sorrow.


So many grew around me, through me,
from my self, as it were.
I became a channel, unleashing a force
called man.
Did not the others crowding in, distort
the man that I am?
Being each of them, always imperfect,
myself to myself too near,
he who survives in me, can he ever
look at himself without fear?

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