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True Love -- Wislawa Szymborska

Guest poem submitted by Vikram Doctor:
(Poem #694) True Love
 True love. Is it normal
 is it serious, is it practical?
 What does the world get from two people
 who exist in a world of their own?

 Placed on the same pedestal for no good reason,
 drawn randomly from millions but convinced
 it had to happen this way - in reward for what?
    For nothing.
 The light descends from nowhere.
 Why on these two and not on others?
 Doesn't this outrage justice? Yes it does.
 Doesn't it disrupt our painstakingly erected principles,
 and cast the moral from the peak? Yes on both accounts.

 Look at the happy couple.
 Couldn't they at least try to hide it,
 fake a little depression for their friends' sake?
 Listen to them laughing - its an insult.
 The language they use - deceptively clear.
 And their little celebrations, rituals,
 the elaborate mutual routines -
 it's obviously a plot behind the human race's back!

 It's hard even to guess how far things might go
 if people start to follow their example.
 What could religion and poetry count on?
 What would be remembered? What renounced?
 Who'd want to stay within bounds?

 True love. Is it really necessary?
 Tact and common sense tell us to pass over it in silence,
 like a scandal in Life's highest circles.
 Perfectly good children are born without its help.
 It couldn't populate the planet in a million years,
 it comes along so rarely.

 Let the people who never find true love
 keep saying that there's no such thing.

 Their faith will make it easier for them to live and die.
-- Wislawa Szymborska
Translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.

Wislawa Szymborska has got to be one of the best things thrown up by the
Nobel Prize. When she won it in 1996 she wasn't widely known outside Poland.
But in this case the Prize did what it does rarely. It took a break from
honouring well known writers because "they have to get it" or writers who
get it as a political statement rather than because of the quality of their
writing, and gave it to a writer who can simply be enjoyed.

I love her poems to bits. He voice is warm, witty, knowing and human,
mocking, yet life-affirming. Her language is direct and easy to understand.
She's one poet you automatically feel you're friends with. She may not be a
'great' poet and her themes may not be 'great' themes. But she speaks for
all the not-so-great people, who, while all the great people are making
history, simply have to get on with their lives. I strongly recommend buying
'View With A Grain Of Sand' which is a book of her selected poems.

This is a typical Wislawa poem. She takes the figure of the troooo luvvers
and looks at them through the eyes of the Outraged and Earnest Majority,
asking Is This A Good Thing? What Does It Mean For Society? Should It Be
Encouraged? And let's admit here that there are probably bits of the
Outraged and Earnest Majority in us because let's be honest, haven't some
these thoughts occurred to us as well? I mean, maybe it's envy, maybe
exasperation, but haven't we all looked at some eyes-only-for-each-other
couple and muttered, "God look at them, can't they get over it!"

Wislawa builds on these human if dishonourable feelings and takes them to
the extremes of such pompous statements as "It couldn't populate the planet
in a million years". All the people in the Earnest Majority, who are never
going to know true love are told to keep insisting it's not possible.

And then with her last line she undermines it all. Such people may feel the
need to keep believing this, but this simply affirms the reality of love.
"Their faith will make it easier for them to live and die". The harder you
need to not believe in love, in order not to be depressed by its lack for
you, the stronger in reality you affirm its importance.


19 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Amit Chakrabarti said...

Depressingly accurate observations.

Anonymous said...

this is a great poem. i love it.
i think your a great poet,in my opinion. just as i think shel silverstein is one too. :]

rima said...

very good indeed.......

Anonymous said...

This my favourite poema of Szymborska, so unfortunately true...

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Anonymous said...

May the Mozart of Poetry forever rest in peace.

babak said...

human without love is a garden without color...

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