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A Contribution to Statistics -- Wislawa Szymborska

Guest poem sent in by Sashidhar Dandamudi
(Poem #1267) A Contribution to Statistics
 Out of a hundred people

 those who always know better
 -fifty-two

 doubting every step
 -nearly all the rest,

 glad to lend a hand
 if it doesn't take too long
 -as high as forty-nine,

 always good
 because they can't be otherwise
 -four, well maybe five,

 able to admire without envy
 -eighteen,

 suffering illusions
 induced by fleeting youth
 -sixty, give or take a few,

 not to be taken lightly
 -forty and four,

 living in constant fear
 of someone or something
 -seventy-seven,

 capable of happiness
 -twenty-something tops,

 harmless singly, savage in crowds
 -half at least,

 cruel
 when forced by circumstances
 -better not to know
 even ballpark figures,

 wise after the fact
 -just a couple more
 than wise before it,

 taking only things from life
 -thirty
 (I wish I were wrong),

 hunched in pain,
 no flashlight in the dark
 -eighty-three
 sooner or later,

 righteous
 -thirty-five, which is a lot,

 righteous
 and understanding
 -three,

 worthy of compassion
 -ninety-nine,

 mortal
 -a hundred out of a hundred.
 thus far this figure still remains unchanged.
-- Wislawa Szymborska
Comments:

Since today's poem by Seth (Poem #1226) to me read like a "listing", I
remembered this poem by Szymborska (phew! they should ask this in a
Spelling Bee), which I was reading the other night from the latest
anthology of the Favorite Poem Project. Well, no more commentry because
the poem speaks for itself.

Sashi

54 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Flower Child said...

Can someone explain "taking only things from life"? I don't understand.

~Sonya

John K. Taber said...

> Szymborska (phew! they should ask this in a Spelling Bee),

Hello Sashi.

Szymborska's last name is not difficult. Polish
represents the "sh" sound with "sz", and the
"ch" sound with "cz".

The "y" in her name I suspect is difficult. But it's
ok as "shimborska."

The "a" ending is feminine, and prevalent in Slavic
names.

And her first name I never got straight. The "l"
has a slash through it in Polish. I have heard it
pronounced, but can't reproduce it.

I love her poems.

John K. Taber

lists said...

"Flower Child" <sonya.j.sowerby@> Sonya posted:

Can someone explain "taking only things from life"? I don't understand.

This line, in Joanna Trzeciak's translation, says:

"Getting nothing out of life except things:
thirty
(though I would like to be wrong)."

Although I generally like the translations by Stanislaw Baranczak and
Clare Cavanagh, it's worth checking Trzeciak's and any others you can
find. Szymborska is a poet I've only recently discovered, and she is
a marvel. Wry, witty, ironic, at times fierce---there are wonderful
depths once you get past the deceptively simply surface of her poems.

Check out "A Moment in Troy," among many others.

George

Jedrek said...

On spelling Szymborska's name - L should be crossed, which makes it a
sound like W in words like 'we', 'welcome', 'words' etc. , or u in
'suede'. Y in her second name is difficult to explain to an
English-speaking person, it is a hard I. Transcripted into English
phonetics it could be somethink like Veesuava Shimborska.

It is not a difficult word. Try chrzaszcz (a beetle), Szczebrzeszyn
(name of a city) and skrzypce (violin).

Greetings,
Jedrek

Saleh Razzouk said...

It seemed to me that Wislawa Szymborska is a lady of command on cold words. Not for she does not anchor hers in a the heart, but for the machine of both , reason and conscious are responsible for the production process emotionally , and in a later step for rehabilitation of elements into a coloured , deep and ariny world.

Saleh Razzouk ( Journalist )

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i plan to use a line from this poem for my next tattoo...

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Anonymous said...

Everybody seems to just get this poem but I don't? What is she saying?

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