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Island where all becomes clear. Solid ground beneath your feet. The only roads are those that offer access. Bushes bend beneath the weight of proofs. The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here with branches disentangled since time immemorial. The Tree of Understanding, dazzlingly straight and simple, sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It. The thicker the woods, the vaster the vista: the Valley of Obviously. If any doubts arise, the wind dispels them instantly. Echoes stir unsummoned and eagerly explain all the secrets of the worlds. On the right a cave where Meaning lies. On the left the Lake of Deep Conviction. Truth breaks from the bottom and bobs to the surface. Unshakable Confidence towers over the valley. Its peak offers an excellent view of the Essence of Things. For all its charms, the island is uninhabited, and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches turn without exception to the sea. As if all you can do here is leave and plunge, never to return, into the depths. Into unfathomable life.
From “A large number”, 1976. Translated by S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh Copyright © Wislawa Szymborska, S. Baranczak & C. Cavanagh. Included in Vox Populi by permission of C. Cavanagh.
Maria Wisława Anna Szymborska (1923 – 2012) was a Polish poet, essayist, translator and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature. Born in Prowent, which has since become part of Kórnik, she later resided in Kraków until the end of her life. In Poland, Szymborska’s books have reached sales rivaling prominent prose authors’, though she wrote in a poem, “Some Like Poetry” (“Niektórzy lubią poezję”) that perhaps two in a thousand people like poetry.