Vox Populi

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Wislawa Szymborska: Utopia

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.

Szymborska in Kraków, Poland, 2011

10 comments on “Wislawa Szymborska: Utopia

  1. Helen (Hillmann) Kwiatkowski
    September 17, 2021

    Only after reading twice did I experience the beauty of this poem. This is a place humankind seeks yet hasn’t yet yielded itself to the masses.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Rose Mary Boehm
    September 10, 2021

    I do admire Szymborska. Thank you, Michael, for posting this.

    “On the left the Lake of Deep Conviction.
    Truth breaks from the bottom and bobs to the surface.”


    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      September 10, 2021

      Thanks, Rose Mary. Yes, Szymborska is one of the greatest poets of our time. Even in translation her poems sing.


  3. Kim Davis
    September 10, 2021

    Unfathomable life–because we are at the depths of our cores, explorers.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Saleh Razzouk
    September 10, 2021

    She is still an alive voice connecting ideals with reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. christineskarbek
    September 10, 2021

    love this lady! and she was a pani (lady) of the first magnitude!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      September 10, 2021

      Yes, and you can read her in the original Polish, Christine! I’m so envious!


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This entry was posted on September 10, 2021 by in Opinion Leaders, Poetry and tagged , .

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