Treasure Island

Wislawa Szymborska

(2 July 1923 – 1 February 2012 / Prowent)

A Few Words on the Soul


We have a soul at times.
No one’s got it non-stop,
for keeps.

Day after day,
year after year
may pass without it.

Sometimes
it will settle for awhile
only in childhood’s fears and raptures.
Sometimes only in astonishment
that we are old.

It rarely lends a hand
in uphill tasks,
like moving furniture,
or lifting luggage,
or going miles in shoes that pinch.

It usually steps out
whenever meat needs chopping
or forms have to be filled.

For every thousand conversations
it participates in one,
if even that,
since it prefers silence.

Just when our body goes from ache to pain,
it slips off-duty.

It’s picky:
it doesn’t like seeing us in crowds,
our hustling for a dubious advantage
and creaky machinations make it sick.

Joy and sorrow
aren’t two different feelings for it.
It attends us
only when the two are joined.

We can count on it
when we’re sure of nothing
and curious about everything.

Among the material objects
it favors clocks with pendulums
and mirrors, which keep on working
even when no one is looking.

It won’t say where it comes from
or when it’s taking off again,
though it’s clearly expecting such questions.

We need it
but apparently
it needs us
for some reason too.

translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

DUSZA


Duszę się miewa.
Nikt nie ma jej bez przerwy i na zawsze.

Dzień za dniem,rok za rokiem
może bez niej minąć.

Czasem tylko w zachwytach
i lękach dzieciństwa
zagnieżdża się na dłużej.
Czasem tylko w zdziwieniu,
że jesteśmy starzy.

Rzadko nam asystuje
podczas zajęć żmudnych,
jak przesuwanie mebli,
dźwiganie walizek,
czy przemierzanie drogi w ciasnych butach.

Przy wypełnianiu ankiet
i siekaniu mięsa
z reguły ma wychodne.

Na tysiąc naszych rozmów uczestniczy w jednej
a i to niekoniecznie, bo woli milczenie.

Kiedy ciało zaczyna nas boleć i boleć,
cichcem schodzi z dyżuru.

Jest wybredna:niechętnie widzi nas w tłumie,
mierzi ją nasza walka o byle przewagę
i terkot interesów.

Radość i smutek
to nie są dla niej dwa różne uczucia.
Tylko w ich połączeniu jest przy nas obecna.

Możemy na nią liczyć
kiedy niczego nie jesteśmy pewni,
a wszystkiego ciekawi.

Z przedmiotów materialnych
lubi zegary z wahadłem
i lustra, które pracują gorliwie,
nawet gdy nikt nie patrzy.

Nie mówi skąd przybywa
i kiedy znowu nam zniknie,
ale wyraźnie czeka na takie pytania.

Wygląda na to,
że tak jak ona nam,
również i my
jesteśmy jej na coś potrzebni.

Submitted: Friday, February 03, 2012
Edited: Friday, February 03, 2012

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  • * Sunprincess * (6/5/2014 8:48:00 PM)

    ...............this is truly a wonderful write.....and thanks dr. tapan kumar pradhan for your enlightening comment as well....read this write twice and definitely adding to my favourites.... (Report) Reply

  • Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan (4/13/2013 1:30:00 PM)

    When I first read this poem, I was puzzled. I thought Wislawa did not believe in the Soul. I discussed the matter with her. Then I got to her point of view. What she means to say here is that too much preoccupation with the intagible will not do us any good. Metaphysical and spiritual concepts are not easily comprehensible to the average person. Philosophers may like to dwell on such dry concepts their whole life, without realising God or Oneness with the creation. Wislawa echoes the call of Swami Vivekananda to the youth to play football rather than contemplate on God. She also echoes the Upanishadic dictum that worship of mere theoretical knowledge leads us to greater darkness.... (Andhah tamah pravisanti ye avidyaam upaasate... tato bhuyah....)

    Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan (disciple of Wislawa) (Report) Reply

  • Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan (4/13/2013 1:28:00 PM)

    When I first read this poem, I was puzzled. I thought Wislawa did not believe in the Soul. I discussed the matter with her. Then I got to her point of view. What she means to say here is that too much preoccupation with the intagible will not do us any good. Metaphysical and spiritual concepts are not easily comprehensible to the average person. Philosophers may like to dwell on such dry concepts their whole life, without realising God or Oneness with the creation. Wislawa echoes the call of Swami Vivekananda to the youth to play football rather than contemplate on God. She also echoes the Upanishadic dictum that worship of mere theoretical knowledge leads us to greater darkness.... (Andhah tamah pravisanti ye avidyaam upaasate... tato bhuyah....)

    Dr Tapan Kumar Pradhan (disciple of Wislawa) (Report) Reply

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