Wislawa Szymborska

(2 July 1923 – 1 February 2012 / Prowent)

A Few Words On The Soul - Poem by Wislawa Szymborska

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.


Comments about A Few Words On The Soul by Wislawa Szymborska

  • Mohammed Asim Nehal Mohammed Asim Nehal (1/30/2016 4:46:00 AM)


    This poem is really soulful and thought for mind...10 (Report) Reply

    0 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Douglas Scotney (9/9/2015 9:45:00 PM)


    You're cruel if you kill and twice cruel if you force someone else to. (Report) Reply

  • Kim Barney (9/9/2015 5:54:00 PM)


    John Richter's comment says it all, and says it well.
    Thanks, John. (Report) Reply

  • Kenneth Maswabi Kenneth Maswabi (9/9/2015 3:24:00 PM)


    Surely one of my all time favorite piece of writing. Thank you very much. (Report) Reply

  • John Richter (9/9/2015 11:12:00 AM)


    Wow... This might come to be my favorite poem ever, and I have not previously known of Wislawa... George, this is such a good example of how poetry is defined by the reader, and not the poet... Each reader brings his own emotions into a piece, and thusly this poem glows as one of the most romantic and esoteric pieces I have ever read... The reasons are abound - but just one small example. 'It usually steps out whenever meat needs chopped...' That is a picture which speaks 10,000 words... It is one thing to purchase meat at the grocery store. It is quite another to kill it, disembowel it, remove its skin or feathers, and butcher it into edible pieces of meat. To myself and Wislawa, and most cultures around the world, that act is horrifying to the soul. From American Indians to the Jewish people of the Old Testament, the sacrifice of an animal for eating is revered as a most sacred and holy thing because of that feeling we get inside. And to add 'filling out forms' immediately brought to mind the many things we people do that can be an affront our spiritual sensibilities. The Nazi Death camps for example were run by people who must have left their souls behind in order to follow orders.... Or they did not have souls. Those citizens living in fear of the regime must have left their soul behind when reporting the whereabouts of Jews hiding or those who hid them. They saw all the horrible injustice and blood shed. The body's need for survival is something that can cause the soul to temporarily shut off, exactly as Wislawa described - and so elegantly..... Body and soul are two different things. Wislawa was very in tune with that I think... (Report) Reply

  • Savita Tyagi (9/9/2015 9:17:00 AM)


    it is with us when no one is there. It keeps on looking when no one is looking. it lends a hand when all refuse the band. (Report) Reply

  • George Hill (9/9/2015 8:51:00 AM)


    I think this poem devoud of merit.I stopped reading at line 5. (Report) Reply

  • Ramesh T A Ramesh T A (9/9/2015 3:03:00 AM)


    A new look on soul is wonderfully depicted on this poem (Report) Reply

  • .., Rahman .., Henry .., Rahman .., Henry (9/9/2015 2:59:00 AM)


    Wislawa Szymborska is one of my fabourite poets in world poetry. I've translated 5 of her poems into Bengali in 2010. This one is splendid too. (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

Read all 11 comments »




Read this poem in other languages

This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.

I would like to translate this poem »

word flags

What do you think this poem is about?



Poem Submitted: Friday, February 3, 2012

Poem Edited: Friday, February 3, 2012


[Report Error]