mtop9705 picture
m_rub_po picture


by Wislawa Szymborska
(translated from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak)
Go to:
An Audible Anthology
Poetry Pages

Out of every hundred people,

those who always know better:

Unsure of every step:
almost all the rest.

Ready to help,
if it doesn't take long:

Always good,
because they cannot be otherwise:
four -- well, maybe five.

Able to admire without envy:

Led to error
by youth (which passes):
sixty, plus or minus.

Those not to be messed with:

Living in constant fear
of someone or something:

Capable of happiness:
twenty-some-odd at most.

Harmless alone,
turning savage in crowds:
more than half, for sure.

when forced by circumstances:
it's better not to know,
not even approximately.

Wise in hindsight:
not many more
than wise in foresight.

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

Balled up in pain
and without a flashlight in the dark:
eighty-three, sooner or later.

Those who are just:
quite a few, thirty-five.

But if it takes effort to understand:

Worthy of empathy:

one hundred out of one hundred --
a figure that has never varied yet.

Wislawa Szymborska won the 1996 Nobel Prize for literature. Her most recent book in English is View With a Grain of Sand (1995). She lives in Krakow, Poland. Joanna Trzeciak, the translator of Szymborska's poem in this issue, is currently at work on a collection of translations of Szymborska's poetry.

Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; May 1997; A Word on Statistics; Volume 279, No. 5; page 68.

m_nv_cv picture m_nv_un picture m_nv_am picture m_nv_pr picture m_nv_as picture m_nv_se picture