AND GLOSS ON A POEM
by WISŁAWA SZYMBORSKA
(1923 - 2012)
In Praise of Human Self-Disparagement
vulture ever holds itself to blame
The panther never feels morally unclean
When the piranha bites, it has no shame
A snake is quite incapable of being mean
jackal has no conception of remorse
Locusts dont intend to devastate
And crocodiles dont slay because of hate
hearts of killer whales weigh half a ton
in terms of guilt they're feather-light
this third planet of the sun
the important difference between beasts and us
Is that only we act out of spite.
Translated by Anthony
Note that the original hardly rhymes.
here for the original Polish >
people like poetry.
that means not all. Not at all.
Not even the majority. Only a minority.
Not counting schools, where it's obligatory.
As for poets: maybe two in a thousand will be poets
- or, rather, will be called poets by some people.
are strange animals, amorphous,
inscrutable, a slippery mass of other,
like sperm or frogspawn, yet I - although
alien - am counted inexorably amongst them,
not counted as
anyone so significant as a poet.
people like chicken noodle soup,
people like compliments
some like the colour blue, others an old scarf,
some like to prove a point,
some like to stroke a dog
some like to commit violence in fog.
The question of what poetry might be
not even a half-substantial answer.
I think there's much less of it about
than publishers and the academics
who feed off that trade
fondly imagine. I know it when I feel it
(which is rarely), and I treat it like damage
to a flimsy balustrade.
by Anthony Weir, 2012
second stanza is an interpolation.)
you, WisŁawa Szymborska, for the first two lines)
owe so much
to people I don't love
to people I don't know
could not have known
will never know
I even owe something
to people I rather dislike
this is probably
a billion people's fate.
ADAPTATIONS & TRANSLATIONS
by ANTHONY WEIR