A Contribution to Statistics

A reshare of the poem by Wislawa Szymborska (1923–2012), a polish poet who won the 1996 Nobel Prize for literature. I found this beautiful one on this blog featuring poems gathered by JoAnne Growney. How couldn’t I pin it down on mine? It was beautiful, indeed.

A Contribution to Statistics

Out of every hundred people

those who always know better:
 — fifty-two,

doubting every step
 — nearly all the rest,

glad to lend a hand
if it doesn’t take too long:
 — as high as forty-nine,

always good,
because they can’t be otherwise:
 — four, well maybe five,

able to admire without envy
 — eighteen,

living in constant fear
of someone or something
 — seventy-seven.

capable of happiness:
 — twenty-something tops,

harmless singly,
savage in crowds
 — half at least,

cruel
when forced by circumstances:
 — better not to know,
even b allpark figures,

wise after the fact
 — just a couple more
than wise before it,

taking only things from life
 — forty
(I wish I were wrong),

hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
 — eighty-three
sooner or later,

worthy of compassion
 — ninety-nine.

mortal
 — a hundred out of one hundred.
Thus far this figure still remains unchanged.

- by Wislawa Szymborska

Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak, “A Contribution to Statistics” is on my shelf in Szymborska’s bilingual collection Chwila/Moment (Wydawnictwo Znak, 2003). The original Polish text is available online here and YouTube also offers a video of Szymborska reading this poem.

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