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wislawa szymborska Quotes

Wislawa Szymborska Quotes

Birth Date: 1923-07-02 (Monday, July 2nd, 1923)



    • They say the first sentence in any speech is always the hardest. Well, that one's behind me, anyway.
    • Contemporary poets are skeptical and suspicious even, or perhaps especially, about themselves. They publicly confess to being poets only reluctantly, as if they were a little ashamed of it. But in our clamorous times it's much easier to acknowledge your faults, at least if they're attractively packaged, than to recognize your own merits, since these are hidden deeper and you never quite believe in them yourself.
    • Inspiration is not the exclusive privilege of poets or artists. There is, there has been, there will always be a certain group of people whom inspiration visits. It's made up of all those who've consciously chosen their calling and do their job with love and imagination. It may include doctors, teachers, gardeners - I could list a hundred more professions. Their work becomes one continuous adventure as long as they manage to keep discovering new challenges in it. Difficulties and setbacks never quell their curiosity. A swarm of new questions emerges from every problem that they solve. Whatever inspiration is, it's born from a continuous 'I don't know.'
    • Any knowledge that doesn't lead to new questions quickly dies out: it fails to maintain the temperature required for sustaining life.
    • 'There's nothing new under the sun': that's what you wrote, Ecclesiastes. But you yourself were born new under the sun. And the poem you created is also new under the sun, since no one wrote it down before you. And all your readers are also new under the sun, since those who lived before you couldn't read your poem. And that cypress under which you're sitting hasn't been growing since the dawn of time. It came into being by way of another cypress similar to yours, but not exactly the same.
    • The world - whatever we might think when terrified by its vastness and our own impotence, or embittered by its indifference to individual suffering, of people, animals, and perhaps even plants, for why are we so sure that plants feel no pain; whatever we might think of its expanses pierced by the rays of stars surrounded by planets we've just begun to discover, planets already dead? still dead? we just don't know; whatever we might think of this measureless theater to which we've got reserved tickets, but tickets whose lifespan is laughably short, bounded as it is by two arbitrary dates; whatever else we might think of this world - it is astonishing.
    • Granted, in daily speech, where we don't stop to consider every word, we all use phrases like 'the ordinary world,' 'ordinary life,' 'the ordinary course of events'... But in the language of poetry, where every word is weighed, nothing is usual or normal. Not a single stone and not a single cloud above it. Not a single day and not a single night after it. And above all, not a single existence, not anyone's existence in this world. It looks like poets will always have their work cut out for them.
    • I'm working on the world, revised, improved edition, featuring fun for fools blues for brooders, combs for bald pates, tricks for old dogs.
    • Toy balloon once kidnapped by the wind - come home, and I will say: There are no children here.
    • They were or they weren't. On an island or not. An ocean or not an ocean Swallowed them up or it didn't.
    • Our snakes have shed their lightning, our apes their flights of fancy, our peacocks have renounced their plumes. The bats flew out of our hair long ago. We fall silent in mid-sentence, all smiles, past help. Our humans don't know how to talk to one another.
    • I am too close for him to dream of me. I don't flutter over him, don't flee him beneath the roots of trees. I am too close. The caught fish doesn't sing with my voice. The ring doesn't roll from my finger. I am too close.
    • My cry could only waken him. And what a poor gift: I, confined to my own form, when I used to be a birch, a lizard shedding times and satin skins in many shimmering hues.
    • In Heraclitus' river a fish has imagined the fish of all fish, a fish kneels to the fish, a fish sings to the fish, a fish begs the fish to ease its fishy lot.
    • I, the solitary fish, a fish apart (apart at least from the tree fish and the stone fish), write, at isolated moments, a tiny fish or two whose glittering scales, so fleeting, may only be the dark's embarrassed wink.
    • No other sense can make up for your missing sense of taking part. Even sight heightened to become all-seeing will do you no good without a sense of taking part. You shall not enter, you have only a sense of what the sense should be, only its seed, imagination.
    • I knock at the stone's front door. 'It's only me, let me come in.' 'I don't have a door,' says the stone.
    • Born. So he was born, too. Born like everyone else. Like me, who will die. The son of an actual woman. A new arrival from the body's depths. A voyager to Omega.
    • Our stockpile of antiquity grows constantly, it's overflowing, reckless squatters jostle for a place in history, hordes of sword fodder, Hector's nameless extras, no less brave than he, thousands upon thousands of singular faces, each the first and last for all time, in each a pair of inimitable eyes. How easy it was to live not knowing this, so sentimental, so spacious.
    • I remember it so clearly - how people, seeing me, would break off in midword. Laughter died. Lovers' hands unclasped. Children ran to their mothers. I didn't even know their short-lived names. And that song about a little green leaf - no one ever finished it near me.
    • I'm sorry that my voice was hard. Look down on yourselves from the stars, I cried, look down on yourselves from the stars. They heard me and lowered their eyes.
    • Yes, she loved him very much. Yes, he was born that way. Yes, she was standing by the prison wall that morning. Yes, she heard the shots. You may regret not having brought a camera, a tape recorder. Yes, she has seen such things.
    • Yes, the memory still moves her. Yes, just a little tired now. Yes, it will pass. You may get up. Thank her. Say good-bye. Leave, passing by the new arrivals in the hall.
    • 'Whose side are you on?' 'I don't know.' 'This is a war, you've got to choose.' 'I don't know.' 'Does your village still exist?' 'I don't know.' 'Are those your children?' 'Yes.'
    • This adult male. This person on earth. Ten billion nerve cells. Ten pints of blood pumped by ten ounces of heart. This object took three billion years to emerge.
    • He feels like a handle broken off a jug, but the jug doesn't know it's broken and keeps going to the well.
    • Within him, there's awful darkness, in the darkness a small boy. God of humor, do something about him, OK? God of humor, do something about him today.
    • I am a tarsier and a tarsier's son, the grandson and great-grandson of tarsiers, a tiny creature, made up of two pupils and whatever simply could not be left out...
    • And only we few who remain unstripped of fur, untorn from bone, unplucked of soaring feathers, esteemed in all our quills, scales, tusks, and horns, and in whatever else that ingenious protein has seen fit to clothe us with, we, my lord, are your dream, which finds you innocent for now.
    • So he's got to have happiness, he's got to have truth, too, he's got to have eternity - did you ever!
    • He has only just learned to tell dreams from waking; only just realized that he is he; only just whittled with his hand ne fin a flint, a rocket ship; easily drowned in the ocean's teaspoon, not even funny enough to tickle the void: sees only with his eyes; hears only with his ears; his speech's personal best is the conditional; he uses his reason to pick holes in reason. In short, he's next to to one, but his head's full of freedom, omniscience and the Being beyond his foolish meat - did you ever!
    • He's no end of fun, for all you say. Poor little beggar. A human, if ever we saw one.
    • Everything the dead predicted has turned out completely different. Or a little bit different - which is to say, completely different.
    • I believe in the refusal to take part. I believe in the ruined career. I believe in the wasted years of work. I believe in the secret taken to the grave.
    • I lost a few goddesses while moving south to north and also some gods while moving east to west.
    • My siblings died the day I left for dry land and only one small bone recalls that anniversary in me.
    • Gone, lost, scattered to the four winds. It still surprises me how little now remains, one first person sing., temporarily declined in human form, just now making such a fuss about a blue umbrella left yesterday on a bus.
    • My apologies to the felled tree for the table's four legs. My apologies to great questions for small answers.
    • I know I won't be justified as long as I live, since I myself stand in my own way. Don't bear me ill will, speech, that I borrow weighty words, then labor heavily so that they may seem light.
    • My choices are rejections, since there is no other way, but what I reject is more numerous, denser, more demanding than before. A little poem, a sigh, at the cost of indescribable losses.
    • My dreams - even they're not as populous as they should be. They hold more solitude than noisy crowds.
    • And how can we talk of order overall when the very placement of the stars leaves us doubting just what shines for whom? Not to speak of the fog's reprehensible drifting! And dust blowing all over the steppes as if they hadn't been partitioned! And the voices coasting on obliging airwaves, that conspiratorial squeaking, those indecipherable mutters! Only what is human can truly be foreign.
    • I felt age within me. Distance. The futility of wandering. Torpor. I looked back setting my bundle down. I looked back not knowing where to set my foot. Serpents appeared on my path, spiders, field mice, baby vultures. They were neither good nor evil now - every living thing was simply creeping or hopping along in the mass panic.
    • The going's rough, and so we need the laugh of bright incisors, molars of goodwill. Our times are still not safe and sane enough for faces to show ordinary sorrow.
    • On this third planet from the sun among the signs of bestiality a clear conscience is Number One.
    • Millennia have passed since you first called me archaeology. I no longer require your stone gods, your ruins with legible inscriptions. Show me your whatever and I'll tell you who you were.
    • Secret codes resound. Doubts and intentions come to light.
    • Show me your little poem and I'll tell you why it wasn't written any earlier or later than it was. Oh no, you've got me wrong. Keep your funny piece of paper with its scribbles. All I need for my ends is your layer of dirt and the long gone smell of burning.
    • We call it a grain of sand but it calls itself neither grain nor sand. It does just fine without a name, whether general, particular, permanent, passing, incorrect or apt.
    • The window has a wonderful view of a lake, but the view doesn't view itself. It exists in this world colorless, shapeless, soundless, odorless, and painless.
    • There's no life that couldn't be immortal if only for a moment. Death always arrives by that very moment too late. In vain it tugs at the knob of the invisible door. As far as you've come can't be undone.
    • He managed to come into the world at what was still a fitting time. All that was to pass passed in this house. Not in housing projects, not in furnished but empty quarters, among unknown neighbors on fifteenth floors that student field trips rarely reach.
    • Few of them made it to thirty. Old age was the privilege of rocks and trees. Childhood ended as fast as wolf cubs grow. One had to hurry, to get on with life before the sun went down, before the first snow.
    • And who's this little fellow in his itty-bitty robe? That's tiny baby Adolf, the Hitlers' little boy!
    • God was finally going to believe in a man both good and strong, but good and strong are still two different men.
    • There's nothing more debauched than thinking.
    • It's shocking, the positions, the unchecked simplicity with which one mind contrives to fertilize another! Such positions the Kama Sutra itself doesn't know.
    • After every war someone has to tidy up. Things won't pick themselves up, after all. Someone has to shove the rubble to the roadsides so the carts loaded with corpses can get by.
    • Those who knew what this was all about must make way for those who know little. And less than that. And at last nothing less than nothing.
    • Something doesn't start at its usual time. Something doesn't happen as it should. Someone was always, always here, then suddenly disappeared and stubbornly stays disappeared.
    • I shake my memory. Maybe something in its branches that has been asleep for years will start up with a flutter. No. Clearly I'm asking too much. Nothing less than one whole second.
    • If there are angels they must, I hope, find this convincing, this merriment dangling from terror, not even crying Save me Save me since all of this takes place in silence.
    • Nothing's a gift, it's all on loan. I'm drowning in debts up to my ears. I'll have to pay for myself with my self, give up my life for my life.
    • We're extremely fortunate not to know precisely the kind of world we live in. One would have to live a long, long time, unquestionably longer than the world itself.
    • For the sake of research, the big picture and definitive conclusions, one would have to transcend time, in which everything scurries and whirls.
    • The counting of weekdays would inevitably seem to be a senseless activity; dropping letters in the mailbox a whim of foolish youth; the sign 'No Walking On The Grass' a symptom of lunacy.
    • I'd have to be really quick to describe clouds - a split second's enough for them to start being something else. Their trademark: they don't repeat a single shape, shade, pose, arrangement.
    • They aren't obliged to vanish when we're gone. They don't have to be seen while sailing on.
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