Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Contribution to Statistics

At the Station (Hoboken, NJ. M.A. Reilly, September 2010)

A Contribution to Statistics

by Wislawa Szymborska

                    ( English version by Clare Cavanagh and Stanislaw Baranczak )

Out of a 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,
suffering illusions
induced by fleeting youth
– sixty, give or take a few,
not to be taken lightly
– forty and four,
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 ballpark figures,
wise after the fact
– just a couple more
than wise before it,
taking only things from life
– thirty
(I wish I were wrong),
hunched in pain,
no flashlight in the dark
– eighty-three
sooner or later,
righteous
– thirty-five, which is a lot,
righteous
and understanding
– three,
worthy of compassion
– ninety-nine,
mortal
– a hundred out of a hundred.
Thus far this figure still remains unchanged.

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