13+ Best Wislawa Szymborska Poems Everyone Should Read

Maria Wisława Anna Szymborska was a Polish poet, essayist, translator and recipient of the 1996 Nobel Prize in Literature.

If you’re searching for most famous poems ever written that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of best known John Ronald Reuel Tolkien poems, most famous Dante Gabriel Rossetti poems and selected Theodore Roethke poems.

Famous Wislawa Szymborska Poems


I prefer movies.
I prefer cats.
I prefer the oaks along the Warta.
I prefer Dickens to Dostoyevsky.
I prefer myself liking people
to myself loving mankind.
I prefer keeping a needle and thread on hand, just in case.
I prefer the color green.
I prefer not to maintain
that reason is to blame for everything.
I prefer exceptions.
I prefer to leave early.
I prefer talking to doctors about something else.
I prefer the old fine-lined illustrations.
I prefer the absurdity of writing poems
to the absurdity of not writing poems.
I prefer, where love’s concerned, nonspecific anniversaries
that can be celebrated every day.
I prefer moralists
who promise me nothing.
I prefer cunning kindness to the over-trustful kind.
I prefer the earth in civvies.
I prefer conquered to conquering countries.
I prefer having some reservations.
I prefer the hell of chaos to the hell of order.
I prefer Grimms’ fairy tales to the newspapers’ front pages.
I prefer leaves without flowers to flowers without leaves.
I prefer dogs with uncropped tails.
I prefer light eyes, since mine are dark.
I prefer desk drawers.
I prefer many things that I haven’t mentioned here
to many things I’ve also left unsaid.
I prefer zeroes on the loose
to those lined up behind a cipher.
I prefer the time of insects to the time of stars.
I prefer to knock on wood.
I prefer not to ask how much longer and when.
I prefer keeping in mind even the possibility
that existence has its own reason for being.

True Love

True love. Is it normal
is it serious, is it practical?
What does the world get from two people
who exist in a world of their own?

Placed on the same pedestal for no good reason,
drawn randomly from millions but convinced
it had to happen this way – in reward for what?
For nothing.
The light descends from nowhere.
Why on these two and not on others?
Doesn’t this outrage justice? Yes it does.
Doesn’t it disrupt our painstakingly erected principles,
and cast the moral from the peak? Yes on both accounts.

Look at the happy couple.
Couldn’t they at least try to hide it,
fake a little depression for their friends’ sake?
Listen to them laughing – it’s an insult.
The language they use – deceptively clear.
And their little celebrations, rituals,
the elaborate mutual routines –
it’s obviously a plot behind the human race’s back!

It’s hard even to guess how far things might go
if people start to follow their example.
What could religion and poetry count on?
What would be remembered? What renounced?
Who’d want to stay within bounds?

True love. Is it really necessary?
Tact and common sense tell us to pass over it in silence,
like a scandal in Life’s highest circles.
Perfectly good children are born without its help.
It couldn’t populate the planet in a million years,
it comes along so rarely.

Let the people who never find true love
keep saying that there’s no such thing.

Their faith will make it easier for them to live and die.

First Love

They say
the first love is the most important.
That’s very romantic
but it’s not the case with me.

There was something between us yet there wasn’t.
It transpired and expired.

My hands don’t tremble,
when I stumble upon small mementos
or a stack of letters wrapped in twine
—not even a ribbon.

Our only meeting after all these years
is a conversation between two chairs
at a cold table.

Other loves
still breathe deeply within me.
This one lacks the breath to sigh.

But still, just the way it is,
it can do what the rest are not yet able to do:
not even dreamt of
it accustoms me to death.

Translated by Joanna Trzeciak


Island where all becomes clear.
Solid ground beneath your feet.

The only roads are those that offer access.

Bushes bend beneath the weight of proofs.

The Tree of Valid Supposition grows here
with branches disentangled since time immermorial.

The Tree of Understanding, dazzling straight and simple.
sprouts by the spring called Now I Get It.

The thicker the woods, the vaster the vista:
the Valley of Obviously.

If any doubts arise, the wind dispels them instantly.

Echoes stir unsummoned
and eagerly explain all the secrets of the worlds.

On the right a cave where Meaning lies.

On the left the Lake of Deep Conviction.
Truth breaks from the bottom and bobs to the surface.

Unshakable Confidence towers over the valley.
Its peak offers an excellent view of the Essence of Things.

For all its charms, the island is uninhabited,
and the faint footprints scattered on its beaches
turn without exception to the sea.

As if all you can do here is leave
and plunge, never to return, into the depths.

Into unfathomable life.

Going Home

He came home. Said nothing.
It was clear, though, that something had gone wrong.
He lay down fully dressed.
Pulled the blanket over his head.
Tucked up his knees.
He’s nearly forty, but not at the moment.
He exists just as he did inside his mother’s womb,
clad in seven walls of skin, in sheltered darkness.
Tomorrow he’ll give a lecture
on homeostasis in metagalactic cosmonautics.
For now, though, he has curled up and gone to sleep.


It’s good you came—she says.
You heard a plane crashed on Thursday?
Well so they came to see me
about it.
The story is he was on the passenger list.
So what, he might have changed his mind.
They gave me some pills so I wouldn’t fall apart.
Then they showed me I don’t know who.
All black, burned except one hand.
A scrap of shirt, a watch, a wedding ring.
I got furious, that can’t be him.
He wouldn’t do that to me, look like that.
The stores are bursting with those shirts.
The watch is just a regular old watch.
And our names on that ring,
they’re only the most ordinary names.
It’s good you came. Sit here beside me.
He really was supposed to get back Thursday.
But we’ve got so many Thursdays left this year.
I’ll put the kettle on for tea.
I’ll wash my hair, then what,
try to wake up from all this.
It’s good you came, since it was cold there,
and him just in some rubber sleeping bag,
him, I mean, you know, that unlucky man.
I’ll put the Thursday on, wash the tea,
since our names are completely ordinary

A Great Man’s House

It was written in marble in golden letters:
here a great man lived and worked and died.
He laid the gravel for these paths personally.
This bench — do not touch — he chiseled by himself
out of stone.
And — careful, three steps — we’re going inside.

He made it into the world at just the right time.
Everything that had to pass, passed in this house.
Not in a high rise,
not in square feet, furnished yet empty,
amidst unknown neighbors,
on some fifteenth floor,
where it’s hard to drag school field trips.

In this room he pondered,
in this chamber he slept,
and over here he entertained guests.
Portraits, an armchair, a desk, a pipe, a globe, a flute,
a worn-out rug, a sun room.
From here he exchanged nods with his tailor and
who custom made for him.

This is not the same as photographs in boxes,
dried out pens in a plastic cup,
a store-bought wardrobe in a store-bought closet,
a window, from which you can see clouds better
than people.

Happy? Unhappy?
That’s not relevant here.
He still confided in his letters,
without thinking they would be opened on their
He still kept a detailed and honest diary,
without the fear that he would lose it during a
The passing of a comet worried him most.
The destruction of the world was only in the hands
of God.

He still managed not to die in the hospital,
behind a white screen, who knows which one.
There was still someone with him who remembered
his muttered words.

He partook of life
as if it were reusable:
he sent his books to be bound;
he wouldn’t cross out the last names of the dead from
his address book.
And the trees he had planted in the garden behind
the house
grew for him as Juglans regia
and Quercus rubra and Ulmus and Larix
and Fraxinus excelsior.

Some People

Some people fleeing some other people.
In some country under the sun
and some clouds.

They leave behind some of their everything,
sown fields, some chickens, dogs,
mirrors in which fire now sees itself reflected.

On their backs are pitchers and bundles,
the emptier, the heavier from one day to the next.

Taking place stealthily is somebody’s stopping,
and in the commotion, somebody’s bread somebody’s snatching
and a dead child somebody’s shaking.

In front of them some still not the right way,
nor the bridge that should be
over a river strangely rosy.
Around them, some gunfire, at times closer, at times farther off,
and, above, a plane circling somewhat.

Some invisibility would come in handy,
some grayish stoniness,
or even better, non-being
for a little or a long while.

Something else is yet to happen, only where and what?
Someone will head toward them, only when and who,
in how many shapes and with what intentions?
Given a choice,
maybe he will choose not to be the enemy and
leave them with some kind of life.

Jacyś ludzie

Jacyś ludzie w ucieczce przed jakimiś ludźmi.
W jakimś kraju pod słońcem
i niektórymi chmurami.

Zostawiają za sobą jakieś swoje wszystko,
obsiane pola, jakieś kury, psy,
lusterka, w których właśnie przegląda się ogień.

Mają na plecach dzbanki i tobołki,
im bardziej puste, tym z dnia na dzień cięższe.

Odbywa się po cichu czyjeś ustawanie,
a w zgiełku czyjeś komuś chleba wydzieranie
i czyjeś martwym dzieckiem potrząsanie.

Przed nimi jakaś wciąż nie tędy droga,
nie ten, co trzeba most
nad rzeką dziwnie różową.
Dokoła jakieś strzały, raz bliżej, raz dalej,
w górze samolot trochę kołujący.

Przydałaby się jakaś niewidzialność,
jakaś bura kamienność,
a jeszcze lepiej niebyłość
na pewien krótki czas albo i długi.

Coś jeszcze się wydarzy, tylko gdzie i co.
Ktoś wyjdzie im naprzeciw, tylko kiedy, kto,
w ilu postaciach i w jakich zamiarach.
Jeśli będzie miał wybór,
może nie zechce być wrogiem
i pozostawi ich przy jakimś życiu.

Two Monkeys by Brueghel

I keep dreaming of my graduation exam:
in a window sit two chained monkeys,
beyond the window floats the sky,
and the sea splashes.

I am taking an exam on the history of mankind:
I stammer and flounder.

One monkey, eyes fixed upon me, listens ironically,
the other seems to be dozing-
and when silence follows a question,
he prompts me
with a soft jingling of the chain.


Det hade så när hänt
att min mor hade gift sig
med Zbigniew B. från Dunska Wola.
Och hade de fått en dotter vore jag inte hon.
Kanske en med bättre minne för ansikten och namn,
och för en melodi hon hört en enda gång.
En som ofelbart vet vilken fågel som är vilken.
Med högsta betyg i fysik och kemi
och något sämre i polska,
men en som i smyg skriver dikter
som direkt är mer spännande än mina.

Det hade så när hänt
att min far på samma gång hade gift sig
med Jadwiga R. från Zakopane.
Och hade de fått en dotter vore jag inte hon.
Kanske en som mer envist får sin vilja igenom.
En som orädd hoppar i djupt vatten.
Som låter sig dras med av kollektiva känslor.
Ideligen sedd på flera ställen på en gång,
dock sällan med en bok, oftare på gården
där hon sparkar fotboll med pojkarna.

Kanske skulle de båda rentav ha mötts
i samma skola och samma klass.
Men ett syskonpar är de inte,
inte minsta släktskap.
Och på klassfotot står de långt från varandra.
Flickor, kom och ställ er här

skulle fotografen ha ropat –
de minsta längst fram, de längsta bakom.
Och le nu riktigt vackert, när jag ger tecken.
Fast räkna efter ordentligt –
är allihopa här?

Javisst, allihop.


Es fehlte nicht viel,
und meine Mutter hätte Herrn Zbigniew B.
aus ZduńskaWola geheiratet.
Hätten sie eine Tochter gehabt, wäre das nicht ich gewesen.
Vielleicht eine mit besserem Gedächtnis für Namen und
und jede auch nur einmal gehörte Melodie.
Fehlerlos im Erkennen, welcher Vogel welcher ist.
Mit hervorragenden Noten in Physik und Chemie
und schlechteren in Polnisch,
doch heimlich Gedichte schreibend,
auf Anhieb viel interessanter als meine.

Es fehlte nicht viel,
und mein Vater hätte zur gleichen Zeit
Fräulein Jadwiga R. aus Zakopane geheiratet.
Hätten sie eine Tochter gehabt, wäre das nicht ich gewesen.
Vielleicht eine, die sturer auf ihrer Meinung beharrt.
Ohne Angst ins tiefe Wasser springt.
Geneigt ist, kollektiven Emotionen nachzugeben.
Die ständig an mehreren Orten zugleich zu sehen ist,
aber selten über einem Buch, häufiger im Hof,
wie sie mit den Jungen Fußball spielt.

Vielleicht hätten die beiden sich gar
in derselben Schule getroffen, derselben Klasse.
Aber kein Paar,
keine Verwandtschaft
und auf dem Gruppenbild weit auseinander.

Mädchen, stellt euch hierhin,
hätte der Fotograf gerufen,
die kleineren vorn, die größeren dahinter.
Und bitte schön lächeln, wenn ich das Zeichen gebe.
Aber zählt noch mal durch,
ob ihr alle da seid?
Ja, Herr Lehrer, wir sind alle da.


Niewiele brakowało,
a moja matka mogłaby poślubić
pana Zbigniewa B. ze Zduńskiej Woli.
I gdyby mieli córkę – nie ja bym nią była.
Może z lepszą pamięcią do imion i twarzy,
i każdej usłyszanej tylko raz melodii.
Bez błędu poznającą który ptak jest który.
Ze świetnymi stopniami z fizyki i chemii,
i gorszymi z polskiego,
ale w skrytości pisującą wiersze
od razu dużo ciekawsze od moich.

Niewiele brakowało,
a mój ojciec mógłby w tym samym czasie poślubić
pannę Jadwigę R. z Zakopanego.
I gdyby mieli córkę – nie ja bym nią była.
Może bardziej upartą w stawianiu na swoim.
Bez lęku wskakującą do głębokiej wody.
Skłonną do ulegania emocjom zbiorowym.
Bezustannie widzianą w kilku miejscach na raz,
ale rzadko nad książką, częściej na podwórku,
jak kopie piłkę razem z chłopakami.

Może by obie spotkały się nawet
w tej samej szkole i tej samej klasie.
Ale żadna z nich para,
żadne pokrewieństwo,
a na grupowym zdjęciu daleko od siebie.

Dziewczynki, stańcie tutaj

wołałby fotograf –
te niższe z przodu, te wyższe za nimi.
I ładnie się uśmiechnąć, kiedy zrobię znak.
Tylko jeszcze policzcie,
czy jesteście wszystkie?

Tak, proszę pana, wszystkie.

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