One Day – One Love Poem – Thank-You Note

“Thank-You Note” by Wisława Szymborska

I owe so much
to those I don’t love.

The relief as I agree
that someone else needs them more.

The happiness that I’m not
the wolf to their sheep.

The peace I feel with them,
the freedom –
love can neither give
nor take that.

I don’t wait for them,
as in window-to-door-and-back.
Almost as patient
as a sundial,
I understand
what love can’t,
and forgive
as love never would.

From a rendezvous to a letter
is just a few days or weeks,
not an eternity.

Trips with them always go smoothly,
concerts are heard,
cathedrals visited,
scenery is seen.

And when seven hills and rivers
come between us,
the hills and rivers
can be found on any map.

They deserve the credit
if I live in three dimensions,
in nonlyrical and nonrhetorical space
with a genuine, shifting horizon.

They themselves don’t realize
how much they hold in their empty hands.

“I don’t owe them a thing,”
would be love’s answer
to this open question.

• Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

Podziękowanie

Wiele zawdzięczam
tym, których nie kocham.
Ulgę, z jaką się godzę,
że bliżsi są komu innemu.Radość, że nie ja jestem
wilkiem ich owieczek.

Pokój mi z nimi
i wolność mi z nimi,
a tego miłość ani dać nie może,
ani brać nie potrafi.

Nie czekam na nich
od okna do drzwi.

Cierpliwa
prawie jak słoneczny zegar,
wybaczam,
miłość nie wybaczyłaby nigdy.

Od spotkania do listu
nie wieczność upływa,
ale po prostu kilka dni albo tygodni.

Podróże z nimi zawsze są udane,
koncerty wysłuchane,
katedry zwiedzone,
krajobrazy wyraźne.

A kiedy nas rozdziela
siedem gór i rzek,
są to góry i rzeki
dobrze znane z mapy.

Ich zasługą,
jeżeli żyję w trzech wymiarach,
w przestrzeni nielirycznej i nieretorycznej
z prawdziwym, bo ruchomym horyzontem.

Sami nie wiedzą,
ile niosą w rękach pustych.
“Nic im nie jestem winna” –
powiedziałaby miłość
na ten otwarty temat.


Wislawa Szymborska was born in Kórnik* in Western Poland on 2 July 1923. Since 1931 she has been living in Krakow, where during 1945-1948 she studied Polish Literature and Sociology at the Jagiellonian University. Szymborska made her début in March 1945 with a poem “Szukam slowa” (I am Looking for a Word) in the daily “Dziennik Polski”.
Szymborska has published 16 collections of poetry: Dlatego zyjemy (1952), Pytania zadawane sobie (1954), Wolanie do Yeti (1957), Sól (1962), Wiersze wybrane (1964), Poezje wybrane (1967), Sto pociech (1967), Poezje (1970), Wszelki wypadek (1972), Wybór wierszy (1973), Tarsjusz i inne wiersze (1976), Wielka liczba (1976), Poezje wybrane II (1983), Ludzie na moscie (1986). Koniec i poczatek (1993, 1996), Widok z ziarnkiem piasku. 102 wiersze (1996). Wislawa Szymborska has also translated French poetry.

Her poems have been translated (and published in book form) in English, German, Swedish, Italian, Danish, Hebrew, Hungarian, Czech, Slovakian, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian, Bulgarian and other languages. They have also been published in many foreign anthologies of Polish poetry.

Wislawa Szymborska is the Goethe Prize winner (1991) and Herder Prize winner (1995). She has a degree of Honorary Doctor of Letters of Poznan University (1995). In 1996 she received the Polish PEN Club prize.

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