True Love by Wisława Szymborska
Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh
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?
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.
This poem appeared in View with a Grain of Sand: Selected Poems by Wisława Szymborska, translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh, published by Harcourt Brace, 1995. Shared here with profound gratitude.
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