In memory of Wisława Szymborska, 1923-2012

A Contribution to Statistics by Wislawa Szymborska, translated by S. Baranczak and C. Cavanagh

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.