A Word on Statistics




by Wislawa Szymborska


Out of every hundred people


those who always know better:



Unsure of every step:

nearly all the rest.


Ready to help,

as long as it doesn’t take long:



Always good,

because they cannot be otherwise:

four–well, maybe five.


Able to admire without envy:



Led to error

by youth (which passes):

sixty, plus or minus.


Those not to be messed with:

forty and four.


Living in constant fear

of someone or something:



Capable of happiness:

twenty-some-odd at most.


Harmless alone,

turning savage in crowds:

more than half, for sure.



when forced by circumstances:

it’s better not to know

not even approximately.


Wise in hindsight:

not many more

than wise in foresight.


Getting nothing out of life but things:


(although I would like to be wrong).


Doubled over in pain,

without a flashlight in the dark:


sooner or later.


Those who are just:

quite a few at thirty-five.


But if it takes effort to understand:



Worthy of empathy:




one hundred out of one hundred–

a figure that has never varied yet.


trans. from the Polish by Joanna Trzeciak

2 thoughts on “A Word on Statistics

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