Poetry Explication: “True Love” by Wislawa Szymborska
This paper is an essay is an analysis of Wislawa Szymborska’s poem “True Love.” When I first read the poem, I was struck by its sheer simplicity and passion at what Szymborska feels that it means for two people to be in love. However; upon further contemplation, I see how she uses the lovers to represent change in an otherwise boring and regimented world where all actions must be taken for the betterment and advancement of the state. “True Love” is a powerful piece that is told through the persona of an anonymous authoritarian bureaucrat who questions the value of love when compared to the needs of the state. “True Love” was written at a time when Soviet control was strangling the Eastern Bloc countries, particularly Poland. In this situation, citizens were expected to devote their lives to the advancement of the State – personal needs were secondary. In light of this situation, Szymborska forces the reader to examine the poem on a number of levels including the socio/political level and also at the base level of two people brought together as one. I will discuss how Szymborska, very cleverly, uses the lovers to illustrate how individuals can make effect change from within a system when they are passionate about their beliefs. I will also discuss that love, the most primal of mans’ needs, can be so complex in its simplicity that it can overwhelm and frighten those who misunderstand it. The first stanza of the poem consists of four lines:
“True love. Is it normal,
is it serious, is it practical?
What does the world get from two people
Who exist is a world of their own?” (lines 1-4)
Szymborska begins by asking questions about love; however, is she actually asking about love or is she questioning whether it is practical for a society to acknowledge love? As an emotional human being, one would be able to answer these questions in the affirmative that, yes, love is normal and serious and practical. When people are in love, they are happy and probably more productive because of their commitment to the other person. However, when one looks at these first four lines with the jaded eye of, say, an authoritative, repressive bureaucrat then, perhaps, love serves no purpose but to get in the way of serving the state. This person might answer these same questions by saying that, though love might be normal and serious, it is not practical because how can one dedicate his/her life to society if they are more concerned about the person that they love? To this person, the world (state) would get nothing from two people who exist is a world of their own so this should not be allowed to happen. In lines 5 – 13, Szymborska uses the persona of the bureaucrat to begin casting dispersions and snide comments about the audacity that two people would have to dare fall in love.
“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.” (lines 5-8)
In these lines, the reader begins to understand that he is now hearing the voice of the faceless bureaucrat whose soul interest is the betterment of the state. Or, perhaps, we are hearing the words of someone who has suffered through bad relationships in the past. I believe it to be the former. Szymborska wrote this poem in 1972 in a Poland that had been under the authoritarian rule of the Soviet Union since 1945. In the six years before the Soviets, Poland was ruled by the occupational forces of the Nazi Third Reich. I am convinced that the persona that we are hearing is the voice of an authoritarian government representative – a cold, uncaring Orwellian figure. This is the section of the poem where the jaded voice of the person rings through loud and clear when he states; “it had to happen this way – in reward for what? For nothing.” (line 7-8) Of course, the person in love would...
Cited: Schlib, John and John Clifford, eds. Making Literature Matter: An Anthology for Readers and Writers. 4th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2009. Print.
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