Portrait of a Woman

The title of this blog comes from a poem I studied in high school and whose beauty and ideas imprinted themselves on me from the very first time I laid my eyes on it. The poem was written by the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska. Many translations exist of the poem, and you can find them all over the internet, but I personally prefer this translation, probably because it was the first I read. I find that it perfectly embodies the difference between women's characteristics and the characteristics applied to them by others. The ambivalence between the weak, naive and submitted woman and the stronger, independant and educated one shows just how much contradictions exist in women (and human beings in general) and how much is lost and forgotten by over-simplifications.

I haven't set a specific goal to this blog, nor do I intend to. I would just like to share with others some pieces of art, whichever they might be, or some essays, on whichever subject I fancy reading and writing about. I hope that at least some of it will be remotely interesting or useful.

Portrait of a Woman

Wislawa Szymborska - 1976

She must be willing to please.
To change so that nothing should change.
It's easy, impossible, hard, worth trying.
Her eyes are if need be now deep blue, now gray,
dark, playful, filled for no reason with tears.
She sleeps with him like some chance acquaintance, like his one and only.
She will bear him four children, no children, one.
Naive yet giving the best advice.
Weak yet lifting the weightiest burden.
Has no head on her shoulders but will have.
Reads Jaspers and ladies' magazines.
Doesn't know what this screw is for and will build a bridge.
Young, as usual young, as always still young.
Holds in her hands a sparrow with a broken wing,
her own money for a journey long and distant,
a meat-cleaver, poultice, and a shot of vodka.
Where is she running so, isn't she tired?
Not at all, just a bit, very much, doesn't matter.
Either she loves him or has made up her mind to.
For better, for worse, and for heaven's sake.


  1. You are very well informed and very brilliant. You did something that people are able to understand.

  2. The Portrait of a Woman is a novel by Henry James, first published as a serial in The Atlantic Monthly and Macmillan's Magazine in 1880–81.