Vanitas vanitatum, omnia vanitas.

Theatre Impressions

For me a tragedy's most important act is the sixth:

the resurrecting from the stage's battlegrounds,

the adjusting of wigs, of robes,

the wrenching of knife from breast,

the removing of noose from neck,

the lining up among the living

to face the audience.


Bows solo and ensemble:

the white hand on the heart's wound,

the curtsey of the lady suicide,

the nodding of the lopped-off head.


Bows in pairs:

fury extends an arm to meekness,

the victim looks blissfully into the hangman's eyes,

the rebel bears no grudge as he walks beside the tyrant.


The trampling of eternity with the tip of a golden slipper.

The sweeping of morals away with the brim of a hat.

The incorrigible readiness to start afresh tomorrow.


The entry in single file of those who died much earlier,

in the third, the fourth, or between the acts.

The miraculous return of those lost without a trace.

The thought that they've been waiting patiently backstage,

not taking off costumes,

not washing off makeup,

moves me more than the tragedy's tirades.


But truly elevating is the lowering of the curtain,

and that which can still be glimpsed beneath it:

here one hand hastily reaches for a flower,

there a second snatches up a dropped sword.

Only then does a third, invisible,

perform its duty:

it clutches at my throat.


 - Wislawa Szymborska (trans. by Krynski & Maguire)

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