Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Wisawa Szymborska’s “View with a Grain of Sand” is a thirty-seven-line metaphysical and existential poem comprising seven irregular stanzas that vary between four and seven lines. The poem has no regular meter or rhyme scheme. Poetic meaning often does not survive translation, given that it is difficult to translate the rhythms, rhyme, tone, idioms, and puns created in another language. However, because Szymborska writes with clear, straightforward language, English translations of her poetry tend to be faithful to the original.
The poem is told from the point of view of an anonymous speaker using the familiar and inclusive “we” and “our” and “us.” The reader and speaker are experiencing the same scene together.
As with most of Szymborska’s poems, “View with a Grain of Sand” examines and undermines common, everyday perceptions. Szymborska looks at the ordinary and taken for granted and shows how they are astonishing as well. She embraces the Pascalian notion of human consciousness—that consciousness is what defines humans and separates humans from not only the inanimate universe but also other life forms. As Blaise Pascal’s universe remains “unaware,” so does that of Szymborska. All awareness lies with the human observer. In Pascal’s view of consciousness, dignity and higher nobility are found in this human awareness.
The poem begins with a falling grain of sand, echoing William Blake’s...
(The entire section is 804 words.)
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