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Poetry/Poetry Analysis (Wislawa Szymborska)


Hello! For my English project I have to analyze the poem "Shadow" by Wislawa Szymborska (below), and I'm having trouble understanding what the poem is about, other than the fact that it describes a person's shadow. Can you please help me find the overall message? Thank you.

My shadow is a fool whose feelings
are often hurt by his routine
of rising up behind his queen
to bump his silly head on ceilings.

His is a world of two dimensions,
thatís true, but flat jokes still can smart;
he longs to flaunt my courtís conventions
and drop a role he knows by heart.

The queen leans out above the sill,
the jester tumbles out for real:
thus they divide their actions; still,
itís not a fifty-fifty deal.

My jester took on nothing less
than royal gesture's shamelessness,
the things that I'm too weak to bear-
the cloak, crown, scepter, and the rest.

Iíll stay serene, wonít feel a thing,
yes, I will turn my head away
after I say good-bye, my king,
at railway station N., some day.

My king, it is the fool whoíll lie
across the tracks; the fool not I.

Dear Angela,

The speaker of Wislawa Szymborska's "Shadow" compares metaphorically her feelings to a court jester (fool) who entertains the king and queen.  By separating her true self from that fool, she attempts to lessen their hurtfulness.

Hope this helps.


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Linda Sue Grimes -- Classic Poetry Aide


Please be aware that my field of expertise is "Classic Poetry." I do not study and write about Hallmark-Card type verse, doggerel, or pornographic versification.

I assist students/readers in understanding the poems most widely studied in high school and college English classes, for example, Emily Dickinson's "Because I could not stop for death," A. E. Housman's "Loveliest of trees," Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken," W. B. Yeats' "The Second Coming," Rabindranath Tagore's "The Journey," Robert Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays," Dana Gioiaís "Words." I direct students/readers to online poetry analyses and/or research sources.

I do not dispense advice on creative writing issues, such as critiquing poems or offering ideas for poems.

Something controversial or provocative about this subject:

Poetry is not so difficult . . . but the claim that "a poem can mean anything you want it to mean" is absurd . . . while there may be room for interpretation, poems are not like clay that you can shape into anything your choose . . . poets express feelings, thoughts, experience . . . the notion that anything a poet writes is as malleable as a piece of modeling clay is insulting and demonstrates ignorance of what poetry, nay language itself, is all about . . . language--including poetry and all other art forms--is about communication . . . if you denigrate "meaning" as a component of poetry, you fail to communicate . . . failure to communicate begins with the lazy mind . . .


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1967 Miami University, B.A. Major in German

1971 Ball State University M.A. German/English

1984 Ball State University M.A. English

1987 Ball state University Ph.D. American, British, World Literature, Rhetoric and Composition

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