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World under Revision

The Poetry of Wisława Szymborska


Wojciech Ligęza

This book provides a comprehensive overview of the entirety of Wisława Szymborska’s poetic oeuvre. The author employs in-depth historical reflection on Szymborska’s beginnings to reveal that – without describing her post-war beginnings and reflecting on her early entanglement in socialist realist newspeak – Szymborska’s mature anti-dogmatic attitude will remain unclear. The book shows how Szymborska’s rhetoric and stylistics – figures of reservation, negation, contradiction, tautology, and repetition – are closely connected with the construction of the poetic world and affect the shape of her messages. After all, Wisława Szymborska is a poet of sophisticated wit, a surprising freedom of expression, and an unusual game with various literary styles, even with colloquial Polish.

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IV Poetry and Painting

IV Poetry and Painting

The Styles of Painting – The Styles of Poetry

When reality freezes in the shape of an artistic message, it is only then that we may clearly arrange it and apply transparent interpretations. Literature, theater, painting, and music elaborate ordinary life by giving it a form; however, this form depends on changing aesthetic rules. Painterly representations are governed by the styles of particular eras. Szymborska reads the worlds created in artworks as constraints of choice: the rejected possibilities demand supplements and question what has is not presented and for what reasons.

However, Szymborska does not create compensatory escapes and approaches the aesthetic adoration of art with significant distance. The rules of Szymborska’s poetic procedure are more complicated, as they supplement and process cultural texts. Her interpretations clearly seek to cross the boundaries defined by the theme and style of an artwork. She readily reaches for the testimonies of life captured in images according to the principles of convention. Suffice to indicate Szymborska’s well-known poem “Rubens’ Women,” in which the lyrical diction, full of creativity and humor, corresponds to the language of painting as the “feast of abundance:”161

Daughters of the Baroque. Dough

thickens in troughs, baths steam, wines blush,

cloudy piglets careen across the sky,

triumphant trumpets neigh the carnal alarm.

O pumpkin plump! O pumped-up corpulence

inflated double by disrobing

and tripled by your tumultuous poses!

O fatty dishes of love (S 82)!

Parataxis creates the equivalent of an open painterly space, the expansion of verbs creates the illusion of movement, the rhythm of invocation imitates the magnificent ornamentation of paintings. Of course, I do not meticulously consider here the translation of these qualities from the field of art into poetic language.162 The creation of style equivalents mostly depends on poetic ingenuity. ←121 | 122→Szymborska discreetly inserts in the poem links to critical works about Rubens and to common opinions about his painting. Eugéne Fromentin wrote in the nineteenth century about the “beauty peculiar to the time, a breadth befitting the races of the North, with a sort of grace peculiar to Rubens,”163 while Rubens’ opponents criticized his heaps of Flemish meat, and Polish nineteenth-century critics perceived the tangled the bodies of “the naked fat immodest Dutchmen” as a slaughterhouse.164 Modern colloquial Polish language still uses the phrase “Rubensian shapes.” Szymborska utilizes such associations to exceed them by showing the relativity of judgments and the passing of the canons of beauty.

Baroque in poetry used metaphors of distant associations, while conceptismo was to be surprising and bold. Thus, Szymborska describes the power of Rubens’s women with the help of extremely sophisticated images: “Titanettes, female fauna,/naked as the rumbling of barrels” (S 82). Moreover, she presents the acoustic equivalent of nudity as cavity and emptiness, not the charming excess of the female body.

We notice the Baroque style in “Rubens’ Women” in the elaborate gradations of epithet: “thick-whiskered Phoebus, on a sweaty steed,/riding straight into the seething bedchamber” (S 83). We witness this style not only in syntax and semantics of unexpected adjectives but also the mythological theme that itself refers to that paradigm. As if by the way, Szymborska arranges a literary joke about the Sarmatian (Old Polish) love of the Greek Olympus. Her poem associates sensual infatuation with an unsettling image of carnal bliss: “Their pupils have fled into flesh/and sound the glandular depths/from which yeast seeps into their blood” (S 82). “Dishes of love” that prepare themselves and await consumption seem to border on gluttony.

When Szymborska talks about the “pumped-up,” “double[d];,” and “tripled” feminine acts, about the “bumps” of people, gods, and landscape, then she activates the specialized discourse about Baroque, as if in the background. These terms evoke the ornamentation, monumentality, multiplication of space, expansion of the curve line, and illusionism as the principle of painting. These features also refer to architecture of the time.

←122 | 123→

Rubens’s painting is the quintessence of the Baroque style, especially his frequently depicted acts. We may consider the number of nude female characters in his works to be record high in all of art history. However, Szymborska’s poem is not so much an ekphrasis as a perverse interpretation of the assumptions of Rubens’ aesthetics. She explains that “Rubens’s Women” “describes a style,”165 with great attention. Polish art historian Jan Białostocki writes about the Rubens’ Baroque iconosphere that with “thought images, he filled his contemporaries and posterity.”166 As proof, Białostocki quotes a line from Szymborska’s “Ruben’s Women.”

We should probably consider Szymborska’s poem as a reflection on a few Rubens’ paintings.167 For example, his Diana and Nymphs Surprised by Satyrs168 or the The Feast of Venus perfectly illustrate the paradoxical heaviness of movement, the massive violence of pose, the dance of bodies and lines, and the wind moving the clouds. Perhaps the painting closest to Szymborska’s poem is The Disembarkation at Marseilles, in which nymphs tow a ship with twisted bodies, against the waves, and tangled in ropes.

The artificial world of painting follows laws established by the eye and hand of the artist; there, everything is consistent: the variety of shapes and saturations of color, the sensual joy of movement and change. A moment later and the “cloudy piglets” would turn into victuals. In the flamboyant prosperity of Flemish painting, as Maria Rzepińska puts it, “This universal opulence of not only bodies but also landscapes and still lives is more a style than a reality.”169 And Szymborska masterfully reproduces this style in poetic language, although with the aim to subvert and undermine the wonderful unity of this painted world. Her description exceeds the subject, and there we will again find the anarchy of disorder. “Daughters of the Baroque,” “pumpkin plump,” and “pumped-up” contrast with the “skinny sisters” of Gothic art and the twentieth-century film and television screens. Rubens painted no slim women, so no one learns about their existence. They lead a hidden and dramatic life: they illegally inhabit the unpainted side of ←123 | 124→the canvas. Szymborska’s poem only takes into account the extremes, without intermediate representations: from the “bulge[d];” to the “unvoluptuous” (the Polish original “płaskie” literally means “flat”). Such polarized view also conveys matters important to painting. According to Winckelmann:

The noblest contour unites or circumscribes every component every component of natural and ideal beauty in the figures of the Greeks; or, rather, it is the supreme expression of both…./The great Rubens is far from having captured the Greek outline …./The dividing line between completeness and superfluity in nature is a fine one, and the greatest of modern masters have deviated too far in both directions from this intangible mean. Those who have tried to avoid an emaciated contour have erred on the side of corpulence, while others have made their figures excessively lean.170

Of course, Szymborska does not consider any “deviations” of nonclassical art or the problem of losing a perfect aesthetic pattern, but she ponders instead on the relativity of aesthetic conventions and the limited image of reality in artworks. She is interested exactly in what exceeds the limits of style. Her poetic imagination evokes the images that Rubens did not consider painting. These additions would violate the aesthetic canon. We may imagine a similar poem about women by Hugo van der Goes or Dirk Bouts, which would then present those, which for Rubens were “exiled by style” (S 83).

The criterion that corrects painted reality is life itself in all its diversity. We may admire the ideals of beauty or wonder at past tastes, but we should not treat them as precise representations, since we cannot even prove that Rubens’s preferences in the selection of models correspond to the tastes of the people of that era. To get closer to the truth, we should sacrifice art’s beautiful lies. What also interests Szymborska is the psychology of the painters of women. Her poem “Rubens’ Women” is complemented by the sketch “Kobiety Klimta” (Klimt’s Women):

I observe these portraits and ask myself whether these ladies really existed. They probably did, although they seem like a peculiar species of flora. They are like flowers who observe us from under squinted petals…. It is interesting: Art Nouveau was innovative, forward thinking in spatial compositions, and it unexpectedly mixed techniques or materials, but it also promoted an old-fashioned type of female beauty. Photographs of that time tell a different story. We already see on them women on bikes, skiing, driving ←124 | 125→cars…. I have a hard time imagining that Klimt’s women would do anything of that sort (WLN, 756–757).

Rubens’s women as “fauna” turn here into Klimt’s “flora.” The figures of portrayed women – immersed in floral and aquatic elements, tired and dangerously seductive – appear to Szymborska trapped in Klimt’s ornamental style of Art Nouveau. Klimt noticed the cultural shift in gender. He created the picture of Judith, whose emaciated body hides murderous energies. Nevertheless, Szymborska reveals the difference between Art Nouveau and other testimonies of the times, such as photography. Again, there is no clear transition between art and life. In short, Szymborska loves this kind of subversive unmaskings.

In the same vein operates “A Medieval Minature” from the volume A Large Number. In another humorous transposition of the painting form into poetic language, Szymborska emphasizes late gothic ornamentation. Again, we have no exact iconographic address but may follow Jerzy Kwiatkowski, who points to Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry by the Limbourg brothers.171 We should only add that parts of Limbourg’s manuscript that appear closest to Szymborska’s poem are May and August from the Calendar cycle; although not all the details agree. Again, the question of the style of the miniatures comes to the fore:

Up the verdantest of hills,

in this most equestrian of pageants,

wearing the silkiest of cloaks.

Toward a castle with seven towers,

each of them by far the tallest.

In the foreground, a duke,

most flatteringly unrotund;

by his side, his duchess

young and fair beyond compare….

Thus they proceed most pleasantly

through this feudalest of realisms (“A Medieval Minature,” LN 213–214).

The description of painterly reality is linked here with a reconstruction of the viewpoint assumed by the late medieval artworks. These works especially represented festive cavalcades, castles, and dresses, to inspire awe among the onlookers. According to Johann Huizinga, in the paintings of those times

we find the tendency to leave nothing without form, without figure, without ornament. The flamboyant style of architecture is like the postlude of an organist who cannot ←125 | 126→conclude. It decomposes all the formal elements endlessly; it interlaces all the details; there is not a line which has not its counter-line. The form develops at the expense of the idea, the ornament grows rank, hiding all the lines and all the surfaces. A horror vacui reigns, always a symptom of artistic decline.172

In “A Medieval Miniature,” superlatives reflect the idealizing painterly order.173 Since nothing can be of lower grade in such represented world, each of the towers of the residence is the tallest. Szymborska’s elaborate sentence composed of enumerations resembles an bewildering structure of words. What is of great importance in this play with a masterpiece of manuscript illustration is the archaization of language,174 including the lexis and syntax composed of inversions.

The evoked artwork brings partial knowledge about the late Middle Ages and preserves the festive image of life. The visualization of history through painting is very attractive but not very true about the times and the people. The simple-hearted reception of great and ornate things in Szymborska’s poem encounters remarks as if by art experts. It is so, because her poem masterfully employs irony: what is an important subject in Szymborska’s descriptions is what “apparently lacks” in painterly representations.

The knowledge about the dark sides of an epoch – usually overlooked by painters – questions the artistic vision. Szymborska adds the missing links again:

Whereas whosoever is downcast and weary,

cross-eyed and out at elbows,

is most manifestly left out of the scene.

Even the least pressing of questions,

burgherish or peasantish,

cannot survive beneath this most azure of skies.

And not even the eaglest of eyes

could spy even the tiniest of gallows –

nothing casts the slightest shadow of a doubt (“A Medieval Minature,” LN 214).

←126 | 127→

We will find hell in other paintings, as both the search for beautiful life forms and the horrors of inferno defined the late medieval style. However, the boring everyday life could destroy these visions. Noteworthy, the aesthetics of ugliness is present in the Middle Ages, it only disappears during the late period. Thus, this correction only concerns “this feudalest of realisms” (LN 214); that is, the decadence of medieval culture.

Negative stories about painting in “Rubens’ Women,” “A Medieval Miniature,” and the mini-essay “Klimt’s Women” realize the rejected options. The conventionality of diagnoses about the world is revealed by comparison with the diverse and changing reality. We find a similar discussion with the schematization of life in art in “A Byzantine Mosaic.” The comical effect arises here from the transfer of the ascetic ideals of Byzantine art to the conversation between the two spouses from a mosaic: Theotropia and Theodendron. What is surprising and sincerely amusing here is the mixture of contempt for the bodily and ascetic practices with love confessions and eroticism. The characters retain the memory of their existence only within the boundaries of the world of art, thus within a specific aesthetic space; while stylization patterns remain conventional.

The language of the hieratic Byzantine visual art should seek the most archaic equivalents in poetry, therefore Szymborska travestises the first Polish sentence ever written – found the medieval Book of Henryków (1269–1273) – “I shall grind, and thou take a rest,” which reads in the poem as “I will confess anon, and thou shalt hear me” (NEF 128). Szymborska preserved here the melody and syntax of the original phrase. Moreover, the changed sentence conveys courtly behavior.

However, the origins of the Polish language help us only so much. Instead, we must recognize a pattern more important. The peculiar contradictory erotic-ascetic conversation also conveys an elaborate paraphrase of the dialog from the biblical Song of Songs. The King James Version reads: “Behold, thou art fair, my friend …/Behold, thou art beautiful, my beloved!” (Song of Solomon I, 14–15). Szymborska’s paraphrase adds one element and transforms the adjectives: “How fair thou art, my hollow-cheeked beloved.”/“How fine art thou, blue-lipped spouse” (“A Byzantine Mosaic,” NEF 128). The language humor of such a combination is vivid. The initial idea of the poem develops into an anecdote, but also finds a stylistic continuation. What signals the “most perfect biblical song” – read as a love poem and not as an allegory of prophetic teachings – elsewhere appears with equal clarity: “Oh how it pleaseth me/to see my lady’s palms,/like unto palm leaves verily,/clasped to her mantle’s throat” (“A Byzantine Mosaic,” NEF 128).

The pattern is reversed. From lush beauty only pathetic dried debris remains, as if a herbarium of love. The association of women’s hands with palm leaves ←127 | 128→probably refers to the mosaic from the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe.175 Both the biblical and the Byzantine bride arouse admiration and desire. Since everything is relative, spiritual values and a complete lack of sex appeal also have a tempting power. In Szymborska’s poem, erotic tastes derive from two premises: the Christian culture of the Byzantine Empire ruled by theology – and art performances. Erotic game and courtly praise of asceticism complement each other: “Thou art so wondrous frail/beneath thy bell-like gown,/the alarum of which, if but removed,/would waken all my kingdom” (“A Byzantine Mosaic,” NEF 128). Indeed, the dignity of rhetoric and erotica is an extremely terrifying (and ridiculous) mixture.

Szymborska’s lyrical joke fulfills what is impossible to art. Let us remember that the dialog of the imperial couple occurs within the limits of a strictly defined style, whose rules the same dialog boldly violates. Szymborska heretic apocrypha unmasks itself because it speaks of matters that should remain unspoken. The secular theme in Byzantine mosaics is only an exception. They only allowed depictions of the imperial pair but not everyday events.176 Meanwhile, the poem describes how the empress births a child “plump and merry,” beautiful, and with “skin [a];s milk and roses,” but these qualities only show our present expectations. Health and vitality are unmistakable signs of ugliness in the subversively reconstructed world of ascetic contempt for the mundane. What to do with the voluptuous rounded shape that illegally appears in this Byzantine art? It seems like exactly the same question as the one in “Rubens’ Women.” These works symmetrically complement their own deficiencies in the field of representing reality.

A high art scandal occurs on two planes: of form and philosophical beliefs. Szymborska jokingly projects a reversal of aesthetic onto moral rules. Her characters speak of sin and horror, but just one compromising detail restores life to their petrified rules. This sophisticated joke results from Szymborska’s intellectual competence. In Nonrequired Reading: Prose Pieces, she writes about Procopius’ Secret Story and the Hans Wilhelm Haussing’s A History of Byzantine Civilization. In her poem “A Byzantine Mozaic,” we notice the atmosphere of a scandal to stem from the former text, while the latter instructed Szymborska in ←128 | 129→the customs of the time, such as gnosis, the title of church dignitary, and female monasteries.

Questioning of cultural texts reveals the illusory nature of their truths and undermines their cognitive contents.177 The order of convention crumbles as excluded images and themes return through art’s back door. Szymborska’s sophistication makes artistic conventions look naive. She asks questions from outside the protocol. She observes paintings only to ask them to represent ordinary unprotected life. Ludic attitude does not preclude serious reflection. In Szymborska’s poetry, incomplete representations of facts in art omit many human torments, while the ordinary experience of astonishing life exposes the artistically improved versions of reality.

The Paradoxes of Time Transformations

What irrevocably passed leads a crippled existence in our memory. And yet it disperses, loses clarity, and unceasingly degenerates. The perpetrator here is time. However, when it comes to the artistic representation of the world, we find an immobile stream of hours and years in a clear shape. Time is an important question in Szymborska’s ekphrases. We should make use of this chance offered by painting. Even more, we should investigate how poetry can benefit from the petrification of things in paintings.

To what aim do people “make up little pictures” (PB 276)? Why the interest in artworks does not cease and audiences eagerly attend museums? Maybe people desire to discover something important about themselves by trying to recognize their reflections in paintings? Or, maybe they wish to create an illusion of an alternative life, in which there is no fear of the passing time? Do they want to overcome their troubles with identity, reconcile their alienation from the world? Or, do they wish to forget about the suffering of the mortals?

Wisława Szymborska tackles these issues with different literary genres and varying emotional tones. Her answers to the above questions often use philosophical joke that mixes ontological areas. She seems to experiment by not distinguishing between the world of artistic creation and the existing reality. These two worlds penetrate and modify each other. Szymborska challenges the belief in a beautiful utopia of independent reality not bound by the laws of time. I have already written about her correcting of a painter’s vision, but sometimes Szymborska allows for the convention to remain unchanged. That is, we notice ←129 | 130→no interventions into the world depicted by a painter. It is solely Szymborska’s commentary that exceeds the habits of aesthetes and duties of art historians. Her commentary sometimes detaches itself from the painting and heads straight toward philosophical and psychological generalizations.

Let us concentrate on the poem “The People on The Bridge.” This piece seems to utterly simplify – one could say: naively register – the description of a Japanese wood engraving by a nineteenth-century artist, Hiroshige Utagawa. Szymborska deliberately glosses over the painting technique, the subject matter, the epoch, and the context of Japanese culture. She does not seek to create an analog of Hiroshige Utagawa’s178 painting in a poetic language. Szymborska’s account seems as laconic as possible, without imitating Japanese poetry like haiku or tanka. Instead, the poem is a register of an eye sensitive to painting:

What you see is water.

And one of its banks.

And a little boat sailing strenuously upstream.

And a bridge over the water, and people on the bridge.

It appears that the people are picking up their pace (“The People on the Bridge,” PB 276).

The description assumes the familiar form of gradational enumeration. In successive verses, the phrase gets longer and receives more details, as the gaze becomes attracted by the crucial motive in the center of the painting. It is irrelevant that in Hiroshige Utagawa’s painting the lone man struggles with the force of nature on a raft and not a canoe. Although, Szymborska also left out the intricate wooden construction of the dark brown bridge; the handrails in a lighter shade of brown; the gradation of water colors from light blue through navy blue to black; the vertical and diagonal lines of the rainfall; the protective reed umbrellas, round hats, a sack, barren feet of the passersby, who now increase their pace. However, the speaker voiced all that is important. Moreover, the premises of Japanese art precisely connect with Szymborska’s intentions.

Here, Szymborska’s intentions meet with the objectives of Japanese art and the meaning of Hiroshige Utagawa’s wood engraving Rain in Ohashi.179 Joanna Grądziel explains, that Utagawa was a “nineteenth-century Japanese painter who depicted daily street life and atmospheric visions of nature”; he was a master of ←130 | 131→a wood engraving technique called ukiyoe, which means “the depiction of the world which flows and passes away.”180

Szymborska’s agenda is to capture and tame the flow of time; to extract frail moment from the current of time. The speaker’s viewpoint is far from the usual frontal position of the viewer of an artwork. Instead, it is rather a vague gaze from the stars, full of astonishment. The observer from the outer space neither bothers about specialist terminology nor imitates the awe of the dwellers of the “strange planet.” In such optics, the artist is not an individual inscribed in cultural history but merely a representative of the human species. The species that does not accept the obvious laws of time and creates mirage-like forms of immortality over and over again. The poem scolds metaphysical mischief but, in fact, it praises the will of an artist who resists nothingness:

This picture is by no means innocent.

Time has been stopped here.

Its laws are no longer consulted.

It has been relieved of its influence over the course of events.

It has been ignored and insulted.

On account of a rebel,

one Hiroshige Utagawa

(a being who, by the way,

died long ago and in due course),

time has tripped and fallen down (“The People on the Bridge,” PB 276–277).

The shape of the world passes, and yet it is fixed in a painting. The insolence of the artist is punished. The price to pay is the rebel’s head, but the painting remains. It persists and reinforces the memory of its creator. In poetry about art, Szymborska considers the creation of crippled illegal eternity, because the act of artistic creation involves a transition from absence to presence, “artificial” but undeniable.181

If we desire to forget about the destructive workings of time, the admiration of artworks does not suffice. The best would be to free the aesthetic contemplation from respecting the boundaries between the two worlds: the one in front of the painting and the one within. In this piece by Szymborska, a sketch of the psychology of reception reveals a dream of eternal existence, of a moment that lasts forever. Some of those who admire the graphics of Hiroshige Utagawa,

←131 | 132→

They go so far as to hear the rain’s spatter,

to feel the cold drops on their necks and backs,

they look at the bridge and the people on it

as if they saw themselves there (“The People on the Bridge,” PB 276–277).

The persistence in accepting delusions is astounding. When we empathize with others, we assume their experiences; in this case, the experiences of people depicted in an artwork, we consider their mental states to be theirs. But how does this happen? The improbability is validated. As the philosopher Roman Ingarden argues, we do not have such a sense organ that could perceive something that is not a thing with “sensual qualities.”182 Thus, we cannot receive the feelings of neighbors or the sensations presented in artworks. Nevertheless, Szymborska calls this unknown sense: “the sense of taking part” (“Conversation with a Stone,” S 103).

On the other hand, this sphere of beautiful illusions, which hopes for art’s perpetuity, highlights the duality that spans between the mind preoccupied with the idea of immortality and the fleeting existence of men. Szymborska’s irony is peculiar because it does not deny the rebellious usurpations of artists and their recipients. Instead, her irony precisely (indirectly) supports the refusal to submit to the tyranny of time. Adam Czerniawski argues that in “The People on the Bridge” “Szymborska treats the picture as a springboard to her metaphysical speculations by using our admiration for invariability that the artist achieves amid the inexorable passage of time.”183 The identity of the time of existence and art is only a semblance, a delusion, a game. Szymborska expresses frozen movement in a painting with paradoxes. Something is moving but is stuck in place, someone is running but does not achieve her goal, someone embarks on a journey but stays at the beginning.

Hiroshige Utagawa’s woodcut shows an event similar to ordinary life. Szymborska emphasizes the apprehension of movement, which we may understand as the moment’s transition to the eternal time of art. “The People on the Bridge” apprehends the moment equally radically as in Szymborska’s famous poem “The Joy of Writing.” However, apart from dynamic representations of some events, painting shows “time filled with the continuous existence of objects or people who neither move nor do anything. It captures time as a duration.”184 ←132 | 133→In turn, Szymborska’s poetic variations on painting often contemplate stillness, immobility, and frozen motion. For instance, the faces of parents from a dream seem framed in chiaroscuro: “They appeared to me for a long, long, happy time (“Memory Finally,” NEF 112). In one of the portraits appears “the young pawnbroker’s bride …/caught in mid-nonaction” (“Wrong Number,” CH 157). Monkeys chained to a window indifferently judge the evil of the human world (“Breughel’s Two Monkeys”). Grażyna Borkowska briefly states that “the miracle of the world is the miracle of duration.”185

For Szymborska, the moment of art’s reception is an exclusion from existence, a kind of illegal freedom. An artist opposes the law of impermanence by capturing the moment and struggling for a place in the memory of culture. Szymborska’s poem “Vermeer” (from the volume Here), the masterwork “The Milkmaid” from the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum becomes a metaphysical timer, which evaluates our hours and days. Thanks to the magic of painting, the everyday activity never ends. Time slowly flows in the trickle of milk. Vermeer simultaneously represents calm movement and duration. His attentive eye captured a small event, and his hand depicted a story about ordinary life, and how well! Therefore, Szymborska hopefully concludes that if great art lasts, then the world – worse than the one depicted – does not deserve destruction. We may juxtapose Szymborska’s “Vermeer” with Adam Zagajewski’s “Homeless New York”, in which Vermeer’s “The Music Lesson” fondly and forgivingly observes human madness with a divine eye. This masterpiece justifies the world, gives it meaning, and supports its existence.

We discover another painting time that lasts in the poem “Landscape.” The translation of the everyday into an artwork’s language eliminates here the unnecessary elements. In this poem, the orderly world is immediately ready. Only an outsider gains insight into it, a person aware of her own strangeness in this painted space. The speaker’s monolog exchanges places with the woman depicted in the painting. The boundaries between two worlds draw apart:

In the old master’s landscape,

the trees have roots beneath the oil paint,

the path undoubtedly reaches its goal,

the signature is replaced by a stately blade of grass,

it’s a persuasive five in the afternoon,

May has been gently, yet firmly, detained,

so I’ve lingered, too. Why, of course, my dear,

I am the woman there, under the ash tree.

←133 | 134→

Just see how far behind I’ve left you,

see the white bonnet and the yellow skirt I wear,

see how I grip my basket so as not to slip out of the painting,

how I strut within another’s fate

and rest awhile from living mysteries (“Landscape,” NEF 113).

Szymborska’s description brings to mind the works of such Dutch landscape painters as Jan van Goyen, Jacob Ruisdael, and Meindert Hobbema.186 Their painting gives autonomy to the landscape and inscribes people in the world of nature. Human figures – mostly in the background – remain in frozen motion. Should we think of the precise inspiration for Szymborska’s “Landscape,” we might indicate Hobbema’s “The Avenue at Middelharnis.”187 Why? The centrally placed long perspective of an ash avenue that ends with homesteads, the yellow skirt and white cap of a woman who talks to a man in red, a house on the right with a red roof, neatly separated lights and shadows of the spring afternoon. Szymborska even utilized the image of a conversation, as it assumes a new meaning when the dialog occurs between partners located on both sides of the frame.

Art critics often write about the intimate poetry and lyricism of Hobbema’s paintings; and that nothing happens there, as the landscape motifs have the strongest influence on the recipient. Hobbema reliably represents the natural world – “the trees have roots beneath the oil paint” (NEF 113) – but also his joy and pride from the domestication of people in the landscape. What is the most important for Szymborskain the breathtaking masterpiece of simplicity188 of “The Avenue at Middelharnis” is the sense of world order. We will find here no violence or anxiety. All represented elements have a clear meaning: they hold the joy of life.

In Szymborska’s “Landscape,” the speaker appears to be an amateur of art that becomes fascinated with Hobbema’s painting. She simply considers the rules of his artistic game, nothing more. However, there quickly occurs a flight to the depths of the painting and a realization of a regressive dream of remaining oneself along with an abolition of existential worry. We may try and exchange own fate with the figure from the image, which is what the speaker from the twentieth century does, when she assumes the position of a Dutch burger from the ←134 | 135→seventeenth century. The speaker grows accustomed with her new role, as she tries to master the language of axiology attributed to the virtuous and economical Dutch. However, this entails a reflection on the difference worldviews.

There appear two identities – “in front of the picture” and “in the picture;”189 but we cannot reconcile the two perspectives. In the line “I strut within another’s fate,” we recognize a festive masquerade that becomes a philosophical calm and a test of ataraxia, equanimity, tranquility. Obviously, Szymborska would not be herself, if she did not set a mental trap here. The reverse of the “living mysteries” are dead mysteries, which means no mysteries at all, because such painting convention explains and displays everything.

The confrontation of the past epistéme with the modern worldview will never end in harmony. Undoubtedly, the irony emerges here in the recitation of a catechism of truths, cognitive ambitions, and practical prescriptions. Not to mention the amazing cognitive certainty that results from automatically repeated maxims and recommendations. The woman confesses that “What I want to say is in ready-made phrases” (“Landscape,” NEF 114). Therefore, she needs not look for anything:

I know the world six miles around.

I know the herbs and spells for every pain.

God still looks down on the crown of my head.

I still pray I won’t die suddenly.

War is punishment and peace is a reward.

Shameful dreams all come from Satan.

My soul is as plain as the stone of a plum….

I never use despair, since it isn’t really mine,

only given to me for safekeeping (“Landscape,” NEF 113–114).

The line of the horizon outlines the area of an orderly, safe, and meaningful world. In the middle of the private cosmos stands the house, while the vertical line drawn from this point leads to God. Home potions can heal suffering, whereas despair is an unknown state of mind. In this exclusion of melancholy, we notice an echo of Kierkegaard’s despair, the despair of twentieth-century existentialists, and a general hint at the absurdity of human endeavors. In the world of the woman from the painting, what triumphs is Protestant virtue, honesty, and sense of duty. It is not accidental, however, that the woman governs order. Erasmus of Rotterdam emphasized the almost absolute moral power that a Dutch woman held in the family; this power stemmed from her dexterity and ←135 | 136→zeal.190 We may only admire that order and envy our predecessors. However, let us note the signal of double awareness introduced by the word “still.” This harmony – unavailable to us – will soon fall apart. After the experiences of the twentieth century, the speaker must reject the idealized vision as too beautiful and unfortunately untrue.

The naive identification with the painted figure is a liberation of existence from the laws of time and a creation of a convenient asylum for the experiencing subject. Of course, the disguise is temporary, even if cognitively informative. Szymborska’s speaker wants to find herself in such sanctuary, without relinquishing her analytical inquisitiveness. To achieve such position, one needs sensibility and distance. Then, even a moment of reflection within the order of the Dutch landscape will reveal the truth about our misery of being in the world.

This conversation with someone who cannot penetrate the painted world is a dialogized monolog. Here appears an impressive paradox of an insignificant abyss: “Even if you bar my way,/even if you stare me in the face,/I’ll pass you by on the chasm’s edge, finer than a hair” (“Landscape,” NEF 114). The seeming proximity conceals a great separation. This fragment shifts the reading in yet another direction. The escape from the laws of time simultaneously becomes an escape from another, while another’s fate brings an even more intense experience of own existence, as if against the original assumption. According to Szymborska, only a solitary person can produce viable acts of reflection. However, the persons immediately risks losing her unique individuality within an interpersonal system. This dimension of “Landscape” brings this poem closer to such Szymborska’s pieces as “Nothing Twice,” “I am too close for him to dream of me…,” and “Thank-You Note.”

An individual cannot find oneself in successive reflections: neither in art nor in social interactions. The former orders existence, while the second disperses existence too much. “Landscape” alternately reveals the rules of artistic convention and the rules of life. The duration of a moment inside the picture contrasts with the linear time outside. The challenge to the autonomy of the landscape’s reality occurs here a bit differently than in “Rubens’ Women” and “A Medieval Mosaic.” Namely, the “unpainted” (NEF 114) stories appear in “Landscape” in a conventional artistic space. They happen inside the house, which occupies a very small part of the painting entitled “The Avenue at Middelharnis.” Thus, the poetic imagination opens up another world, one absent from the picture. The picture in the picture appears to be a story within a story:

←136 | 137→

The cat hops on a bench,

the sun gleams on a pewter jug,

a bony man sits at the table

fixing a clock (“Landscape,” NEF 114).

Then everything follows the rules of art. The cat may be a detail in any Dutch painting, the reflection of light in a pitcher – a fragment of still life. Only the watchmaker appears to be a symbolic figure: an embodiment of death in Arcadia or the deity Chronos who set aside his scythe? The symbolism of transience sets in motion “artificial eternity” (CH 184) and reminds us of the return to the flowing time of mortals. We may view the picture’s frozen moment as a defect of the mechanism, which no one can (thankfully) repair in an artwork. The established moment appears to the recipient in a form fixed once and for all. Szymborska projects our everyday horror onto that space. Destructive time flows and labors for death. The noble work of artists, just like the aesthetic contemplation of art, will change nothing. Szymborska’s approach reminds us of the questions posed in Zagajewski’s poem: “Tell us, Dutch painters, what will happen/…/when all the colours grow cold./Tell us what darkness is.”191

Szymborska’s landscape receives an unexpected supplement. The speaker’s interference in the living basis of the painted world breaks its uniformity. Thus, Szymborska scrutinizes the consequences of freezing time and the limiting of worldview to a painting. She does not deprecate art’s substitute immortality. Her irony only restores the right proportion between divine usurpation and ordinary human life.

Paintings: Memory, Dream, History

We may summarize Szymborska’s poetic method in this way: we can open paintings to surprises only if we exceed the integral laws of art, confront it with ordinary life, broaden with inconceivable representations, and disturb the ways of art reception. This will not harm paintings, as they will only gain new readings in a poetic language. However, to fulfil the cognitive advantage and playful satisfaction, what must precede the rebellion against the conventionality of art is the brilliant recognition of the distinctive features of each artistic convention. Although, let us not confuse liberty with arbitrariness.

←137 | 138→

Szymborska treats the Old Masters as good friends, just as we treat all artists whose works help us live. Literary predecessors also make “friends in culture.”192 Therefore, Szymborska may abandon the custom of solemn communion with art. In this situation, smug judgments would be tactlessness. A joke does not exclude empathic reception, subversion does not destroy hard-earned aesthetic experiences. Since the charitable presence of great artists in Szymborska’s poetry is so clear, the past of art must not be too distant from the present. Szymborska’s statements on painting are broad. They include not only seeing and experiencing but also the experience of existence and life’s wisdom.

I will concentrate here on problems of giving form to ordinary and everyday events with the help of references to artworks. The scattering of events merges painterly compositions. Thus, translation into the language of painting becomes significant, as it refers to cultural topoi by activating a collective imaginarium. The following group of Szymborska’s works convey not full ekphrases, as some of their determinants lack, such as the indication of a specific work, the painter’s name or genre;193 or the subject of the poem are matters beyond the painting. The memoirs of dream fragments in the poem “Memory Finally” are remembered with the help of art, which helps them gain clarity and meaning. In this personal lyric we recognize the triad memory-dream-art.

Demons may inhabit dreams when the mind is asleep. We have no power over the madness of dreams. Everything can be deformed, even images of people closest to you. After a series of grotesque incarnations, the figures of parents in “Memory finally” appear according to expectations, like masterpieces of portrait painting. Chaos of dreams has been vanquished again: “In a dream, but somehow freed from dreams, …/In the picture’s background possibilities grew dim,/accidents lacked the necessary shape” (“Memory Finally,” NEF 111). The dream image is recovered and described. We may treat the painter’s canvas as an ennobling of the oneiric vision. Extracted from the great museum of imagination, Rembrandt comes to help us by filling the empty space of expectations:

Memory’s finally found what it was after.

My mother has turned up, my father has been spotted.

I dreamed up a table and two chairs. They sat.

←138 | 139→

They were mine again, alive again for me.

The two lamps of their faces gleamed at dusk

as if for Rembrandt (“Memory Finally,” NEF 111).

Light against darkness. The order of culture against the disintegration of time. Rembrandt-like representation means here a sudden flare of consciousness. The faces of parents emanate with light. The reference to chiaroscuro technique determines the wonder brought about by the vision and its disappearing character. The parent figures that emerge from the darkness appear as if coming straight from nothingness. As Rudolf Arnheim argues:

the life-giving energy establishes the center and the range of a narrow world. Nothing exists beyond the corners to which the rays reach…. When the darkness is so deep that it provides a foil of black nothingness, the beholder receives the compelling impression of things emerging from a state of non-being and likely to return to it. Instead of presenting a static world with a constant inventory, the artist shows life as a process of appearing and disappearing.194

Struggle against unfaithful memory in “Memory Finally” is rewarded with a sudden flash of a dream image. According to Jacek Łukasiewicz: “The parents, after a purgatory of bizarre and grotesque dreams of their daughter, achieve the heaven of a Rembrandtian portrait.”195 The goal is fidelity and compliance of external truth with an internal feeling. We need no other beauty. The traditional pair of concepts – truth and beauty – becomes one in this miracle of seeing into the past. The parents “shone, beautiful because just like themselves” (NEF 112). Oneiric realism is better than idealization, while a reliable resemblance is better than dazzling metamorphoses. To emphasize the value of the vision even more, Szymborska employs a fairy-tale phrase: “They appeared to me for a long, long, happy time” (NEF 112). Notably, Julian Przyboś regarded “Memory Finally” to be a “masterpiece dream reporting.”196

We wake up with a regret from such a dream. The transition to the real world “sits on our shoulders” (“The Real World,” EB 292); that is, it only remains attached to what is fulfilled, which disappoints us: “I woke up. I opened my eyes./I ←139 | 140→touched the world, a chiseled picture frame” (“Memory Finally,” NEF 112). The important problem of framing in art stimulates Szymborska’s imagination, because it marks the boundaries between the real and the imagined world. In “Landscape,” the alter-ego of the speaker – the woman in Hobbema’s painting – firmly holds the basket “so as not to slip out of the painting” (NEF 113). Elsewhere, to cross the frame may mean to create the image of a person in the gaze of another. In this sense, an admired woman becomes an artificial artwork. That is, she exists inside a picture. Such reflection is illusory, but always very desirable. In “Over Wine,” when the spell of gaze ceases, the speaker abandons idealization for a skeptical self-analysis:

When he isn’t looking at me,

I try to catch my reflection

on the wall. And see the nail

where a picture used to be (S 81).

It seems as if Boris Uspenskij’s explanation was prepared for this particular fragment of poetry: “the frames of a painting … by necessity belong to the space of the external beholder … and not to the supposed three-dimensional space represented in the picture. When we intellectually enter this supposed space, we forget about the frames, just as we forget about the wall, on which the painting hangs.”197

Szymborska remembers about the frame and transitions between various realities. The frame is an abyss few centimeters broad, which divides compensatory illusion from the real life (“Landscape”). The touch of the frame means a blackout of Rembrandtian dream (“Memory Finally”). The nail left after a hanging painting may be a visible sign of the possible magic of transformation (“Over Wine”).

What is also interesting are references to art, which do not deconstruct and recompose the artworks. These paintings do not lend their order to experiences and dreams. They become no objects of commentary. On the contrary, this time it is art that comments on the criminal ailments of history. Szymborska treats painting as a pretext, but it does not mean it plays a marginal role. In “Brueghel’s Two Monkeys,” the concise representation of a painting anecdote is closely related to the parabolic presentation of disappointment, own work before ←140 | 141→1956, an accusation of Stalinism, and a forewarning for the future. Poems from the same volume Calling Out to Yeti make this semantic context more precise.198

The painting of Peter Bruegel the Elder appears in a dream. It appears in a recurring nightmare of the probably failed exam in the “History of Mankind” (COY 42). The painting becomes part of a great metaphor that includes an abbreviation of history and an uncomfortable psychological situation. Szymborska’s poem interestingly plays with space, because the image with two monkeys in a window – framed with a thick wooden arc – is incorporated into an unspecified room of pedagogical torture. That is where the exam occurs. There appears a monologizing figure in front of the painting-window:

The exam is History of Mankind.

I stammer and hedge.

One monkey stares and listens with mocking disdain,

the other seems to be dreaming away —

but when it’s clear I don’t know what to say

he prompts me with a gentle

clinking of his chain (“Brueghel’s Two Monkeys,” COY 42).

Silence derives from shame and embarrassment. Anna Legeżyńska argues that the most important element in “Brueghel’s Two Monkeys” is “the concept of reversing roles: it is not the human who looks at nature, but vice versa, nature “tests” his humanity.”199 The situation undermines the human position as the most perfect creation of nature, because it is impossible to hide the barbarism of the dethroned king of creation. In short, the history of humanity is the history of enslavement with people as tyrants in the world of nature, while history is a senseless bloody spectacle.

“Brueghel’s Two Monkeys” corrects the meaning of Brueghel’s work. The allegory of subjugated Dutch provinces,200 just like the connection with the moralistic proverb “to go to court because of a hazel nut” (for a petty crime), is irrelevant here, because what matters is the “historiosophical and existential” meaning.201 A window niche defines the space of monkeys’ torment, while the window opens to a beautiful luminous landscape. The figure in front of the window sees both plans. Szymborska contrasts the sorrow of stillness with movement, the ←141 | 142→narrowness of the closed space with an open perspective, the enslavement with the desire for freedom.

The case of the poem “Wrong Number” is still different. This work is about the paradox of perfect art and imperfect life. Again, we find here a few examples from the catalog of a museum exhibition but selected to foreground frozen motion. Szymborska contrasts the stillness of the figures in the paintings to the mobility of the living people, absorbed in everyday bustle. In contrast to the mundane employment, the “eyes [of prophets and kings are] fixed on some nail” (“Wrong Number,” CH 157). The latter will remain unmoved and, of course, will not respond to the invitation to talk. On the one side of the gilded frames, there will be “nonaction,” while on the other side, a simple mistake in the choice of phone number. The display of art’s artificiality is comical and instructive. Immobilized in their poses, the haughtily silent witnesses will not overcome the misunderstanding, as they will remain only the background for the human comedy. Szymborska views the reason for human existence in our right to imperfection. She argues her idea with the transformation of the famous proud formula of Descartes: “He lives, so he errs” (“Wrong Number,” CH 157).

Painters use lines and colors that engage the human eye to develop life situations. Szymborska’s poetry visualizes reflections and impressions to give concrete shape to ideas. Painting domesticates new areas of experience. Paintings overcome foreignness, define nonincarnate things, and stop chaos. A sudden association to an artwork appears suddenly and, without unnecessary translations, it stimulates the recipient’s cultural memory. When in “The Suicide’s Room” appears a detail – “Saskia and her cordial little flower” (LN 225) – this visual appeal will not encounter emptiness. An educated reader will think about Rembrandt’s painting “Flora” or “Saskia as Flora.” Another sentence inserted in the argument about the family album – “No Bosch-like hell within their souls” (“Family Album,” NEF 115) – eliminates a certain type of association only if we know what the reference point is. That is, there were no scandals, excesses, or misdeeds in the family. Bosch’s satanic hybrids and demonological symbolism provides here a form for erroneous guesses. In other words, Szymborska’s righteous bourgeois protagonists resist phantasms of vice like Bosch’s Saint Anthony. Noteworthy, Saint Anthony’s temptations overturned the nice rules of the world, whereas our demons of sensation and scandal – especially in mass culture – are much smaller temptations that, nevertheless, poison the imagination.

For Szymborska, painting and sculpture refer to the psychological reality. Once one notices the comparison, the reference to an artwork beings to reveal psychology’s deficiencies and defects. Szymborska’s travel poems elaborate the matter of the scattering of images in memory. After visiting world galleries, ←142 | 143→museums, and famous sites,202 there only remains a ruin of impressions, as in “Travel Elegy,” we read: “Memories come to mind like excavated statues/that have misplaced their heads” (S 70). The mutilated ancient sculptures partly imitate the action of memory. Because memory operates like a guillotine. Artworks appear in their finite shape only in the present moment. The current reception provides the complete experience. When traces of fresh and delighted observation disappear, there begins the process of dissipation. We can no longer recover the initial whole.

Szymborska’s poetry repeats no schemes. It may happen that representations of art bring to life an everyday street image. The Gothic fantasies by Viollet-le-Duc and famous sculptures from the Paris cathedral of Notre-Dame observe the sleeping vagabond (“Clochard”). The clochard appears as the successor of the medieval people of the road. He incarnates the eternal pattern. Posing for paintings is also his domain: “And they never paid him in the fifteenth century/for posing as the thief on Christ’s left hand –/he has forgotten all about it, he’s not waiting” (“Clochard,” S 67).

The language of art supports the apology and phenomenology of dreams (“In Praise of Dreams”), helps to understand duration and transience, and illuminates the relationship between people and things (“Museum”). The language of art enters Szymborska’s anthropological reflection (“The Monkey,” “A Paleolithic Fertility Fetish,” “Cave”) and allows us to look into the nature’s masterful order (“Thomas Mann,” “Returning Birds,” and “Commemoration”). Nature naturans exceeds the measure of diverse perfection that is available to us, so we may only describe its creations with the help of the best human creations. Szymborska juxtaposes the two orders by using comparisons of natural and man-made things: painting, architecture, and the applied arts.203

Szymborska’s poetry corrects the shape and meaning of ontologically different realities in two directions: the artistic imagination enriches the experience of the surrounding world, while the unlimited number of perfect forms of existence in nature reveals the limited set of truths offered by art. The principle of exclusivity gives way to interpenetration of art and life. In their common field, where the indicated components of the poetic world intersect, occurs a meeting of art and life in accordance to the patterns of painting or sculpture. Reflection types can exchange places. Immature life feeds on the wisdom of culture and, on the other ←143 | 144→hand, the unpredictability of coincidence questions the ready-made patterns and poses. Cognitive subversion requires us to read artworks against the prevailing customs of reception. Finally, ready-made judgments provoke us to intellectual quarrels.

Additional commentaries shift the center of gravity from the reconstruction of artworks in poetic language to current matters along with historical, social, and psychological issues. The thematic breakthrough has its counterpart in the style of Szymborska’s poems: from a fidelity to the atmosphere of the times to the foregrounding of foreign elements from outside of the circle of poetic imitations. On the other hand, the exposition of the foundation of the painting’s existence (canvases, frames) – along with descriptions of painting techniques and the analysis of purely pictorial values – informs us that the lyrical action happens in an artificially isolated world. Szymborska’s irony achieves its full range here. Change is the dominant feature of Szymborska’s poetic world: life in art serves the art of life.

←144 | 145→

161 M. Rzepińska, Siedem wieków malarstwa europejskiego, Wrocław 1988, pp. 228 ff.

162 About “intersemiotic translation” in the poem “Rubens’ Women,” see J. Grądziel, “Świat sztuki w poezji Wisławy Szymborskiej,” Pamiętnik Literacki 2/1996, p. 97. Also see E. Balcerzan, “Poezja jako semiotyka sztuki,” in: Kręgi wtajemniczenia. Czytelnik·Badacz·Tłumacz·Pisarz, Kraków 1982, pp. 149, 154.

163 E. Fromentin, The Old Masters of Belgium and Holland, New York 1882, transl. Mary C. Robbins, p. 86.

164 I quote the opinions of Stanisław Witkiewicz and Michał Żmigrodzki after J. Białostocki, “Znaczenie Rubensa w dziejach sztuki europejskiej,” in: Refleksje i syntezy ze świata sztuki. Cykl drugi, Warszawa 1987, p. 127.

165 “Powrót do źródeł (rozmowa z Wisławą Szymborską),” in: K. Nastulanka, Sami o sobie. Rozmowy z pisarzami i uczonymi, Warszawa 1975, p. 306.

166 Białostocki, “Znaczenie Rubensa,” p. 134.

167 For the list of paintings as “pre-texts,” see E. Dąbrowska, “Wisławy Szymborskiej poetycka sztuka “przekładu” sztuki,” in: Wisława Szymborska. Tradice – současnost – recepce…, p. 48.

168 Cf. M. Karwala, “Wisława Szymborska. Autorka “paru wierszy,”” in: Polska poezja XX wieku. Klucze do interpretacji, Kraków 2000, Vol. II, pp. 103–104.

169 Rzepińska, Siedem wieków, p. 229.

170 J. J. Winckelmann, “Thoughts on the Imitation of the Painting and Sculpture of the Greeks,” transl. H. B. Nisbett, in: German Aesthetic and Literary Criticism: Winckelmann, Lessing, Hamann, Herder, Schiller and Goethe, ed. H. B. Nisbett, Cambridge 1985, pp. 39–40.

171 Kwiatkowski, “Arcydziełka Szymborskiej,” p. 123.

172 J. Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages, transl. F. Hopman, London 1987, pp. 237–238.

173 Cf. J. Grądziel, “Świat sztuki,” p. 98.

174 About the relationships of conceptismo with archaic stylization in Szymborska’s poetry, see T. Skubalanka, “Styl poetycki Wisławy Szymborskiej,” in: Herbert Szymborska Różewicz. Studia stylistyczne, Lublin 2008, pp. 49–52.

175 Cf. M. Czermińska, “Ekfrazy w poezji Wisławy Szymborskiej,” Teksty Drugie 2–3/2003, pp. 237–238.

176 See M. W. Ałpatow, Historia sztuki, Vol. II: Średniowiecze, transl. M. Kurecka i W. Wirpsza, Warszawa 1976, pp. 17–18.

177 Cf. Sandauer, “Na przykład Szymborska,” pp. 428–443.

178 Reproduced on the book cover of W. Szymborska, People on the Bridge. Poems. Introduced and translated by Adam Czerniawski, Boston 1990.

179 Czermińska, “Ekfrazy w poezji,” p. 235.

180 Grądziel, “Świat sztuki w poezji Wisławy Szymborskiej,” p. 94.

181 E. Souriau, “Sztuka i sztuki,” transl. I. Wojnar, in: Antologia współczesnej estetyki francuskiej, ed. I. Wojnar, Warszawa 1980, p. 270.

182 R. Ingarden, “Poglądy J. Volkelta na wczucie,” in: Studia z estetyki, Vol. III, Warszawa 1970, p. 118.

183 [A. Czerniawski], “Szymborska,” in: World Authors 1980–85, p. 816.

184 J. Białostocki, “Sposoby przedstawiania czasu w sztukach wizualnych,” in: Refleksje i syntezy, pp. 55–56.

185 G. Borkowska, “Szymborska eks-centryczna,” Teksty Drugie 4/1991, p. 49.

186 Cf. E. Mikoś, “Przez sztukę dawnych lat widzieć siebie (O “Pejzażu” Wisławy Szymborskiej),” Warsztaty Polonistyczne 1/1993, pp. 47–49.

187 Cf. Czermińska, “Ekfrazy w poezji,” p. 238.

188 H. Potterton, The National Gallery London, Londyn 1985, p. 117.

189 For a more detailed interpretation, see J. Faryno, dz. cyt., s. 133 i n.

190 Cf. P. Zumthor, Daily Life in Rembrandt’s Holland, Stanford 1994.

191 A. Zagajewski, Without End: New and Selected Poems, transl. C. Cavanagh, R. Gorczynski, B. Ivry, C. K. Williams, New York 2003, p. 222.

192 M. Baranowska, Ja – Cień, in: Tak lekko było nic o tym nie wiedziećSzymborska i świat, Wrocław 1996, p. 32. Also cf. J. Brzozowski, “Poetycki sen o dojrzałości. O “Dwóch małpach Bruegla,”” in: O wierszach Wisławy Szymborskiej. Szkice i interpretacje, ed. J. Brzozowski, Łódź 1996, p. 20.

193 See A. Dziadek, “Ekfraza i hypotypoza,” in: Obrazy i wiersze. Z zagadnień interferencji sztuk w polskiej poezji współczesnej, Katowice 2004, pp. 53–55.

194 R. Arnheim, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye, pp. 325, 327. Also cf. E. Bieńkowska, “Mądrość światłocienia,” Znak 4/1977.

195 J. Łukasiewicz, “Miłość, czyli zmysł udziału. O wierszach Wisławy Szymborskiej,” in: Rytm, czyli powinność. Szkice o książkach i ludziach po roku 1980, Wrocław 1993, p. 163.

196 J. Przyboś, “Poezja Szymborskiej,” in: Radość czytania Szymborskiej. Wybór tekstów krytycznych, eds. S. Balbus, D. Wojda, Kraków 1996, p. 30.

197 B. Uspieński, “Strukturalna wspólnota różnych rodzajów sztuki (na przykładzie malarstwa i literatury),” transl. Z. Zaron, in: Semiotyka kultury, eds. E. Janus, M. R. Mayenowa, Warszawa 1975, p. 224.

198 Brzozowski, “Poetycki sen,” pp. 12–14.

199 A. Legeżyńska, Wisława Szymborska, Poznań 1996, p. 22.

200 J. Francis, Bruegel przeciwko władzy, transl. E. Radziwiłłowa, Warszawa 1976, p. 57.

201 Dziadek, “Ekfraza i hypotypoza,” pp. 141–142.

202 For more about factographies of travel, see Bikont, Szczęsna, Pamiątkowe rupiecie, pp. 109–119.

203 For more, see Grądziel, “Świat sztuki,” pp. 86–87.