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        I’ve heard the helpless crying of men, I’ve seen a woman wailing over a little dead body. I’ve met many whose eyes suddenly become springs, whose shoulders shake as when they cough. And believe me, nobody does it well, nobody even does it so you can stand it. Those shuddering throats, fingers clumsily wiping cheeks, those childishly trembling chins prompt mirth rather than move us.

 

        And after all it’s possible to weep beautifully. Before our invaluable reformers make man happy, let us teach children to weep as we teach them to sing.

 

Translated from the Polish by Alissa Valles.

Zbigniew Herbert was born in Lvov, then part of Poland, in 1924, and died in Warsaw in 1998.

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