Anna Akhmatova & Wislawa Szymborska on “Lot’s Wife”

Lot’s Wife by Anna Akhmatova:

The just man followed then his angel guide
Where he strode on the black highway, hulking and bright;
But a wild grief in his wife’s bosom cried,
“Look back, it is not too late for a last sight

Of the red towers of your native Sodom, the square
Where once you sang, the gardens you shall mourn,
And the tall house with empty windows where
You loved your husband and your babes were born.”

She turned, and looking on the bitter view
Her eyes were welded shut by mortal pain;
Into transparent salt her body grew,
And her quick feet were rooted in the plain.

Who would waste tears upon her? Is she not
The least of our losses, this unhappy wife?
Yet in my heart she will not be forgot
Who, for a single glance, gave up her life.

 

 

Lot’s Wife by Wislawa Szymborska

They say I looked back out of curiosity.
But I could have had other reasons.
I looked back mourning my silver bowl.
Carelessly, while tying my sandal strap.
So I wouldn’t have to keep staring at the righteous nape
of my husband Lot’s neck.
From the sudden conviction that if I dropped dead
he wouldn’t so much as hesitate.
From the disobedience of the meek.
Checking for pursuers.
Struck by the silence, hoping God had changed his mind.
Our two daughters were already vanishing over the hilltop.

I felt age within me. Distance.
The futility of wandering. Torpor.
I looked back setting my bundle down.
I looked back not knowing where to set my foot.
Serpents appeared on my path,
spiders, field mice, baby vultures.
They were neither good nor evil now–every living thing
was simply creeping or hopping along in the mass panic.
I looked back in desolation.
In shame because we had stolen away.
Wanting to cry out, to go home.
Or only when a sudden gust of wind
unbound my hair and lifted up my robe.

It seemed to me that they were watching from the walls of Sodom
and bursting into thunderous laughter again and again.
I looked back in anger.
To savor their terrible fate.
I looked back for all the reasons given above.
I looked back involuntarily.
It was only a rock that turned underfoot, growling at me.
It was a sudden crack that stopped me in my tracks.
A hamster on its hind paws tottered on the edge.
It was then we both glanced back.

No, no. I ran on,
I crept, I flew upward
until darkness fell from the heavens
and with it scorching gravel and dead birds.
I couldn’t breathe and spun around and around.
Anyone who saw me must have thought I was dancing.
It’s not inconceivable that my eyes were open.
It’s possible I fell facing the city.

 

 

Analysis:

 

1. There’s a breeze of fear, lost and pain.

2. Her memories were positive at first, there was happiness and joyous thoughts grazing her mind. Line 8 says ‘your loved your husband and your babes were born’ which explains a memory recalled brings happiness to oneself.

3. In the case of war, natural disasters, and sometimes the case of finding new lands (nomadic living). These events which could displace humans from their homelands are pivoted towards displacement.

4. She feels neglect from her husband, the poet states clearly the word ‘hesitate’ which goes back to when Lot was leaving Sodom with his family, he held his daughters instead of his wife (a feeling of jealousy that arouses with Mothers whose daughters are loved by their Dad).

5. From line 2, Lot’s wife had several reasons why she turned around. She couldn’t pin it to a reason why (silver bowl, conviction, pursuers, distance) she turned because of virtually anything, but above all it goes back to the old saying ‘curiosity’ – yes, the same one that killed that cat.

6. Wislawa’s poem is not religious in regards to biblical meaning as it expands that chapter of the Bible connoting other thoughts of human nature. Wislawa carefully selects words that give different meanings and makes the reader physically fit for the position of the character ‘Lot’s wife’.

7. I found Wislawa’s poem interesting because I could relate to the poem, the feeling of Lot’s wife, it’s like the poet was in my mind.

8. Anna’s version spoke of her sympathy, expressing pain, tears, loss and grief

9. Wislaw says it all for me, (the feeling of Ikemefuna and Okonkwo). It’s me and my dog for years, me and my cat that died in my absence, me and a pot of beans I wished never finished. Wislaw expresses such loss in the experience of Lot’s wife.

10. Anna Akhmatova’s piece starts with a rhyme other than that of Wislaw. The imagery portrayed in Anna’s piece emphasizes grief, pain and loss while Wislaw portrayed and imagery of confusion and loss. You can perceive a sense of belonging in the poem written by Wislaw right from line 2. One can read both poems as one at the end of the day because the tone could be singled as one.

Ruddapoet

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