Written Commentary on 'Acrobat' by Wislawa Szymborska.

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Natasha Bertaud                IB1C

Written Commentary on ‘Acrobat’ by Wislawa Szymborska

        The poem, Acrobat, by Wislawa Szymborska, speaks literally of an acrobat and the logic-defying stunts he performs to his audience. Figuratively, the poem speaks of our mortality, reminding us of the brevity of life, and thus reinforcing the need to take advantage of what little time we have and the need to use this time wisely. Through the focused example of an acrobat, a performer, Szymborska shows us that not everything lasts and that expectations often lead to disappointment as things are inevitably not always as we would have thought.

        The poem contains four stanzas which seem to accumulate weight throughout the poem: the first and second being of six lines and the third stanza consisting of eight. However this accumulation is quickly thrown off its tracks as the lasts stanza contains a suitably striking set of two lines. This particular structure consistently reflects the underlying themes of the poem. On a literal level we see suspense and tension build up “in the hush that follows the drum roll’s silence”, as the acrobat prepares for his performance. Up until the last stanza the tension continues to be built upon as the acrobat “waits to pounce in flight” and “cunningly weaves” his body into an impressive array of entertaining movements, it would appear even the “air” is “startled” by his agility and skill. Yet just as quickly as it begun, the performance is drawn to a halt and the acrobat becomes just another man again. All the glamour of the show evaporates and just as the tone of the last line implies, the audience is left disappointed with its brevity, it “passed” by so quickly they barely had a chance to take it all in. The brevity of the last stanza therefore echoes the poem’s literal meaning.

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        On a figurative level we understand that our expectations are not always fulfilled: The audience, represented in the speaker’s voice, is amazed and dazzled by the display. This awe is built upon from the start of the poem as the stanzas grow in weight and intensity and the acrobat’s movements seem to be defy our imagination as he moves “more swiftly than than his body’s weight, which one again again is late for its own fall”. The repetition of certain words such as “though”, “than” and “again” serve to establish a rhythm, like the beating of a heart or an ...

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