Wislawa Szymborska’s poem Hatred offers a raw and realistic view of one of the strongest emotions in the human conscious. She explains how, of all the feelings humans experience on the emotional spectrum, hate is the most potent and capable of affecting people’s lives. Unlike other feelings which make individuals’ lives more bearable and interesting, hatred dulls them and triggers sadness. This poem uses ironies that can be powerful while being truthful and honest to pass across the message and convince the audience about the power of such feelings. Its most obvious irony is how the speaker represents hatred as lovely and seemingly skilled at what it accomplishes. In a mocking tone, the speaker says that feelings of empathy and fraternity are faint and uninteresting when contrasted to hatred, lacking the broad appeal that hatred possesses. As a result, brotherhood and compassion, which enhance human well-being, come second to hate, which has mastered attracting multitudes (Szymborska, line 19). The thoughtless masses are seduced not by logic but by enthusiasm rhetoric.
In the first stanza, the speaker personifies hatred as gifted with desirable attributes such as firm resolve and attaining the goal. She pictures hatred, which is as old as man, like a hunter who maintains himself in excellent condition and chases humans down and pounces on them with brutal efficiency, overcoming all difficulties (Szymborska, lines 1-2). I notice that the term “pounces” has a special meaning because it conjures images of an animal pouncing on unsuspecting prey. Hatred, unlike other emotions, is continually recharging and renewing itself and hence appears never to age. Unfortunately, people may not even notice when hatred attacks their lives and they might keep on encouraging it unknowingly. It is nourished by reasons that it has generated rather than external instigation as hatred is an emotion that is almost always awake, and sleep deprivation does not devitalize it; instead, it feeds it. The speaker argues that hatred is a powerful emotion that individuals are always looking for new reasons to hate. Moreover, hatred is its logic, and it flourishes best by instilling religious intolerance and little patriotism. From this stanza, I believe the speaker feels that hatred quickly taints what was likely started as a quest for justice, quickly becoming the guiding concept and gaining traction (Szymborska, 17). The speaker further reiterates the plea of hatred throughout the place, which has an “erotic ecstasy,” and hatred takes on an ugly dimension.
In line twenty-eight, the speaker describes hatred as “Smart, able, hardworking” (Szymborska Line 28). This line shows an obvious irony since hatred is a negative feeling, but the speaker expresses it using pleasant terms that no one would usually equate with hatred. She typically depicts it as a horrible, damaging emotion that causes death and pain wherever it goes. Though Szymborska does not dispute that individuals may express hatred in this manner, she also points out that hatred’s force is undeniably astounding and eventually outweighs the power of other feelings like serenity and happiness (Szymborska, line 25). This idea presents an unusual predicament to me, as it forces me to admire something that threatens millions of people’s lives daily while being unable to refute its beauty. When individuals use irony in particular situations, it can make others feel highly uncomfortable. This poem is no exception; it pushes me to appreciate a notion that I have come to perceive as having a wrong poisonous meaning, much as if I ended up admiring a terrifying dictator for their highly excellent leadership qualities. People know it is incorrect, but they cannot refute it. For this reason, several phrases in the poem, such as the poem’s opening lines “Look, how spry it still is, / how well it holds up,” are sardonic in and of themselves.
Szymborska’s description of hatred as “holding itself up” is almost hilarious, given that it keeps the whole universe bent out of shape. This theme runs throughout the sixth stanza, with lines like “Hatred can create beauty, / Marvelous are her fire-glows, in the deep night” is a bleak yet intriguing type of irony, in which a dreadful scenario, such as the glorious detonation of bombs, is transformed into a gorgeous one (Szymborska, lines 30-31). Hatred is one of the profound truths despite the poem’s dark, unpleasant, and nearly frightening irony. No other emotions generate as much thrill, resonance, drive, and influence as hatred. It is a sad reality that hatred has achieved more than love and peace could ever hope for, even if its successes have had a disproportionately harmful impact. Hate is so pervasive that it leaves no room for doubt as it appeals to emotion and not to intellect. In some aspects, it is even ironic that people depict hatred so negatively while they depict love and peace so optimistically, given the enormous force and purpose that hatred offer compared to love and compassion (Szymborska, line 16). People should believe that society would embrace troops as effective, captivating, and compelling as hatred and admire them for their power and ability. This poem’s irony, and of the world, is that the most negative emotions that drive human behavior and perception are eventually the most potent and effective in the human cognitive spectrum.
Szymborska bitterly remarks, “After that it speeds off on her own,” with all the hopeless cynicism that often defines the world-weary. No other emotion has such a propensity for wreaking havoc. Furthermore, Szymborska appears to believe that no different feeling is capable of such strength, dismissing them as listless weaklings. After destroying individuals and making them hopeless, hatred leaves as fast as it “pounced” on its victims, leaving them without solutions to their problems. This concept is perhaps made more understandable by the utter devastation she recounts as the result of war’s rage and hatred, the never-ending slaughter, and misery (Szymborska, line 17). As she speaks about magnificent bursting bombs and splendid fire-glow, every word is dripping with disdain. The poem’s absolute hopelessness for a brighter future is possibly the most chilling aspect. The speaker believes that war cannot be anything but cold and ruthless. It is the weapon of hatred, with the sniper’s acute vision and unflinchingly forward looks. She utilizes personification later in the poem to compare hatred with compassion, brotherhood, and doubt (Szymborska, line 18). She writes that hatred “never tires” of being an executor. It is also always ready, even if it has to wait. She can wait for empathy and brotherhood to give way to violence in this way and claims that brotherhood, compassion, and doubt are “sluggish” and do not push people to act the same way as hatred does.
Hatred has taken on a life of its own. It is self-sustaining in the sense that it validates its presence, relies on no one else, and never dies. By the time a person realizes what hatred has done to their lives, it might be too late to reverse the emotions. Attempts to apply these ethics to evaluating love and hate relations between nations, or more broadly between groupings and societies, face more challenges. Wislawa Szymborska’s poem Hatred is a classic depiction of feelings and worries, connecting them to the repercussions of the phenomenon. Hatred is a champion of contrast between explosions and utter silence or scarlet blood and white snow. Above all, its leitmotif, the flawless executioner looming over its filthy victim, never gets old. It is constantly up for different experiences and is willing to wait if necessary. Even though others claim it is blind, the speaker believes it has sniper-like vision and stares fearlessly into the future as only it can.
Szymborska, Wislawa. (2017). Hatred.