About Time, Anxiety and Anticipation in the Poem Four in the Morning

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This paper would elaborate on the context of the poem Four in the Morning penned by Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska. The poem is actually included in Szymborska's book of poems that launched her career.

The poem's core focus centers around the idea of time and how people get concerned over real day-to-day events in their lives. On the other hand, suspense combined with sincere hope affects a person's expectation of what the future holds.

The poem Four in the Morning deals with time in an unusual way. It has already been a common scenario for most of our activities at home, school or in the office to be accomplished during the day. The night, in turn, is set for rest in order to gain sufficient energy to do the necessary tasks for the next day. The transition from night to morning is known as dawn, which includes the time between 12 midnight to five in the morning. Thus, at four in the morning, it is normally expected that most people are still sleeping. This transition of time is depicted in the first stanza of Szymborska’s poem,

The hour from night to day.

The hour from side to side.

The hour for those past thirty (n.p.)

Szymborska describes the odd feeling of being awake at four in the morning since most people are at rest or sedentary at this time. Although some people who work in hospitals, fast food chains and factories are already awake by four in the morning or even earlier, still, a lot of people feel a sense of grogginess and tiredness from being awake at this time of the day.

Most people rarely find waking up earlier than usual as beneficial. But for some, being awake at four in the morning allows them to do most of the tasks that they haven’t done the night before. People who have spent several hours working or studying the previous day may not have enough energy to complete the necessary tasks once they get home at night. This is the reason why they resort to sleeping earlier and waking up at dawn instead. For these people, waking up at four in the morning enables them to complete tasks at home ahead of time. Aside from this, they are able to go to school or work without worrying too much about being stuck in traffic.

The difficulty of waking up at four in the morning is also described in the third stanza of the poem,

The hollow hour.Blank, empty.The very pit of all other hours (Szymborska n.p.)

People who are not used to waking up at four in the morning may find it difficult at first. It takes discipline and a little sacrifice to sleep earlier, set the alarm at four o’clock and struggle in going back to bed once awake. But when a person gets used to it, waking up earlier than usual already becomes a routine, by which one may find fulfillment and achieve productivity regarding his or her daily tasks.

Anxiety and Anticipation

There are people who are used to thinking negatively of things that are yet to come. They tend to worry at a greater extent and expect for adversities to happen all the time. Consequently, the feeling of pessimism can be traced with a condition known as anxiety. Anxiety begins when people use their past negative experiences as a basis for present or future occurrences. People may find it traumatic and disappointing to expect for better things to happen at present or in the future because they think that the past will just repeat itself. Such concept of anxiety and pessimism can be depicted in the second stanza of Szymborska’s poem,

The hour swept clean to the crowing of cocks.The hour when earth betrays us.The hour when wind blows from extinguished stars.The hour of and-what-if-nothing-remains-after-us (n.p.)

The phrase “what if” in the last line apparently describes a person’s fear or worries that negative things will eventually occur in their life. The natural response to such fear is complete avoidance or escape. Nevertheless, avoiding life’s troubles and negativities is not always the most appropriate solution for it only increases one’s burdens in life.

The second stanza is also descriptive of people who become worried and pessimistic about something that is uncertain in the future. Even worse is when they cannot cope up with the outcome of such situations once it happens. Thus, anxiety occurs when there is lack of confidence, hope and optimism may it be in present situations or future events. Anxiety also happens when an individual feels rattled or stressed that his or her tasks were left unfinished the previous day. Discouragement and apprehension start to creep in upon thinking that day-to-day tasks will eventually pile up if not done immediately.

Analyzing the deeper meaning of the poem, the transition from night to day may represent the shift from a moment of anxiety to anticipation. Anticipation describes the tendency to prepare and become expectant regarding future occurrences. Anticipation is different from anxiety since the latter has a negative connotation especially when it results to stress and lack of confidence.

Anticipation is a condition by which people should be aware that the worries and troubles that happened the day before are over and that the next day is always a new day. Szymborska seeks to cultivate a sense of anticipation and optimism upon her readers regarding the promises of the coming days. She was able to make a comparison of such concept with that of the ants’ busyness and lifestyle in the fourth stanza of the poem,

No one feels good at four in the morning.If ants feel good at four in the morning—three cheers for the ants. And let five o’clock comeif we’re to go on living (Szymborska n.p.)

Ants as well as other animals do their best to survive through their food-finding and feeding mechanisms. They do not normally care about the events of the past days or on what time should they wake up in order to perform their daily routine. Like ants, people should make an effort to be expectant of what the next day should bring in their lives by cultivating positive thoughts and eluding complaints and worries about their daily activities. Moreover, anticipation of greater things to happen eventually results to productivity and fulfillment in one’s daily tasks.


Time is precious for everyone. Thus, the time that an individual spends for his or her activities should not be wasted. However, for people to achieve fulfillment and productivity with regard to their daily tasks, they must be willing to go out of their comfort zones. Waking up at four in the morning or even earlier may be inconvenient for most people and this is typically one example of going out of the comfort zone. It takes discipline and a certain level of sacrifice to do such a thing. But for those who are able to cultivate a sense of anticipation and optimism, it becomes a lot easier.

Worrying a little regarding the tasks that need to be accomplished on a daily basis may somehow help a person. It can sharpen one’s mind and stimulate alertness and focus. Nevertheless, the tendency to worry unnecessarily and frequently may add up to one’s stress and burdens. Rather than speeding up task completion, it doesn’t help at all in the accomplishment of one’s responsibilities. Furthermore, the quality of activities may become compromised in the process because of anxiety.

Creating a sense of eagerness and optimism should be practiced by most people for these are the aspects that help a person become successful and productive in his or her daily tasks. Moreover, all negative thoughts and “what ifs” are eventually diminished. It only takes a little conditioning of one’s mind and well-being.

Works Cited

Szymborska, Wislawa. “Four in the Morning.” Poetry Society of America.


Accessed 17 February 2017

December 21, 2022

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