Hungarian poems in English - only ones that had been translated.


#1

Endre Ady: Autumn Passed Through Paris (Párizsba beszökött az Ősz)

 Autumn sliped into Paris yesterday, 

came silently down Boulevard St Michel,
In sultry heat, past boughs sullen and still,
and met me on its way.

As I walked on to where the Seine flows by,
little twig songs burned softly in my heart,
smoky, odd, sombre, purple songs. I thought
they sighed that I shall die.

Autumn drew abreast and whispered to me,
Boulevard St Michel that moment shivered.
Rustling, the dusty, playful leaves quivered,
whirled forth along the way.

One moment: summer took no heed: whereon,
laughing, autumn sped away from Paris.
That it was here, I alone bear witness,
under the trees that moan.


#2

Endre Ady :Behold My Treasures, Darling

Behold my treasures, darling, 

they are less than a Biblical farthing,
behold the fate of a true and faithful life,
look at my grey hairs departing.
I didn’t wander afar
sadly I was proud to be a Magyar,
and I got a misery, woe, misfortune
and I have reaped troubles galore.
At loving I was pretty good
couldn’t be outdone even by a God
as I conceived of it as a child.
Look at me now, in pain, blood, and fever defiled.
If you hadn’t come mt way
my lamenting mouth would have nothing to say
behold the mockers of integrity
sending me into the coffin.
Behold me with your love, my darling,
it was you I found while fleeing,
and if there’s a smile left in this loathsome world
you are the smile of my heart.
Behold my treasures, my darling,
they’re less than the Biblical farthing,
let them be dark and youthful to you,
look at my grey hairs departing.

Endre Ady


#3

1935

Attila József :Belated Lament.

My fever’s ever thirty-six degrees and still
mother, you’re not with me.
Like any loose, easy girl when called at will,
You have lain down by Death’s side readily.
From the gentle autumn landscape and many
kind women I try to piece you together,
But there’s no time left as the all-consuming
fierce fire grows hotter.

As I was returning home for the last time
the wars had just ended,
And in entangled and ruined Budapest
Many shops were left breadless and empty.
Crouching on train-roofs I brought you potatoes,
While the sack was filled with millet already;
Stubborn me, I had got a chicken for you,
But you were nowhere to be.

Your sweet breast and self you took away from me
and gave them to the worms.
My, how you consoled and chid your son, but see:
False and deceitful were your kind words.
As you blew on my soup, stirring it, you said:
“You’re growing big for me, eat, my precious, eat”,
But your empty lips taste oily dampness now -
How greatly you misled me!

If only I’d eaten you!.. You brought me your supper
but did I ask for it?
Why did you bend your back over the washing?
That now in a box you should straighten it?
See, I’d be glad if you would strike me once more,
Now I’d be happy for I’d return your blow;
You are worthless for you’re trying not to be,
You spoil it all, you shadow.

You’re a greater swindler than any woman
who deceives and betrays.
Stealthily you deserted your living faith
You bore out of your loves amid your wails.
You gipsy! what you have given, cajoling,
In the final hour you stole back the lot.
The child feels a quick impulse to swear; mother,
don’t you hear it? Tell me off.

Slowly light enters my mind and the legend
has vanished like a dream.
The child that clings to the love of his mother
now realizes how silly he’s been.
Deceit awaits him who’s born of a mother:
He’s either deceived or to deceive he’ll try.
If he struggles on, he’ll die of this but if
he gives in, of that he’ll die.

Translated by John Sz�kely


#4

1936

Attila József:By the Danube.

As I sat on the bottom step of the wharf,
A melon-rind flowed by with the current;
Wrapped in my fate I hardly heard the chatter
Of the surface, while the deep was silent.
As if my own heart had opened its gate:
The Danube was turbulent, wise and great.

Like a man’s muscles when hard at his toil,
Hammering, digging, leaning on the spade,
So bulged and relaxed and contracted again
Each single movement, each and every wave.
It rocked me like my mother for a time
And washed and washed the city’s filth and grime.

And the rain began to fall but then it stopped
Just as if it couldn’t have mattered less,
And like one watching the long rain from a cave,
I gazed away into the nothingness.
Like grey, endless rain from the skies overcast,
So fell drably all that was bright: the past.

But the Danube flowed on. And the sprightly waves
In playful gaiety laughed at me again,
Like a child on his prolific mother’s knee,
While other thoughts were racing through her brain.
They trembled in Time’s flow and in its wake,
Like in a graveyard tottering tomb-stones shake.

I am he who for a hundred thousand year
Has gazed on what he now sees the first time.
One brief moment and, fulfilled, all time appears
In a hundred thousand forbears’ eyes and mine.

I see what they could not for their daily toil,
Killing, kissing as duty dictated,
And they, who have descended into matter,
See what I do not, if truth be stated.

We know of each other like sorrow and joy,
Theirs is the present and mine is the past;
We write a poem, they’re holding my pencil
And I feel them and recall them at last.

My mother was Cumanian, my father
Half-Szekler, half-Rumanian or whole.
From my mother’s lips sweet was every morsel,
And from my father’s lips the truth was gold.
When I stir, they are embracing each other;
It makes me sad. This is mortality.
This, too, I am made of. And I hear their words:
“Just wait till we are gone…” they speak to me.

So their words speak to me for now they am I,
Despite my weaknesses this makes me strong.
For I am more than most, back to the first cell
To every ancestor I still belong.
I am the Forbear who split and multiplied,
Shaped my father and mother into whole,
My father and mother then in turn divide
And so I have become one single soul.

I am the world, all that is past exists:
Men are fighting men with renewed anguish.
Dead conquerors ride to victory with me
And I feel the torment of the vanquished.
�rp�d and Zal�n, Werb�czy and D�zsa,
Turks, and Tartars, Slovaks, Rumanians
Fill my heart which owes this past a calm future
As our great debt, today’s Hungarians.

I want to work. For it is battle enough
Having a past such as this to confess.
In the Danube’s waves past, present and future
Are all-embracing in a soft caress.
The great battle which our ancestors once fought
Resolves into peace through the memories,
And to settle at last our communal affairs
Remains our task and none too small it is.

Translated by John Sz�kely


#5

from: LAMENTS OF A POOR LITTLE CHILD

I dream of coloured inks. Of every kind.

The yellow is the finest. Reams and reams
of letters could I write in yellow ink
to her, the little schoolgirl of my dreams.
I’d scrawl something that looks like Japanese,
then try a bird, most intricately scrolled.
And I want other colours, many more,
like bronze and silver, emerald and gold,
and then I want a hundred more, a thousand,
or rather, I will have a million:
dumb-charcoal, funny-lilac, drunken-ruby,
enamoured, chaste or brash vermilion.
I ought to have some mournful violet,
a palish blue, a brick-red-like maroon,
like shadows seeping through a stained glass window
against a black vault, in August, at noon.
In reds I want a blazing, burning one,
and blood-red, like the blood-stained setting sun
and then I’d go on writing: with a blue
to my young sister, mother will get gold,
I’d write a prayer in gold ink to my mother,
a golden dawn with golden words re-told.
I’d go on writing, in an ancient tower.
My colour set, so fine and exquisite,
would make me happy, oh my God, so happy.

I want to colour in my life with it.


#6

I’ll be a tree

I’ll be a tree, if you are its flower,
Or a flower, if you are the dew -
I’ll be the dew, if you are the sunbeam,
Only to be united with you.

My lovely girl, if you are the Heaven,
I shall be a star above on high;
My darling, if you are hell-fire,
To unite us, damned I shall die.

Tr: Egon F. Kunz


#7

Sándor Petöfi: AT THE END OF SEPTEMBER

The flowers of autumn still blossom in the garden,
the poplar’s still green in the valley below,
but you surely must see how the days start to darken -
the peaks of the mountain are covered with snow.
The flames of the summer still ray in my bosom
and the youth of our springtime still glows in my heart -
but notice my dark hairs - to white streaks I lose them -
as the hoarfrosts of autumn my head’s winter start.

The flower will wilt - fleeting life fades tomorrow.
Come, dearest of wives, hug my shoulder a while…
You cling to me now; will you not in deep sorrow
be seeking my grave over many a mile?
Should the scythe of death cut me before you - confess it! -
will you cover this hull with your tears and shroud?
Could the love of a youth turn your head and so press it,
that you quit for his name - our name once so proud?

Should you choose to discard your attire of a widow,
make a marker of it! Pin it onto my grave!
I shall rise from the darkness to veil up its window -
this, my Flag of Defeat, I shall treasure and save!
It will do as a kerchief to soak up the water
My eyes will have shed at your heart’s cavalier,
facile oblivion, just so that later
I can go on to love you - fore’er and a year!

Another translation of this poem…

THE garden flowers still blossom in the vale,
Before our house the poplars still are green;
But soon the mighty winter will prevail;
Snow is already in the mountains seen.
The summer sun’s benign and warming ray
Still moves my youthful heart, now in its spring;
But lo! my hair shows signs of turning gray,
The wintry days thereto their color bring.

This life is short; too early fades the rose;
To sit here on my knee, my darling, come!
Wilt thou, who now dost on my breast repose,
Not kneel, perhaps, to morrow o’er my tomb?
0, tell me, if before thee I should die,
Wilt thou with broken heart weep o’er my bier?
Or will some youth efface my memory
And with his love dry up thy mournful tear?

If thou dost lay aside the widow’s vail,
Pray hang it o’er my tomb. At midnight I
Shall rise, and, coming forth from death’s dark vale,
Take it with me to where forgot I lie.
And wipe with it my ceaseless flowing tears,
Flowing for thee, who hast forgotten me;
And bind my bleeding heart which ever bears
Even then and there, the truest love for thee.


#8

János Arany: The bards of Wales

Edward the King, the English King,
Rode on a dapple grey charger
‘I wish to know the worth’, said he,
‘of my Welsh lands over the border.

Is the grass rich for sheep and ox,
Are the soil and rivers good?
And are my provinces watered well
By rebel patriots’ blood?

And what of the people, the wretched people
Do they seem a contented folk?
Are they as docile, since I subdued them,
As their oxen in their yoke?

’‘Your Majesty Wales is the fairest jewel
You have in all your crown,
River and field and valley and hill
Are the best you may come upon.

And as for the people, the wretched people,
They live so happily, Sir,
Like so many graves their hamlets stand
And none there even stir.

’Edward the King, the English King,
Rode on a dapple grey charger,
Around him silence which way he want
In his Welsh lands over the border.

Montgomery the castle’s name,
Where he that night remained,
The castle’s lord, Montgomery,
His monarch entertained.

There was fish and flesh and whatever else
To sight and taste seemed good,
A rowdy throng, a hundred strong,
Bore in the heavy load.

All kinds were there, that isle could bear
Of meat and drink, with these
was bubbling wine that sparkling shone,
Carried from distant seas.

‘Ye Lords! ye lords! will no one here
His wine glass with me clink?
Ye lords! ye lords! ye rude Welsh curs,
Will none the King’s health drink?

There is fish and flesh and whatever else
To sight and taste seem best,

  • That I can see, but the devil I know
    Dwells in each noble’s breast.

Ye lords! ye lords! ye vile Welsh curs,
Come greet your Edward;
Where is the man to sing my deeds
A Welshman and a bard?

’Each night upon the other looked
Of the guests assembled there;
Upon their cheeks a furious rage
Paled to a ghastly fear.

And strangled breath from lips like death
Was all that could be heard;
When, like a white defenceless dove
Arose an ancient bard.

‘Here there is one to tell thy deeds,’
Chanted the ancient seer;
‘The clash of battle, the hoarse death rattle,
The plucked strings made them hear

.The clash of battle, the hoarse death rattle,
On blood the sun setting;
The stench that drew night - prowling beasts.
You did all this, O King!

Ten thousand of our people slain,
The rest are gathering
The corpses heaped like harvest stocks –
You did all this, O King!’

‘Off to the stake! this song’s too harsh’.
Ordered King Edward.
‘Come, let us have a gentler tune’
Forth stepped a young Welsh bard.

‘Soft breezes sigh in the evening sky,
O’er Milford Haven blown;
Maids’ sobbing tears and widows’ prayers
Within those breezes moan.

’‘Don’t bear a race of slaves ye maids!
Mothers give such no more!’
The King spoke and the boy caught up
The old man sent before.

But though unasked, yet recklessly
Advanced, unmoved, a third
His lyre’s fierce song, like the Welsh bard strong,
And his word must be heard.

‘Our bravest fell on the battle field,
Listen O Edward -
To sing the praises of your name
There is not one Welsh bard!

’‘One memory sobs within my lyre,
Listen O Edward -
A curse on your brow every song you hear
From a Welshman and a bard!

’‘Enough of this! I orders give’
Answered the furious King,
‘To send to the stake all the bards of Wales
Who thus against me sing!

’His servants till their task was done
Their searching never ceased;
Thus grimly in Montgomery,
Ended that famous feast.

Edward the King, the English King,
Spurred his dapple grey charger.
On the skies around, stakes burning stand
In the Welsh lands over the border.

Five hundred went to a flaming grave,
And singing every bard.
Not one of them was found to cry
‘Long live King Edward!

’What murmur is this in the London streets?
What night song can this be?
‘I will have London’s Lord Mayor hanged
If any noise troubles me’.

Within, a fly’s wing must not move,
Outside all silence keep.
‘The man who speaks will lose his head
The monarch cannot sleep.

’‘No! Bring me the music of pipe and drum,
And the trumpet’s brazen roar,
For the curses I heard at the Welshman’s feast
Ascend to my ears once more!

’But above the music of pipe and drum
And the bugles’ strong refrain,
Loud cry those witnesses of blood,
Five hundred Welsh bards slain.

(This poem was written when after 1867 Compromise (Ausgleich of 1867) Franz Joseph ,Austrian Emperor and Hungarian King’ came to see Hungary.)


#9

Frigyes Karinthy: Prologue

I can’t tell anyone,
Hence I tell everyone

I tried to whisper one by one, to all of you,
Your ears and mouths passing through.

The secret, which is common,
And only for a few can be known.

The secret for which I was born
Hidden deeply in blood and torn.

I tried to find somebody whom I could tell
The word, the secret, the tiny miracle,
And whisper in its ears: pass it on!

I can’t tell anyone,
Hence I tell everyone

Nearly turned out the secret, I almost told
But I’ve never finished my word.

One of them turned hot and red from it,
She wanted to whisper too: a kiss had commit.

The other numbly froze from my words,
Passed away, left me alone.

I can’t tell anyone,
Hence I tell everyone

The third suspiciously glared at me,
Started to laugh and this delighted me.

When I was a child I decided,
To tell it to the god, he exists I hoped .

But I’ve never found him in burning thorn,
Even in wine and bread I vainly sought.

In vain I waited, I yearned
He didn’t find me worthy to be concerned.

I can’t tell anyone,
Hence I tell everyone

How hurt me when they fooled and tortured me,
Sometimes would have been better to be naughty.

Cause dream is the sin and dream is the kindness,
But more from all dreams is the evidence

That I’m here and still I am,
And I witness, the sun shines again.

I’m not a god, I’m not the world
Nor aurora, nor aloe crop.

I wasn’t worse or better from anyone,
Though I was the best: a living human.

I was everyones’ relative, friend,
Everyones’ ancestor, descendant.

I can’t tell anyone,
Hence I tell everyone

I tell, I want to tell,
But my hand is gammy, my mouth is stutterer.

I want to tell where the ways end
Help me, provide me a helping hand.

Raise me up, I want to speak, live and look,
I can’t do it here in the dusty ground.

I threw away the clanky and I haven’t a bell,
Here in the dust my voice is so feeble.

A foot stepped on my chest and treaded me,
Raise me up to the height, mercy me.

I hire one of the pulpits,
Let me stay on its step, please.

I don’t know yet what will I say,
But I guess it will be a good news, don’t delay.

A good, an excellent news, secret and rainbow,
From me, for you, whom I loved without sorrow
I stay with rounded eyes here, waiting for the miracle.

What I can’t tell anyone
I’ll tell everyone.

                                / Translated by Csilla D.F./

#10

Forced March

He’s foolish who, once down, resumes his weary beat,
A moving mass of cramps on restless human feet,
Who rises from the ground as if on borrowed wings,
Untempted by the mire to which he dare not cling,
Who, when you ask him why, flings back at you a word
Of how the thought of love makes dying less absurd.
Poor deluded fool, the man’s a simpleton,
About his home by now only the scorched winds run,
His broken walls lie flat, his orchard yields no fruit,
His familiar nights go clad in terror’s rumpled suit.
Oh could I but believe that such dreams had a base
Other than in my heart, some native resting place;
If only once again I heard the quiet hum
Of bees on the verandah, the jar of orchard plums
Cooling with late summer, the gardens half asleep,
Voluptuous fruit lolling on branches dipping deep,
And she before the hedgerow stood with sunbleached hair,
The lazy morning scrawling vague shadows on the air …
Why not? The moon is full, her circle is complete.
Don’t leave me, friend, shout out, and see! I’m on my feet!

—translated by George Szirtes


#11

How Others See

How others see this region, I cannot understand:
to me, this little country is menaced motherland
with flames around, the world of my childhood swaying far,
and I am grown from this land as tender branches are
from trees. And may my body sink into this soil in the end.
When plants reach out towards me, I greet them as a friend
and know their names and flowers. I am at home here, knowing
the people on the road and why and where they are going-
and how I know the meaning when by a summer lane
the sunset paints the walls with a liquid flame of pain!
The pilot can’t help seeing a war map from the sky,
can’t tell below the home of Vörösmarty Mihály;
what can he identify there? grim barracks and factories,
but I see steeples,oxen, farms, grasshoppers and bees;
his lens spies out the vital production plants, the fields,
but I can see the worker, afraid below, who shields
his labour, a singing orchard, a vinyard and a wood,
among the graves a granny mourning her widowhood,
and what may seem a plant or rail line that must be wrecked
is just a signalhouse with the keeper standing erect
and waving his red flag, lots of children around the guard,
a shepherd dog might roll in the dust in a factory yard,
and there’s the park with the footprints of past loves
and the flavour
of childhood kisses- the honey, the cranberry I still savour;
and on my way to school, by the kerbside to postpone
a spot-test one certain morning, I stepped upon a stone:
look! there’s the stone whose magic the pilot cannot see,
no instrument would merge it in his topography.

True, guilty are we all here, our people as the rest,
we know our faults, we know how and when we have
transgressed,
but there are blameless lives here of toil and poetry and passion,
and infants also, with growing capacity for compassion-
they will protect its glow while in gloomy shelters till
once more our land is marked by the finger of peace:
then they will
respond to our muffled words with new voices fresh and bright.

Spread your great wings above us, protective cloud of night.

January 17 , 1944

( One is my favourite poems. K.S.)

I was looking for this poem without success but I found an American poet who wrote a poem about our Miklós Radnóti.
I have never met this poem. I share with you. What is your opinion about it?

A young American poet, Kate Daniels, authored an elegy for Miklos Radnoti. It is a fitting ending for this Introduction to his poetry.

For Miklos Radnoti: 1909-1944

When Radnoti wrote his last poem for his wife
he was weeks away from death.
He must have known it.
The landscape shook green and terrible
through the long retreat. The guards

pushed Radnoti and the other prisoners
harder, fed them less, whipped them more
often, killed more frequently, with less thought,
the fear of their own death and defeat
making it easier to pull the trigger.

In the midst of the six-month death march,
pissing blood, hair and teeth falling out,
Radnoti kept writing his way out of the nightmare,
tiny poems on postcards and matchbooks.
On the road to Budapest, the guards tortured
a retarded Hungarian boy before they shot him in the mouth.
It was the same in the poems: the prisoners died there, too,
blood running from the ear of Radnoti’s friend, the violinist,
the body abandoned in a drainage ditch.

At the end, in the common grave
scrambled up with the human bodies he loved so well,
his poems went down with him,
fierce scraps of life in his coat pockets
that refused to be beaten.
Two years later, the poet gone back
to the earth, the poems remained,
exhumed and reborn,
when the widow plucked them from the fresh, young skeleton. [xv]


#12

Postcard 1

Out of Bulgaria, the great wild roar of the artillery thunders,
resounds on the mountain ridges, rebounds, then ebbs into silence
while here men, beasts, wagons and imagination all steadily increase;
the road whinnies and bucks, neighing; the maned sky gallops;
and you are eternally with me, love, amid all the chaos,
glowing within my conscience — incandescent, intense.
Somewhere within me, dear, you abide forever —
still, motionless, silent, like an angel dumbfounded by death
or an insect inhabiting the heart of a rotting tree.

translated by Michael R. Burch


#13

Jonah’s Prayer

Words have become unfaithful things to me, 

or else am I an overflowing sea,
goalless and hesitant, without a shore.
Vain words, articulated once before,
I carry like dikes, or signposts made of wood,
torn hedges carried by a straying flood.
Oh if the Master only would provide
a bed for my brook’s current and thus guide
my steps on sheltered pathways toward the sea;
if only He would carve a rhyme for me,
a ready-made rhyme, I would avail myself,
for prosody, of the Bible on my shelf,
so that like Jonah, lazy servitor
of God, we hid from Him and later bore
not three brief days or months of agonies,
but three long years of even centuries,
when he went down into the living Fish,
in dark hot torments more than he would wish,
I too, before I disappear, might find
in an eternal Whale whose eyes are blind
my old accustomed voice, my words arrayed
in faultless battle order; as He made
His whispers clear, with all my poor throat’s might
I could speak out, unwearied till the night,
so long as Heaven and Nineveh comply
with my desire to speak and not to die.

Mihaly Babits


#14

THE LYRIC POET’S EPILOGUE

I am the only hero of my verses,
the first and last in every line to dwell:
my poems hope to sing of Universes,
but never reach beyond my lonely cell.

Are others there outside, to bear the curses
of being born? If God would only tell.
A blind nut in the nutshell’s dark traverses,
I loathe to wait for Him to break the spell.

A magic circle binds me like a chain,
and yet, my soaring dreams defy the weight -
but wishful dreams, I know, may tell a lie.

A prison for myself I must remain,
the subject and the object. Heavy fate:
the alpha and the omega am I.


#15

QUESTION AT NIGHT

As twilight softly turns to sombre brown,
you see a velvet-silky eiderdown
spread slowly by an otherworldly nurse
to tuck in tight the sleepy universe
so caringly, that not a periwinkle
is blemished by as little as a wrinkle,
that butterflies remain perfectly painted,
their double wings so delicately decked
and not a single rose petal has fainted
wrapped in the shades that comfort and protect,
and in such soft repose they meditate,
unconscious of the velvet-silky weight:
on nights like this, wherever you should roam,
or muse inside your melancholy home,
or in a tearoom, by the setting sun
watch as they light the gas lamps one by one,
or walk your dog, and wearied by the climb
halt as the lazy moon begins to wane,
or drive along a dusty country lane,
your coachman nodding off from time to time,
or sail upon the sea, as pale as parchment,
or sprawl along the bench of your compartment,
or amble through a foreign city square,
entranced by gazing idly at the glare
of street lamps stretching many-many miles
in accurately even double files,
or cross the Grand Canal, towards the Riva
where opal mirrors split the sunny flames,
to brood upon the blush of bygone fever,
remembering the sweet and sorry games
of seasons past, which like those lamps of yore
loom up some time and then they disappear,
remembrance that will linger evermore,
remembrance that’s a burden, yet so dear:
then lower your remembrance-burdened head
to contemplate the marble floor you tread:
and yet, in this delightful Paradise
the craven hearted question must arise:
why all this beauty, jewel, graven marble?

  • you ask the question with dejected eyes -
    oh, why the silk, the sea, the butterflies,
    and why the evening’s velvet-silky marvel?
    and why the flames, the sweet and sorry games,
    the sea, where farmers never sow a grain?
    and why the ebb and tide of swelling waters,
    and why the clouds, Danaos’ gloomy daughters,
    remembrances, the past in heavy chain,
    the sun, this burning Sisyphean boulder?
    and why the moon, the lamps shoulder to shoulder
    and Time, that endless ever-dripping drain?
    or take a blade of grass as paradigm:
    why does it grow if it must wilt sometime?
    why does it wilt if it will grow again?

#16

TWENTY YEARS LATER

Like snow on Mont Blanc’s distant crest,
That neither sun nor wind may harm,
My unvexed heart now lies at rest,
Inflamed by no new passion’s charm.

Round me a myriad stars contend
Which casts the most flirtatious glow,
And on my head their bright rays bend,
Yet never do I melt or flow.

But sometimes on a silent night,
In lonely dreamings, half-awake,
Your swanlike image floats, so white,
On vanished youth’s enchanted lake.

And then my heart flares up again,
As after a long winter’s night
Mont Blanc’s eternal snowfields, when
The rising sun turns them to light…


#17

THE DANAIDS
Mihaly Babits

In the silent halls of Hades, down the windless halls of
Hades, in the dells of asphodels where asphodel leaves
never tremble, mourning boughs will never bow and
poppy petals hold forever, for the wind is fast asleep
there, sleeps in beds of asphodels, sleeps and will not say
a word,

where the lakes are marble mirrors, motionless, inertly
dozing, eyelids permanently closing, for the lash of
languid eyelids, for the whip of wavy waters, there the
wind has never stirred:

into urns of alabaster, giant urns of alabaster fifty guilty
sisters filling, draining, straining, never spilling, fifty
doomed and wretched widows lifting fifty slender vases
pouring water down below,

fifty doomed, tormented sisters into urns of alabaster vainly
drain their priceless liquid, water from the precious Lethe,
never-ample costly flow.

Mourning trees in dreamy drowse will never shake their
mighty boughs: (for every bough is but a ghost, a suicidal,
ghastly ghost growing grey upon the tree;

wakeful, yet without awareness reaching out into the airless,
mercilessly reeky, rank riverbank,

to the bank along the Lethe, (for this bank is on the Lethe),
reeky river rotten, swilled with ancient, long-forgotten
guilt, soiled with ancient guilty secrets, never draining in
the sea,

as in seven coiling girdles endlessly the Lethe circles round
and round and back again): there the fifty wretched sisters
strain and drain their priceless liquid into urns of alabaster
but in vain, but all in vain

filling, straining all the day the fifty sisters vainly wrestle as
each alabaster vessel mercilessly drains away, like the ocean ebbs away, with the tears and Lethe-water that the urns of alabaster, vicious vases, can’t retain.

Fifty alabaster sisters, raven-haired, tormented sisters, wakeful,
yet without awareness chant a song half-understood;

those tormented widow-sisters, fifty plaintive, pale choristers,
chant their half-understood verses, haunting from their
half-remembered bygone sunlit sisterhood:

"We have murdered, we have murdered fifty valiant wedded
husbands, for we loved and freely lusted, heaven knows
for whom we lusted, drained the juices of desire, draining,
spilling, ever-willing, in the glorious golden sunshine, on
the earth beneath the sky -

"Long lost words are dimly glowing in our souls’ decaying
fire, as if they were streetlights, gilding the walls of an
unlit building; long lost words, how could be trusted as we
chant them never knowing what is: loved? and what is:
lusted? what’s the meaning of: desire? Deep, the
darkness keeps its secret and the shadows don’t reply.

“So let us chant: We have murdered - and remember well:
our husbands - just keep chanting, never knowing, ever
draining, ever filling, ever straining, never slowing, keep
echoing without knowing, otherwise the world is silent and
the silence so harrowing, and the silent deadly darkness
never, never says a word -”

Thus the fifty sisters chanted, doomed widows of deep
resemblance, pallid shapes of alabaster, fifty wives with
raven tresses, by the bank along the Lethe, in the midst of
poppy flowers, never-trembling asphodels, where
mourning trees will never bow and windrustle is never
heard;

in the silent halls of Hades, there the wind, in haunted Hades,
sleeps in beds of asphodels, it sleeps and never says the word.


#18

LONGING FOR DEATH.

Alexander Petőfi.

Give me a coffin and a grave,
And let the grave be deep and low;
And bury with me all I feel,
All passions strong, all thoughts of woe.

O, mind and heart, twice cursed, e’er have
You been the bane of my whole life!
Why torture me with burning scourge?
Why should not end now all this strife?

Why should this feverish brain inspire
To rise above the stars on high?
When angry Fate hath it ordained
That crawl upon the earth should I.

Why have I not fair heavenly wings,
If my aims soar to heaven’s dome?
To carry me into heights where
Immortality is at home!

And if to me this world is void
Of joy, why have I, then, a breast?
Created that of human joys
It be the home, the shelt’ring nest!

Or if there be a heart which flames
And burns in passion’s deep abyss,
Why, then, this icy look on me,
Thou God of happiness and bliss?

Give me a coffin and a grave,
And let the grave be deep and low;
And bury with me all I feel,
All passions strong, all thoughts of woe.


#19

THE ROSEBUSH TREMBLES.

Alexander Petőfi.

The rosebush trembled when
A bird on its twig flew;
My own soul trembles when
I think, my dear, of you,
I think, my dear, of you,
My darling, charming maid.
Thou art the richest gem
My God has ever made.

When swollen is the Danube.
Then it doth overflow:
My heart, with love replete,
Doth now for thee just so.
Tell me, my dearest rose,
Art thou to me still true?
Not even thy parents, dear,
Can love thee as I do.

I know thy love was mine
Neath last year’s summer sun;
But winter came since then —
Who knows what he has done?
Shouldst thou love me no more,
I pray God bless thee still;
But, if thou lov’st me then.
A thousandfold he will.


#20

SOLITUDE.

John Vajda.

Most freely men of their own sorrows speak;
To add to woe and care will ever seek,
And each would wish that all the world might know,
That in the world his is the greatest woe.

And listening mutely to all this complaint,
I felt the more my own heart’s firm restraint
I sought the solitude, for ’tis but there
I dare betray my soul’s dread cross of care.

Where thickest is the wood, the silence deep,
The wind upon the tree-tops falls asleep,
And Nature seems to meet the realms of Nod,
I fall upon my knees and pray to God!

Hast Thou made nothing perfect here below?
How, then, as perfect can Thy creatures grow?
If finite things are ever incomplete,
May not infinity the same repeat?

And Thou, who rulest from Thy throne so grand,
Who giveth life or taketh at command,
The while Thy creatures at Thy feet must crawl,
Canst Thou alone contended be with all?

And lo! a shadow seems to shroud the sky,
A gathering of darkest clouds on high,
And deadly silent is the very air,
And heaven and earth are mute beyond compare.

And then God spake to me. With trembling fear
A sigh, deep and soul stirring, now I hear:
“In all the world like me there’s none to find!
I am alone! one heart, one soul, one mind!”