Cavafy: Long Ago
I’d like to speak of this memory...
but it’s so faded now... as though nothing is left—
because it was so long ago, in my early adolescent years.
A skin as though of jasmine...
that August evening—was it August?—
I can still just recall the eyes: blue, I think they were...
Ah yes, blue: a sapphire blue.
Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard József Attila: With a pure heart
Without father without mother
without God or homeland either
withour crib or coffin-cover
without kisses or a lover
for the third day - without fussing
I have eaten next to nothing.
My store of power ere my years
I sell all my twenty years.
Perhaps, if no one else will
the buyer will be the devil.
With a pure heart - that’s a job:
I may kill and I shall rob.
They’ll catch me, hang me high
in blessed earth I shall lie,
and poisonous grass will start
to grow on my beautiful heart.Source of the quotation
1976, Hundred Hungarian Poems, Albion Editions, Manchester Nemes Nagy Ágnes: Lazarus
As slowly he sat up the ache suffused
his whole left shoulder where his life lay bruised,
tearing his death away like gauze, section by section
since that is all there is to resurrection.Szirtes, Georgehttp://www.babelmatr...L%C3%A1z%C3%A1rPilinszky János: On the Wall of a KZ Lager
Where you’ve fallen, you will stay.
In the whole universe this one
and only place is the sole place
which you have made your very own.
The country runs away from you.
House, mill, poplar – every thing
is struggling with you here, as if
in nothingness mutating.
But now it’s you who won’t give up.
Did we fleece you? You’ve grown rich.
Did we blind you? You watch us still.
You bear witness without speech.English version by Clive Wilmer and George Gömöri Radnóti Miklós:The Terrifying Angel
The terrifying angel is invisible and silent
inside me, he doesn't scream today.
But then I hear a slight noise,
no louder than a grasshopper's jump.
I look around and don't find anything.
It's him. But he's cautious now. He's getting ready.
Save me, Oh you who love me, love me bravely.
He hides when you're here. But as soon as you leave
he's back. He rises from the bottom of the soul,
screaming. And screaming he accuses me.
This insanity works inside me like poison.
He doesn't sleep much, lives both in and outside of me,
and when the moon is out, and in the white darkness,
he runs through the meadow in whistling sandals.
He searches my mother's grave and wakes her up.
"Was it worth it?" "Was it worth it?"
He whispers to her about rebellion, about giving in.
"You gave birth to him and he dies of it!"
Looking at me, sometimes he tears off
the pages of the calendar too soon.
"How long" and "where to"
depend on him forever now. Last night
his words fell into my heart
the way stones fall into water,
forming rings, wobbling, and spinning.
I was just going to bed, you were already asleep.
I stood there naked when he came in
and started to argue with me quietly.
There was a weird smell, his
breath chilled my ear. "Go ahead!"
He urged. "Skin shouldn't cover you.
You're raw meat and bare nerves.
Tear it off! After all, bragging about skin
is like bragging about prison, it's crazy.
That thing all over you is only an illusion.
Here, here's the knife.
It doesn't hurt. It only takes a second, there's only a hiss!"
And the knife woke up on the table and flashed.
Translated by Steven Polgar, S. Berg and S.J. Marks Kosztolányi Dezső: 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.Zollman, Peter Radnóti Miklós: How others see…
How others see this region, I cannot understand:
to me, this little country is menaced motherland
engulfed by flames, 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 cannot help seeing a war map from the sky,
he 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 vineyard and a wood,
among the graves a granny mourning her widowhood;
and what may seem a plant or a rail line that must be wrecked
is just a signal-house with the keeper standing erect
and waving his red flag, lots of children around the guard;
and 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
for 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 too of toil and poetry and passion,
and infants also, with infinite capacity for compassion --
they will protect its glow while in gloomy shelters until
once more our land is marked out by the finger of peace, then they will
respond to our muffled words with new voices fresh and bright.
Spread your vast wings above us, protective cloud of night. Illyés Gyula: A sentence on tyranny
Where seek out tyranny?
There seek out tyranny,
Not just in barrels of guns,
Not just in prisons,
Not in the cell alone
Where third degree goes on,
Hot in the night without
Challenged by sentry-shout,
Not where in deathbright smoke
Prosecutors’ words provoke,
Not just in the emphasis
Of wall-tapped morse messages,
Not in confession told,
Not in the judge’s cold
Not in the military
‘Halt!’ and the snapped-out ‘Aim!’
‘Fire!’ and the drums of shame
Scattering the squad as it
Drags the corpse to the pit,
Not in the furtively
Guarded, and fearfully
Breathed words the message bore
Passed through half-open door,
Not in the ‘Ssh!’ revealed
On mouth by finger sealed,
Nor confine tyranny yet
To rigid features set,
Peering through bars that still
Show, through that iron grille,
Cries that dumb throats retract
Stopped in the cataract
Or inarticulate tears
Deepening the silent fears
In pupils griefs dilate
Darkened by looming fate,
Not only in ‘Viva!’ cries
Track down all tyrannies,
Surging on tiptoe, strong,
In the acclaiming song.
Where seek out tyranny?
There seek out tyranny,
Not just in mustered bands,
Tirelessly clapping hands,
Fanfares, and opera-stalls;
Just as crude, just as false,
Though cast in stone, speak lies;
Yes, each framed lie can crush.
Even in the painter’s brush,
Or in the car with slight
Noise gliding through the night,
Where it draws up and waits
Throbbing in front of gates,
More than your ancient God,
There seek out tyranny,
In school, in nursery,
In father’s counselling rule
And in the mother’s smile,
In, where a stranger puts
Questions that touch the roots,
Answering the stranger’s gaze,
What the child always says;
Not just where barbed wire twines,
Not just between book-lines,
More than in barbed wire, in
Slogans that stun you:
There, more discreet, it is
In a wife’s parting kiss,
Near you and at your back:
‘When, dear, will you be back?’
In words that folk repeat,
‘How d’you do’s in the street,
In the then suddenly softer
Handshake a moment after
Making your lover’s face
Found in the meeting-place
Freeze on the instant
Because it is present,
Not only in the interrogation
But, too, in love’s confession,
In the words’ sweet wine
Like a fly in the wine,
For even in your dreams
You are preceded:
In the bridal bed
And in the desire it bred;
Nothing you think fair
But it has already claimed;
Your bed it did share
Even when love was named;
It is in the plate, the glass,
In the nose and the mouth,
It is in the cold and the dark,
In the outer air and in your house;
As if through an open window
Came the reek of carrion
Or somewhere in the house
There was a leak of gas.
Talk to yourself and hear
Tyranny your inquisitor;
You have no isolation,
Not even in imagination.
The Milky Way through it becomes
A frontier terrain, scoured by beams,
A minefield, and the star
A spy-hole in a war;
The swarming canopy of the sky
Is a monstrous labour-camp:
The Orator Tyranny
Speaks from bells on the ramp;
From the priest to whom you confess,
From his sermon no less,
Church, Parliament, these
And the rack, are but stage properties:
Open and close your eyes;
Still its scrutiny lies
Upon you like a sickness,
Following you with memory’s quickness.
Harks at the wheels of the train;
This is their refrain:
‘You are taken prisoner, prisoner’;
On the hill, by the sea, you inhale the same reminder.
In the lightning flash it is seen
In every unforeseen
Little noise; its dart
Lights up your astonished heart.
Where you rest, there it is
In boredom’s manacles,
In showers that forge nearby
Bars that reach up the sky,
In the snow, whose fall
Sheer as a cell wail
Hides you while it looks
Through the eyes of your dog,
For it is in all you intend,
In Your to-morrow it is at hand,
Before your thoughts it is aware,
In your every movement it is there;
As water cleaves the river-bed
You follow and form it; but instead
Of peering from that circle anew,
Out of the glass it looks at you,
In vain you try to escape its wrath:
Prisoner and jailer, you are both;
It works its own corrosive way
Into the taste of your tobacco,
Into the very clothes you wear –
It penetrates you to the marrow;
You detach your sense from it, only to find
No other thought will come to your mind.
You look about, but what prompts your gazing?
You use your eyes, but what do they catch?
Already a forest fire is blazing
Fanned into flame by the stick of a match
Where carelessly you threw it down
As you walked, and forgot to tread it in,
And now it guards you in the town,
In field and home and the factories’ din;
No longer you feel what it is to live;
Bread and meat, you do not know them;
You cannot have desire, nor love;
To stretch out your arms is now denied you.
Thus does the slave forge with care
The fetters he himself must wear;
You nourish tyranny when you eat;
You beget your child for it.
Where seek tyranny? Think again:
Everyone is a link in the chain;
Of tyranny’s stench you are not free:
You yourself are tyranny.
Like a mole on a sunny day
Walking in his blind, dark way,
We walk and fidget in our rooms
Making a Sahara of our homes;
Because, where tyranny is,
Everything is in vain,
Every creation, even this
Poem I sing turns vain,
Because it is standing
From the first at your grave,
Your own biography branding,
And even your ashes are its slave.Watkins, Vernon Source of the quotation
1976, Hundred Hungarian Poems, Albion Editions, Manchester