IT”S NATIONAL POETRY DAY! To celebrate this, I have chosen the first part of a favourite Hungarian poem, by Attila József, and attempted a rough simultaneous translation into English. See below. It was the Hungarians who first got me mesmerised by poetry, and I love this poem in particular, which I write more about here . And by some strange synchronicity, it is the two countries of Britain and Hungary who are twinned to host the European Capital of Culture 2023, with my home town Leeds as a mighty contender in the bid. Here goes then… Here’s to the power of poetry and internationalism. (The picture above is a typical Budapest corridor inside a block of flats.)
Reménytelenül/ Hopelessly by Attila József (trans. Barney Bardsley)
1. Az ember végül, homokos,
szomorú, vizes síkra ér
szétnéz merengve és okos
fejével biccent, nem remél.
He is one who comes to rest at last
by that sad and sandy, dampened shore.
He looks around him, undistressed,
nods his head, and hopes no more.
2. Én is így próbálok csalás
nélkül szétnézni könnyedén.
játszik a nyárfa levelén.
And I, too, try to turn my gaze
without deceptions, gracefully.
The swish of a silver axe now plays
on the soft leaves of the poplar tree.
3. A semmi ágán ül szivem,
kis teste hangtalan vacog,
köréje gyűlnek szeliden
s nézik, nézik a csillagok.
On a branch of nothing sits my heart,
it silently trembles from afar,
gathering gently, round they come –
and watching, watching, are the stars.