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Saturday, 18.09.2021

An Anthology of Miklós Radnóti Poems by Miklós Nádasdi

Listed below are 10 poems written by Miklós Radnóti and translated by Miklós Nádasdi from the original Hungarian into English.

           

Frothy Sky

Flower Song

Paris

Between Your Two Arms

Letter to Spouse

Forced March

Razglednica (Postcard) 1

Razglednica (Postcard) 2

Razglednica (Postcard) 3

Razglednica (Postcard) 4

  

       Miklós Radnóti (May 1909-November 1944) was one of the greatest  poets of Hungary in the 20th century. Born Miklós Glatter, he changed his name to Radnóti in 1934 after his graduation from University with a dissertation on “The artistic development of Margit Kaffka.” In 1935, Radnóti married Fanny Gyarmati, daughter of the owner of the respected Gyarmati printing company house; in 1943 the couple converted from Judaism to the Roman Catholic faith. In May 1944 Radnóti  was called for his  military service  in the forced labor army for those of Jewish origin;  the battalion in which he served was deported to the copper mines of Bor, Serbia, which by then provided a high proportion of the copper requirement of the German war-industry. On September  17, 1944 Radnóti was forced to leave the camp in a column of about 3,600  fellow servicemen of the forced labor army  because of the military-offensive by Allied armies towards the end of World War II.  He sustained the inhuman forced march from Bor to Szentkirályszabadja, where he wrote his last poem on October 31. In November 1944 he and 20 other fellow servicemen  were shot and killed by members of the Hungarian Guards. His last poems (Razglednicas – kepeslapok) were found in the pocket of his coat in the mass grave. 

       Miklós  Nádasdi   was  born  on January 29, 1932  in Budapest. He received an M.D. degree at  the Semmelweis University of Budapest in 1956, the same year when, during a revolution against the Soviet regime,  he escaped from Hungary to Vienna. The following year he immigrated to Canada with the sponsorship of Hans Selye, the scientist who  developed the stress theory. He worked as his postgraduate student at the University of Montreal  where he obtained a  Ph.D. degree in experimental medicine, following 34 scientific publications. In 1964 he moved to Toronto and became the vice president of medical affairs of   Glaxo, a large international pharmaceutical company (now GSK). He also established a medical practice as a staff member of the North York General Hospital in Toronto. He is married, has two children, four grandchildren and a great-grandchild. Presently he is retired and lives with his wife in Toronto.

 

 

FROTHY  SKY 

 

The moon sways on a frothy sky,

being alive, I'm surprised.

Death is busily searching our time

and those he finds are all so white.

 

The year looks around and cries out,

it looks around and it feels faint.

What kind of  autumn lurks behind me

and how numb the winter is from pain!

 

The forest bled and in the spinning time

every hour was bleeding also.

The wind was scribbling big

dark numbers in the snow.

 

I understand this and that one too,

the air is heavy around me,

lukewarm silence filled with noises,

as in the womb, surrounds me.

 

I stop here under the tree

while its crown rumbles in anger,

a branch reaches down. It grabs my neck?

I am not coward, nor am I slender,

 

just tired. I am quiet. So is the branch

as it tousles my hair, full of dread.

It would be time to forget but

I was never able to forget.

 

Froth gushes on the moon in the sky

a streak of green poison  takes a dive.

I roll a cigarette for myself,

slowly, carefully. I am alive.

 

FLOWERSONG

 

Above you an apple tree's twig

falls down upon your lip,

more  falls in a little while

on your hair and on your eye.

 

I can watch your lips all day

the twigs on your eye gently sway,

its light chases its own light,

kissing it would be sheer delight.

 

It seems that your eyes are closed,

above your  eye-lids playful shadows,

they play with the petal, so tender

and falls into the dark somewhere.

 

Don't be scared, darkness is falling,

the mute, silvery night is calling,

the celestial branches  bloom,

the  lame world is lit by the  moon

  

PARIS

 

At the corner of Boulevard St Michel and Rue

Cujas the sidewalk is slightly off-straight.

My gorgeous wild youth, I didn't desert you,

like an echo in a shaft you reverberate

in my heart and your voice doesn't stop.

At the corner of Rue Monsieur le Prince was the baker's shop.

 

And on the left a big tree in the park

turned already yellow,  for it tries

to predict that Autumn is ready to start.

Freedom, you dear nymph with long thighs

dressed in glowing golden evening

are you still among the veiled trees fleeting?

 

Like an army,  Summer marched with zest

dusting up the road and perspiring wild,

beating the drum followed by cool mist

and the scent  floating on each side.

At noon it was Summer but not far ahead

sweet Fall came by evening with a wet forehead.

 

I lived like a child for my whim and found

all the pleasure I wanted and also,

like a learned elder who knew the world was round.

I was green and my beard as the snow.

I took walks, nobody gave it a thought

and then I sank underground where it was hot.

 

Where are you, oh, every well-known station:

Chatelet-Cité,St Michel-Odéon!

Denfert-Rochereau, - sounds like condemnation.

A map blooms on the mottled wall further on.

Where are you, oh! - I shout. I listen.

And body odour starts to boom and glisten.

 

And the nights! The nightly pilgrimage

from the outskirts to the Quartier.

Above Paris the strange, gloomy image

will the darkness ever go away?

When drunk from poem writing and half dead

and half undressed I fell into bed.

 

Oh, will I have strength to  withdraw

from the heavy current of my life?

Below on the roof of the stinking, cheap bistro

the cat was mating. Shall  I once more hear his miaows?

That gave me a pretty good idea

of the kind of shindy that in the arc,

sailing under the Moon, surrounded Noah.

 

BETWEEN YOUR TWO ARMS  

 

Between your two arms I am swinging

quietly.

Between  my two arms you are swinging

quietly.

Between your two arms I am a child

reticent.

Between my two arms you are a child

I listen.

With your two arms you embrace me

when I'm scared.

With my two arms I embrace  you

I'm not scared.

Between your two arms I am not scared

of the silent

big reaper.

Between your  two arms

I can die quietly

like a dreamer.

 

LETTER TO SPOUSE

 

Silent, mute worlds deep down in hell

their silence roars in my ears and I yell

but no one can speak and nobody answers

from the war-torn country  of those darned Serbs

and your voice touches my  dream from far away

I find it again in my heart  the following day

so I am quiet while my heart yearns

surrounded by humming, cool, proud ferns.

 

I don't know when can I hold you in my arm

you who were steadfast and grave as a psalm

and beautiful like the shadow as cast  by the light

and whom I could find in the darkest night

now you are far away and somewhere you hide

as you flutter before my eyes from inside;

you were real and now just a dream, so restless

falling in the fountain of my adolescence

 

I badger you non-stop with my  jealous doubt

to know if you still have me in your heart?

and if once at the top of my young life

hopefully you will again be my wife --

yet awake I know  my wife, my friend you are

only unreachable, three countries apart.

Autumn arrived. Will it abandon me here?

The memory of our kisses has become so clear,

miracles I believed in have gone by,

bombers are now  swarming up in the sky

which, just like your eyes, is bright blue

but it  darkens  as the planes fly through

and the bombs get restless, ready to fall.

How I would like to wipe out them all

but I am a captive, I am tied in ropes

while I am pondering over all my hopes

to find the way  to you, that is  my goal

even if  that road leads only through the soul. --

and through many countries and through scarlet ember

if needed, with magic, I shall still get there

through raging flames I shall remain stark

tenacious like a tree holds to its  bark

and find peace from men who, when in peril, harness

weapons and power from their serene calmness

thus I become calm  when as a slow, cool wave

the sound rule of 2 X 2  is  taking shape.

 

FORCED  MARCH

 

Only the crazy gets up after falling to the ground

and moves his aching knees and feet without a sound

and marches on as if wings would take him away,

when the ditch tempts  him, he doesn't dare to stay,

when you ask him why not? maybe he says in one breath,

his wife might be waiting and a more decent death.

Still, he is crazy because back at home

only the scorched wind twirls around all alone,

the plumtree is broken, the wall lies on its back,

the night is frightened, overcome with fret.

 

Oh, if I could believe it, not just hope  in vain,

and return to an inviting home again

if I could sit, like once, on the cool veranda,

peaceful bees would hum, jam cooling in the  plum jar,

the late summer  would sunbathe in the garden at ease,

the  fruits would swing  naked up on the trees,

at the hedge I would see Fanni with her blond hair,

the forenoon would cast long shadows all over, --

it is all possible! the moon  shines, it can be done!

Stop, my friend, yell at me, I'll get up and move on!

 

RAZGLEDNICA (Postcard) 1

 

From Bulgaria thick, wild cannon sound

rolls over the mountain ridge and  thumps  on the ground;

people, animal, carts and thoughts surge,

the road neighs, recoils, the clouds  run with urge.

In this  chaotic turmoil you're the one I find

the only bright, unmoving constant in my mind

and silently, as if the angel stared at the debris

or an insect making its grave in the hollow of a tree.

 

RAZGLEDNICA  (Postcard) 2

 

Nine kilometres from here

haystacks and houses are up in smoke

while on the edge of the fields

mute and frightened peasants smoke.

Over here the lake is curly

from a shepherd girl's feet

and the curly flock bends over the water

slurping clouds in the heat.

 

RAZGLEDNICA (Postcard) 3

 

Bloody saliva drivels from the oxen's mouth,

people are voiding bloody urine,

the company stands in savage, fetid bunches

and the hideous death above shakes the branches.

 

RAZGLEDNICA (Postcard) 4

 

I fell next to him, his body turned over,

it was tight as a string when it is stretched.

Shot in the head, -- That's how you'll end up too,

I whispered to myself, -- just lay there in the trench.

Patience blooms into death here, --

Der springt noch auf, -- I heard near

Mud and blood dried on my ear

 

 

April 22, 2021