Debrecen and literature


The Tisza 

When in the dusk a summer day had died,
I stopped by winding Tisza's river-side,
just where the little Túr flows in to rest,
a weary child that seeks its mother's breast.
Most smooth of surface, with most gentle force,
the river wandered down its bankless course,
lest the faint sunset-rays, so close to home,
should stumble in its lacery of foam.
On its smooth mirror, sunbeams lingered yet,
dancing like fairies in a minuet;
one almost heard the tinkle of their feet,
like tiny spurs in music's ringing beat.
Low flats of yellow shingle spread away,
from where I stood, to meat the meadow hay
where the long shadows in the after-glow
like lines upon a page lay row on row.
Beyond the meadow in mute dignity
the forest towered o'er the darkening lea,
but sunset rested on its leafy spires
like embers red as blood and fierce with fires.
Elsewhere, along the Tisza's farther bank,
the motley broom and hazels, rank on rank,
crowded, but for one cleft, through which was shown
the distant steeple of the tiny town.
Small, rosy clouds lay floating in the sky
in memory-pictures of the hours gone by.
Far in the distance, lost in reverie,
the misty mountain-summits gazed at me.
The air was still. Across the solemn hush
fell but the fitful vespers of a thrush.
Even the murmur of the far-off mill
seemed faint as a mosquito humming shrill.
To the far bank before me, within hail,
a peasant-woman came to fill her pale;
she, as she brimmed it, wondered at my stay,
and with a glance went hastily away.
But I stood there in stillness absolute
as though my very feet had taken root.
My heart was dizzy with the rapturous sight
of Nature's deathless beauty in the night.
O Nature, glorious Nature, who would dare
with reckless tongue to match your wondrous fare?
How great you are! And the more still you grow,
the lovelier are the things you have to show!
Late, very late, I came back to the farm
and supped upon fresh fruit that made me warm,
and talked with comrades far into the night,
while brushwood flames beside us flickered bright.
Then, among other topics, I exclaimed:
"Why is the Tisza here so harshly blamed?
You wrong it greatly and belie its worth:
surely, it's the mildest river on the earth!"
Startled, a few days later in those dells
I heard the frantic pealing of the bells:
"The flood, the flood is coming!" they resound.
And gazing out, I saw a sea around.
There, like a maniac just freed from chains,
the Tisza rushed in rage across the plains;
roaring and howling through the dyke it swirled,
greedy to swallow up the whole wide world.


The poets of the nineteenth century 

Let no one with a languid finger
dare to sweep the strings today!
The lyre that's lifted up is ready
to get a great work under way.
If you can sing of nothing better
than your own joy or broken heart,
the world can do without your singing:
keep out, where you can have no part!

We wander in the wilderness like
Moses and his ancient folk,
following the fiery pillar
God had sent to guide his flock.
In our days God has ordered poets
to be the fiery pillars and
so to lead the wandering people
into Canaan's promised land.

Onward then, let every poet
take men through the flames and flood!
A curse on anyone who scatters
the people's flag into the mud,
a curse on anyone who lingers
in laziness or cowardice
resting in the shade while others

work and sweat, aim and miss!
False are the prophets still abounding
who preach out of pure hate and fear
that this is where we can stop wandering
because the promised land is here.
It is the worst, the worst of falsehoods
as millions witness easily
in mere existence, hopeless, wretched,
hungry and thirsty at midday.

When all men lift the horn of plenty
in one happy equality,
when all men have an equal station
at the table of justice, and, see
the spiritual light break shining
through the windows of every house
then we can say, no more wandering,
Canaan is here, let us rejoice!

And till then? Till then is no resting,
till then the struggle has no end.
It may be life is unrewarding
for every fighting drop we spend,
but then death comes with gentle kisses
to close our eyes, and softly lowers
our bodies deep into the earth with
pillows of silk and cords of flowers.


Freedom and love 

Freedom and love my creed!
These are the two I need.
For love I'll freely sacrifice
My earthly spell,
For freedom, I will sacrifice
My love as well. 


End of September

Below in the valley the flowers are resplendent,
Outside by the window the poplars still glow,
But see where the winter, already ascendant,
Has covered the far distant hilltops with snow.
My heart is still bathed in the fierce sun of passion,
All spring is in bloom there, by spring breezes tossed,
But look how my hair turns hoary and ashen,
Its raven black touched by the premature frost.

The petals are falling and life is declining.
Come sit in my lap, my beloved, my own!
You, with your head, in my bosom repining,
Tomorrow perhaps will you mourn me alone?
Tell me the truth: should I die, will your sorrow
Extend to the day when new lovers prepare
Your heart for forsaking, insisting you borrow
Their name, and abandon the one we now share?

If once you should cast off the black veil of mourning,
Let it stream like a flag from the cross where I lie,
And I will arise from the place of sojourning
To claim it and take it where life is put by,
Employing it there to dry traces of weeping
For a lover who could so lightly forget,
And bind up the wounds in the heart in your keeping
Which loved you before and will worship you yet.


National Song

On your feet now, Hungary calls you!
Now is the moment, nothing stalls you,
Shall we be slaves or men set free
That is the question, answer me!
By all the gods of Hungary
We hereby swear,
That we the yoke of slavery
No more shall wear.

Slaves we have been to this hour,
Our forefathers who fell from power
Fell free and lived as free men will,
On land that was their own to till,
By all the gods of Hungary
We hereby swear,
That we the yoke of slavery
No more shall wear.

Whoever now his life begrudges
Deserves his death with thieves and drudges,
For setting his own worthless hide
Above his country’s need and pride.
By all the gods of Hungary
We hereby swear,
That we the yoke of slavery
No more shall wear.

The sword shines brighter than the fetters
It is the finery of our betters,
Of slaves and fetters we grow bored.
Leap to my side, ancestral sword.
By all the gods of Hungary
We hereby swear,
That we the yoke of slavery
No more shall wear.

Magyars, once more our name and story
Shall match our ancestors’ in glory
The centuries of shame and hurt
Can now be washed away like dirt.
By all the gods of Hungary
We hereby swear,
That we the yoke of slavery
No more shall wear.

And wheresoever we may perish
Grandchildren those graves shall cherish
Singing our praises in their prayers
To thank us that our names are theirs.
By all the gods of Hungary
We hereby swear,
That we the yoke of slavery
No more shall wear. 


The whole sea has revolted 

The whole sea has revolted,
The nation in full spate
Has earth and heaven assaulted
And over sea-walls vaulted
With terror in its wake.

See how she treads her measure?
You hear her, as she peals?
If you’ve not had the pleasure
Then watch her sons at leisure
Kicking up their heels.

At nineteen to the dozen.
Great vessels roll about,
And fall where she has risen,
To hell with mainmast, mizzen,
And sails turned inside out.

Pound on, exhaust your passion
Batter at passion’s drum,
Expose your depths, the riven
Furies and fling to heaven
The filthy tidal scum.

Eternal heaven bear witness
Before all heaven’s fools:
Though ships bob on the surface
And oceans run beneath us
It is the water rules. 


What shall I call you?

What shall I call you,
in that twilight reverie
when my eyes look with wonder
into the: beauty of your eyes like
the evening star, as if for the first time ...
that star
packed with rays
of love streaming
and running into the sea of my soul-
what shall I call you?

What shall I call you,
when I am touched
by the glance you let fly,
that gentle dove
with every feather
an olive branch-
its feel is so good,
softer than silk or
a cradle pillow!-
what shall I call you?

What shall I call you,
when your voice rings out,
those sounds (if they could hear them)
that would make the dried-up trees
of winter put out leaves,
their tardy redeemer
spring had come
with a nightingale singing-
what shall I call you?

What shall I call you,
when my lips receive
the flaming ruby of yours,
and our souls fuse in the fire of the kiss
like night and day in dawn,
and I can no longer see the world,
no longer. see time,
and I drown in mysterious
transports of eternity-
what shall I call you?

What shall I call you,.
mother of my happiness,
magic daughter
of a heaven-scaling imagination,
brilliant reality surpassing
my eagerest hopes,
single treasure of my soul
yet still worth more than a whole world,
my dear young lovely wife,
what shall I call you? 


One thought 

One thought keeps going round my head:
The thought of dying in my bed!
Slowly withering like some overblown
Flower the greenfly gnaws and makes his own;
Wasting away like an old candlestick
In a deserted room, grown pale and sick.
Dear God, devise as nemesis
Any cruel death for me but this!
O let me be a tree by lightning blasted,
Twisted by hurricanes, by wild winds wasted;
Or let me be a cliff the loud storms batter
And hurl into the vale below to shatter...–

Once every nation now in chains,
Grown weary of its yoke, regains
Its self-respect, cheeks flushed and banners red,
One undefiled word fluttering overhead,
That word Liberty
Chanted incessantly,
Chanted across the globe from east to west,
There, where the tyrant, dares to raise his crest,
There, where guns resound,
Let my corpse be found,
There let my young heart drain its blood away,
And should I have one last word still to say
Let it be lost in din and clash of steel
In cannon’s roar and trumpet’s loud appeal,
Let my body be
Trodden by cavalry
Their horses blowing, hot with triumph wrung
From death and leave me broken in the dung,
Let my scattered bones be still disjointed
Until the day for burial be appointed,
When in ceremonial order, flags of mourning grace
The long processions at funereal pace,
And all dead heroes find a common plot
Who with sacred Liberty threw in their lot.