Sunday, 1 January 2012

Currently being passed around in Hungary

The passage at the bottom of this blog by one of the greatest of all Hungarian poets, Endre Ady (1877-1919) - more here. Ady's poems are so melodic and allusive they are very difficult to translate. Most translations fail to catch any significant part of the voice. I have tried a few but am only (partially) pleased with this one.

Autumn appeared in Paris

Autumn appeared in Paris yesterday,
Silent down St Michel its swift advance,
In stifling heat under unmoving branches
We met as if by chance.

Ambling in the direction of the Seine
My soul was brent with tiny shreds of song:
Gypsy airs, oddments, squibs, laments, which whispered
That death would not be long.

Autumn caught up and mumbled in my ear,
The entire boulevard trembled to the eaves,
Ts, ts... along the street as if half jesting
Flew bright-eyed civic leaves.

A moment; Summer hardly had drawn breath
But Autumn was on its cackling way and now
Was gone and I the only living witness
Under the creaking bough.

But that's by way of introduction. A quotation from Ady, dating to 1902, has been passing round the more liberal section of the population (it's much quoted in Google) and a friend passed it on to me. I translate it as below:

The civilised nations observe us. They see how we never move forward, how we behave like rottweilers, how we gesture and bluster in the middle of Europe like something left behind by the middle ages; they see how empty and inconsequential we are; how, whenever we want to do great things we start by beating up Jews; how, once we sober up a little, we rush to take a nostalgic draught of the glories of our millennium; how feeble and useless we are; how that great bastion of the people, parliament, is only fit for our abuse. And what will all this lead to, my dear fellow patriots? Because I myself am Hungarian through and through, not a low, cheating Jew, which is what you call anyone better than you. The result will be that they politely kick us out as if we had never existed.

The reference to the millennium concerns the 1896 celebrations of one thousand years of the settlement of the territory and the establishment of the Hungarian state. The 'they' at the end is Europe. The rest is, surely, coincidence.


Anonymous said...

Ady was a bit of a manic depressive and shared all faults and good qualities of his people. The description he gives for Hungary might just as well be interpreted as a self portrait written in a bout of depression. He often depicted himself and Hungary proper as the poor "kuruc", meaning peasant rebel, who has fought for causes that were long discredited in happier parts of Europe such as France. The chosen people needed forty years in the desert to regain their identity after decades of slavery; give Hungary at least that amount of time to do the same after a hellish 20th. century that threw greater nations off balance much worse than was the case for Hungary.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it would be worth the effort to translate this poem along with the passage quoted from Ady.

Pompás magyarok, templomból jövet
Mentek át a Kalota folyón
S a hidat fényben majdnem fölemelte
Az ölelõ juniusi Nap.
Mennyi szín, mennyi szín, mennyi kedves
És tarkaságban annyi nyugalom
És fehér és piros és virító sárga,
Izgató kék és harcos barna szín
S micsoda nyugodt, nagyságos arcok,
Ékes párták, leesni áhitók.
Papi beszéd kemény fejükbõl csöndben
Száll el s nyári illattal vegyül.
Mily pompás vonulásuk a dombon,
Óh tempós vonulás, állandóság,
Biztosság, nyár, szépség és nyugalom.

S reám nyilaz a nyugtalanság:
Leány-szemek, Sorsom szemei,
Szemek, melyekben rózsás, húsz éves,
Vidám kamasznak látom magam,
Szebb szemek minden volt szemeknél
S bennük végkép megpecsételtetett
Az én örök-bús ifjuságom:
Vonzódás, drága ûzetés
Csapongás a végsõ csapásig
S imádkozva nézni e nagy szemekben
Magamat és mint vagyok bennük.
Csönd, junius van a szivemben,
Általvonult templomi népség
Belémköltözött áhitata
S e percben a Kalota partján
Biztosság, nyár, szépség és nyugalom.