Loose Translation – Who Will Carry Over Love?

Castle of Deva – Photo from: http://www.freeimages.com

This is one of my favorite poems in Hungarian. It’s imagery is matchless. It is a very eloquent poem, that says much using few words.

I tried to translate it, but the translation is very raw and unprofessional, but anyway… Here it is, and then I tried to write some of my observations about the possible interpretations of the parts of the poem, which are not so easily understood by someone who isn’t familiar with the stories it refers to (thus the allusions are pointless).

Who Will Carry Over Love? by László Nagy

When my existence is submerged permanently

who will rever cricket-melody? -1

Who will breathe flame on the frosty branch?

Out on the rainbow who will themself stretch? – 2

Into mellow mounds the rock-

hips who will hug weepingly? – 3

Blood vessels, hairs, flowing

in the wall, who will fondle devotedly? – 3

And to ravaged faiths who will build

a cathedral from blasphemy?

When my existence is submerged for good

who will scare away the vulture-beak’s hook?

And who will carry Love over to the other shore

holding it between their teeth? – 4

-1 Cricket-melody – it refers to many things. (In Hungarian it actually says: cricket’s violin). Do you remeber La Fontaine’s story about the cricket and the ant? From the point of view of artists – among them musicians and poets – it isn’t a fair story. It is actually teaching against idleness, but some draw a comparison and thus equate idleness with an artist’s work. This line could say that when one’s love is gone (dead maybe) – noone will understand the value of art and the importance of artists. 🙂

-2 Stretch out oneself – In Hungarian it is a much more telling expression that is used for crucifiction as well – it is a deeper sacrifice. Beauty and a horrible sacrifice together. As if the rainbow would actually appear only if someone sacrificed themselves…

– 3 Rock-hips and hairs, blood-vessels in the wall – they all refer to a very famous and old Hungarian ballad called Kőmíves Kelemen (or the woman built into the wall). It is a beautiful and almost horror-like story, very sad, very grim and heart-breaking. One day, when I’ll have some time, I’ll try to translate it into English. — It somehow goes back to the ancient times, when human sacrifice wasn’t rare. – In this ballad there are 12 builders, who get half a bushel of silver and salf a bushel of gold to build up the castle of Déva (it is an actual existing castle). But the wall just wouldn’t stand. So they decide that they will burn alive one of their wives – the one that comes to meet them first. And then they will mix her blood into the lime/whitewash and thus build up the castle to get the money. Kelemen’s wife arrives first, because she is in a hurry, since she loves her husband very much. Kelemen is sorry now that he agreed to this terrible deal, but he gave his word. So they kill her and bulid up the wall. But the real horror only starts now: her little boy tries to find his mother and finally the husband tells him where to look for her. When he arrives to the castle and finally cries out to her mother, the mother cannot answer because she is in the wall, but her „heart” is so much broken that the wall is torn into two and her little boy falls in and dies.

There is a similar ballad in Romanian about a Romanian castle/monastery – the castle of Arges, and the title is Monastirea Argesului. The difference there is that the builders are good people, the king is bad, and they all suffer – they don’t do this for the money, because the Black King threatened them that if they won’t succeed he will build them alive under the castle/monastery. The second thing is that they don’t kill the woman – they wall her inside alive (which is in a way more horrible than the other). The third is that the woman was pregnant – and this horrible secret costs afterwards more lives: the husband wants to suffer together with the wife and is bulit in as well, tries to make himself a wing and fly out, but doesn’t succeed when hears the cries of the woman about their child, and thus falls down and dies. And from that spot where he dies a salty fountain is made, like a fountain of tears.

So these lines in the poem refer to these ballads – the secret that a lover knows, the knowledge of the sacrifice and the knowledge of real value. As well as the capacity to turn the horrible things into good or try to rectify the faults of others, or oneself.

– 4 Holding it between their teeth – like the wolves do it with their offspring, or other animals, not scratching the skin. 🙂 Love can be saved, it can somehow survive even death – „the other shore”. But only if there is someone to „carry it over”. Maybe? 🙂

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