I Want

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaI want

(by Sándor Reményik)

 

I want: not to be important to myself.

 

I want to be a brick in the infinite wall,

a stairway upon which others crawl,

a plough that digs deep into the ground,

but the abounding wheat isn’t its merit.

To be the wind that carries the seed,

but doesn’t open the petals of the bud-bead.

Let the people who walk on the meadow

forget the wind, enjoy the flowers aglow.

I want to be the handkerchief that wipes away tears,

to be the silence that eases fears,

to be a caressing hand that perseveres.

To be and never know that I am.

I want to be on tired lashes slumber,

to be the mirage on a desert summer,

never asking if anyone watches me or not.

I want to be the mirage on a vast plain.

To be a deep sigh up to the sky

coming from ancient earth’s black heart.

I want to be the wire carrying the message,

and let them replace me when I’m broken.

I want to be under many souls a raft,

a simple, roughly patched together craft

that is carried to sea by rivers flowing deep.

 

I want to cry into infinity like a violin,

until the Violinist puts down the bow.

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Freedom Or Safety? – A Fable

Someone not long ago (I guess it was in response to the Edward Snowden scandal) asked me what do I honor more – my freedom or my safety?

I had to think about it for a second – safety is my weekness, but then I smiled and said with an unshakable certainty: freedom.

This dilemma is perfectly depicted in Aesop’s fable, that was re-written by La Fontaine in poetry. I know La Fontaine’s version better, and I thought I’ll try to do a rough translation, – not because there aren’t enough already, but because I can, so why not? It couldn’t hurt. Here it is:


Jean de la Fontaine: Le Loup et le Chien – The Wolf and the Dog


The Wolf was nothing but skin and bones,

(the dogs were so diligently warding the sheep),

when he met a fatty Dog with sad groans.

It was big with a shiny fur.

“Could I tear him apart?” the Wolf demurred.

“The strength is too much that he owns.”

So he took to coaxing,

he complimented on his top-notch tummy.

“My friend,” replied the Dog,

“You could be a fatty hog as well,

if you join me!

Your kind in the forest is all nuts,

searching for food night and day,

their scruffy skin hanging on their bones like drags.

No safety, no peace…

But who comes with me will have a splendid fate!”

“What would my job be?” asked the Wolf.

“Nothing too heavy, just a bark here and there,

chasing beggars and travellers,

to fawn upon the master of the house,

your payment will come accordingly:

all the feeding, chicken bones and dove wings,

caressing and fondling.”

The Wolf is almost crying with the

prospect of such a future.

But than he observes the solid

worn-out stripe on the neck of the Dog.

“What’s that?” “That? Nothing.”

“Let me hear it!” “It’s just a small rubbing.

The collar does that, which ties me up.”

“You’re tied up?” shrieked the Wolf.

“Good bye then! Eat as much as you want,

I do not wish to join your kennel

for all the lamb in the world!”

replied the Wolf and ran away.

(Aesop’s version adds:

Better starve free than be fed as a slave.)

The Golden Wooled Rams – Hungarian Fairy Tale Collected by Elek Benedek, Part 3.

The lad went, went, wandered in the thick forest. As he was walking he met a horribly big black bear. He wanted to run away but the bear said to him: „Wait, hey, don’t run away, because I have business with you! Do you know, who I am? I am the brother of the giant you have blinded. I could kill you, but I will spare your life. But I’m telling you one thing: you should not dare to get married ever in your life, because if you do, no matter how far away you are in this world, I will find you and you will die a terrible death.”

The lad swore that he will never get married, how could he, when he has nothing on this planet. Then he went away sadly. Oh, he was so sad, because he thought: „What is my life worth if I can never get married?”

He went, went, reached the end of the forest, and there he found a house. In that house lived a widow with her daughter. He went in, greeted them, and the woman asked him what was his business.

„My dear Aunt, well, I’m looking for work. Could you hire me as your servant?” answered the boy.

The widow liked the boy and took him in as her servant. One year passed, two years passed, and t  elad was still living in the house of the widow. He couldn’t leave them because he had a great crush on the widow’s daughter. The girl loved him as well, and the lad one day came forward and asked her hand from the widow.She said she didn’t mind, if they love each other they sould ring the churchbells.

The lad forgot in his ardent love what the bear said and made a big wedding feast, buti n the middle of the celebration he suddenly heard a terrible growl from the door. Why, he was so frightened! This is the bear! And endeed, it was him. He was pounding along in his direction.

The lad said to his betrothed:

„My love, we have to part ways. I forgot, that I am never to get married in this life. That bear, who’s coming this way, is about to kill me.”

The lad cried, the girl cried, the said their goodbyes, but in order to always remember each other, they tore one ring into two and one handkerchief into two. The girl took half of it, half of it the lad, and that’s how the lad went into hiding. He said he was going to the end of the world.

But the bear yelled after him: „This time you were saved, but be careful, because I will find you, even if you hide under the earth!”

The Golden Wooled Rams – Hungarian Fairy Tale Collected by Elek Benedek, Part 2.

He threw about one-two stacks of hay again and let his sheep eat it all. Next morning came, and the giant was there as well. He yelled from afar:

„Quickly, lad, quickly kill thirty-three sheep and one golden wooled ram for me, because I didn’t eat breakfast today!”

What could he do? He killed thirty-three sheep and the golden wooled ram as well. The giant ate all of it in three bites and walked away merrily.

He had thirty-three sheep and one golden wooled ram left exactly. His heart wept when he looked at them. If the giant eats these as well, he can go out into the world lonely as one finger.

The third morning came as well, and the giant arrived, shouting from afar:

„Hey, lad! Are those sheep still alive? Kill them all in an instant, because if not, you will die a terrible death!”

The lad begged him, implored him to leave that small flock alive, but the giant didn’t want to leave him one sheep-tail.

„Hey, do you hear me?” said the giant to the lad. „Don’t stall for time! Tear the sheep out of their skin at once! If not, I will mock you to death!”

The lad killed all of the sheep, the ram as well, threw the huge amount of meat into the cauldron, and stirred it, stirred it with a long staff bitterly.

Suddenly the giant, (who knows, what he was thinking?), lay down near the fire and fell asleep.

„Why, just wait, you godless monster,” thought the lad, „I know one thing: you will not eat from this meat!” Then he took one spoonful of grease out of the hot cauldron and threw it on the eyes of the giant. The giant cried a horrible cry and sprang to his feet.  He treaded here, he treaded there, he wanted to trample on the lad somehow.

„Why, you little mite,” cried the giant, „you have taken my sight but be careful not to end up in my hands because then you will suffer!”

He walked here, he ran there, he circled around, but he didn’t have enough wit and sight to catch the lad. The giant thougth: „You will never-ever in a million years catch him this way, silly! You have to do it with brains!” He started to butter him up, fawningly ask him to take him here and there if he blinded him wickedly, and with sugary words promised him he will do him no harm.

„I will not take you anywhere!” said the lad. „You would like to eat me as well, wouldn’t you? Well, you will certainly not!”

The giant said: „I can see, that you are not easily outwitted, shepherd boy! Fine, go with peace! But since I have eaten your flock, I don’t want you to suffer, I will give you a ring, put that on your finger, and you will see how useful it will be to you when you’re on your own in the world.”

The giant threw down a ring to him, and the lad quickly put it on his pinky finger.

Well, as soon as the ring was on his finger, it started to yell:

„Here, here, blind giant! Here, here, blind giant!”

Hey-ho! The lad was alarmed, because the giant started to come in the direction of the ring’s voice. Well, what should he do? The blind giant will surely trample him to death! He tried to take the ring off, but that stuck to his finger like a leech and he couldn’t take it off. What could he possibly do? He suddenly took out his pocket-knife and cut his finger off. There was a fathomless lake nearby and he threw his finger with the ring into it. The ring was yelling even in the lake: „Here, here, blind giant! Here, here, blind giant!”

The giant went after it, and he suddenly stepped into the fathomless lake. He sank and he never saw the blessed sun of God again.

„Well, I don’t have to be afraid of him anymore” said the lad. „But now I have to go alone into the world.”

The Golden Wooled Rams – Hungarian Fairy Tale Collected by Elek Benedek, Part 1.

Once upon a time there was a rich shepherd lad, and he had ninety-nine sheep and three golden wooled rams. Oh, these golden wooled rams were such beautiful animals, that not even in the king’s flock could one find their match! The lad guarded them day and night, they were the apple of his eyes. He slept like the rabbits: he only shut one eye, and was watching the rams with the other.

Winter came, and he got stuck with the flock in the mountains. But that meant trouble, because in that year people didn’t have enough hay, and he just couldn’t get one strand of hay for a bushel of money. What should he do? The dear sheep and the beautiful rams will surely perish as one! He will not grieve one minute more, he thought. He will lead the flock somewhere, and they will go until they will find something to eat.

Well, he left with the sheep. In the front walked the three rams sadly, because the last time they ate one bite of hay was two days ago. They went, doddered along until they reached a thick forest. In the middle of the forest there was a wasteland and on this wasteland as far as eyes could see there were haystacks everywhere.

Hey-ho! The lad was very happy, and he thought, he will surely not go one step more, he will spend the winter here and give the hay to his sheep, even though he  didn’t know who owned the land.

Suddenly he threw about one stack of hay and his animals ate it all.

Well, one day was gone and one stack was gone after another. Not one soul came to that wasteland.

But the next morning a giant came, so big, that his head was banging on the sky, and he angrily asked the lad:

„How dare you give my hay to your sheep, you little mite?”

Oooo, the lad was frightened to death! This gargantuan giant will squeeze his guts out! So he said to him:

„Don’t be angry, Uncle Giant, I will pay for what my sheep ate.”

„I don’t want your money” said the giant, „but I want you to kill this instant thirty-three sheep and one golden wooled ram, cook them all, because I didn’t have breakfast today!”

What should he do, the poor thing? He had to kill those dear, beautiful sheep, even the golden wooled ram. Hey-ho, the lad was so sad, that his heart almost broke into two, when he cut the the golden wooled ram. But this had to pass! The giant brought a huge couldron, they threw all the meat into it and put such a fire under it, that it’s light was seen even in the seventh kingdom. The meat was cooked in a minute, and either you believe it or not, but the giant steeped his huge spoon into the cauldron three times and ate all of the tasty pot. Then he left without saying: Hey, lad, let’s switch pipes!

„Well,” said the lad to himself, „I payed very dearly for that little hay the sheep ate!” He tussled with himslef, whether he should stay or not. He will surely stay! He doesn’t care even if the big bellied giant will eat all of his sheep!