What Did You Eat, Earth…

Rough translation of Hungarian poet Sándor Petőfi’s poem.

What Did You Eat, Earth… by Sándor Petőfi

What did you eat, earth, that you’re ever so thirsty?

That you’re drinking rivers of tears and blood?


A wise man long ago…

A rough translation of a Hungarian poem.

A wise man long ago… by Sándor Petőfi

A wise man long ago

Travelled on the back of a donkey.

Times have changed since.

Really have changed,

Now asses ride on horseback

And the wise walk barefoot.

Sadness? It’s a big ocean…

I have mixed feelings about the poetry and life of probably the best known Hungarian poet, Sándor Petőfi.

But I like his short poems, musings about various subjects.

So here’s the rough translation of one of his shorties.

Sadness? It’s a big ocean by Sándor Petőfi

Sadness? It’s a big ocean.

And joy?

A small pearl of the ocean. Maybe.

By the time I manage to bring it

to the surface, I might even break it.

If raging storm from above…


Carpathian Mountains, Transylvania

Weöres Sándor is one of my favorite Hungarian poets. His poems are very musical, playful and deep, yet seem to be very simple and child-like, but they are layers upon layers of meaningful lira.

Here is a very rough translation of his poem entitled: Ha vihar jő a magasból…

If raging storm from above by Sándor Weöres

If raging storm from above steeps,

don’t send me away, my little brother.

If on the greenery the full moon creeps,

mind me, little sister, when I shudder.

Our house is at the end of the village,

it plays in the bushes hide-and-seek.

But if the tit flies down on the tillage,

it sups on our threshold’s peak.

Collision by Mircea Cartarescu

This is the translation of one of my favorite love-poems in Romanian.

Collision by Mircea Cărtărescu

one late night I tried to give you a call but the phone died,

the handset was reeking of formalin, I unscrewed the cover of the microphone

and I found the rusty iron full of worms,

I looked for the screwdriver

and I opened the shell: the spiders stuck their webs

to the stranded wire bobbins.

on the intertwined cord, now stinky, with the corroded rubber and scratched wires

the ants had left their smell on them, I seized it, I jerked it until it came out of the

drawing pins with the plaster and everything,

I pulled it until I started to get closer

meter by meter your district to mine

crushing the pharmacies, cafeterias, breaking the sewage pipes

cracking the asphalt, pressing so much the stars of the purplish-blue sky, dusk

inbetween the houses

so that above us  only a ribbon of shiny light was left

throbbing in the burnt air, as the lightning bolt.

I pulled on the cord, and like a holy indian harnessing on the waters

the statue of c.a. rosetti slipped towards the militia

the people’s council in the second district

collided with the balcony of fire and submerged with a wedding and everything

but the latin street was smiling, I pulled on the cord, wriggling it on my arms, and

all of a sudden your house with white and pink stripes like a chalk-cake

appeared with your window on he right of my window

the windows clashing with great noise

and we were suddenly face to face

and we got closer and closer to each other

until we hugged squeezing our lips together

pulverizing our clothes, our skin, mingling our hearts,

eating our eyelashes, the shine of our eyes, ribs, blood,

crushing our spines, burning.

burning with a sizzle, as if put out with gasoline

burning with blue ice, with stalactite-smoke

with frizzling wax, with dazzling tallow

until the ashes covered the studio case and the wash-hand basin

and the spiders span their webs in our chests.

Inspiration – Two Poems In the Spirit of Autumn

A couple of years ago I have written a poem but I didn’t know it was a replika to a poem I have read when I was a child. So this year I have found this poem and it made me remember the other one, thus I have translated the Hungarian poem to English and it resonates really well with my poem. It’s as if my mind had a secret dialog with the long deceased poet. 😀

It’s raining outside and I have this cozy feeling… It’s a good time to post these two poems. Here they are:

Dedication by Lajos Áprily

Forgive me. The meadow was frosty,

very purple the mountain,

the forest was a giant red stain,

fogive me: I found no flower.

But I couldn’t come empty handed:

where death its mighty tunes chanted,

I made a petal-less bouquet,

red berries, red sway.

But now give me your soul: slender vase,

which still keeps summer’s wine –

and the charm of withering away

wraps it in a ruddy shine.

Headless Stem (by me :P)

I couldn’t find winter-hardy flowers

Even Santa Claus was hibernating

Winter barley was off limits

on the winter market no petals at all

I had to slide to you in my pelisse

when my snow-tyres were deflated by

razor-sharp icicles Excuse me

but I couldn’t bring you blossoms

So please take this poem instead

as a clumsy dedication –

a headless stem

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? 🙂