Nem tudhatom…

by Eszter Hargittai on April 30, 2004

Via Liliputian Lilith (who realized this via many others among them weez) I noticed that today is Poem In Your Pocket Day, which bloggers are converting into a Poem On Your Blog Day. Although my high school literature teacher did everything in her power to make me hate poetry, I’m happy to say she didn’t succeed. So I share with you here one of my favorite poems, “I Cannot Know” by the Hungarian poet Miklós Radnóti.

I will first post the original Hungarian version. However, recognizing that few CT readers will know what to make of that after the original version I copy one English translation. There have been several, but this is the only one I can find online. This particular translation gives it a different title: “How Others See”.. which yet again reminds us that translating poetry is not an easy or straight-forward task.

Radnóti Miklós: Nem Tudhatom…

Nem tudhatom, hogy másnak e tájék mit jelent,
nekem szülõhazám itt e lángoktól ölelt
kis ország, messzeringó gyerekkorom világa.
Belõle nõttem én, mint fatörzsbõl gyönge ága
s remélem, testem is majd e földbe süpped el.
Itthon vagyok. S ha néha lábamhoz térdepel
egy-egy bokor, nevét is, virágát is tudom,
tudom, hogy merre mennek, kik mennek az úton,
s tudom, hogy mit jelenthet egy nyári alkonyon
a házfalakról csorgó, vöröslõ fájdalom.
Ki gépen száll fölebe, annak térkép e táj,
s nem tudja, hol lakott itt Vörösmarty Mihály;
annak mit rejt e térkép? gyárat s vad laktanyát,
de nekem szöcskét, ökröt, tornyot, szelíd tanyát;
az gyárat lát a látcson és szántóföldeket,
míg én a dolgozót is, ki dolgáért remeg,
erdõt, füttyös gyümölcsöst, szöllõt és sírokat,
a sírok közt anyókát, ki halkan sírogat,
s mi föntrõl pusztítandó vasút, vagy gyárüzem,
az bakterház s a bakter elõ;tte áll s üzen,
piros zászlo kezében, körötte sok gyerek,
s a gyárak udvarában komondor hempereg;
és ott a park, a régi szerelmek lábnyoma,
a csókok íze számban hol méz, hol áfonya,
s az iskolába menvén, a járda peremén,
hogy ne feleljek aznap, egy kõre léptem én,
ím itt e kõ, de föntrõl e kõ se látható,
nincs mùszer, mellyel mindez jól megmutatható.

Hisz bùnösök vagyunk mi, akár a többi nép,
s tudjuk miben vétkeztünk, mikor, hol és mikép,
de élnek dolgozók itt, költõk is büntelen,
és csecsszopók, akikben megnõ az értelem,
világít bennük, õrzik, sötét pincékbe bújva,
míg jelt nem ír hazánkra újbol a béke ujja,
s fojtott szavunkra majdan friss szóval õk felelnek.

Nagy szárnyadat borítsd ránk virrasztó éji felleg.

1944. január 17.

====>> ENGLISH version from here:

Miklos Radnoti: How Others See

How others see this region, I cannot understand:
to me, this little country is menaced motherland
with flames around, the world of my childhood swaying far,
and I am grown from this land as tender branches are
from trees. And may my body sink into this soil in the end.
When plants reach out towards me, I greet them as a friend
and know their names and flowers. I am at home here, knowing
the people on the road and why and where they are going-
and how I know the meaning when by a summer lane
the sunset paints the walls with a liquid flame of pain!
The pilot can’t help seeing a war map from the sky,
can’t tell below the home of Vörösmarty Mihály;
what can he identify there? grim barracks and factories,
but I see steeples,oxen, farms, grasshoppers and bees;
his lens spies out the vital production plants, the fields,
but I can see the worker, afraid below, who shields
his labour, a singing orchard, a vinyard and a wood,
among the graves a granny mourning her widowhood,
and what may seem a plant or rail line that must be wrecked
is just a signalhouse with the keeper standing erect
and waving his red flag, lots of children around the guard,
a shepherd dog might roll in the dust in a factory yard,
and there’s the park with the footprints of past loves
and the flavour
of childhood kisses- the honey, the cranberry I still savour;
and on my way to school, by the kerbside to postpone
a spot-test one certain morning, I stepped upon a stone:
look! there’s the stone whose magic the pilot cannot see,
no instrument would merge it in his topography.

True, guilty are we all here, our people as the rest,
we know our faults, we know how and when we have
transgressed,
but there are blameless lives here of toil and poetry and passion,
and infants also, with growing capacity for compassion-
they will protect its glow while in gloomy shelters till
once more our land is marked by the finger of peace:
then they will
respond to our muffled words with new voices fresh and bright.

Spread your great wings above us, protective cloud of night.

January 17 , 1944

{ 2 comments }

1

John Isbell 04.30.04 at 11:21 pm

Here’s a poem I wrote today:

Eating A Burrito.

It is April 30th.
At 3:30 p.m.,
She is eating a burrito.
Beneath her short black hair,
She has a white t-shirt,
An apron,
And a pair of combat pants.
It is a pleasant afternoon,
And the terrace is half-full.
Now she has finished the burrito,
And wiped her hands.
Breaks from work
Are not always when we want them,
Though there are worse places
Than this wooden terrace,
On a summer afternoon
Made bright by birdsong.

2

LiL 05.01.04 at 2:48 am

I really love this poem too. It was actually one of the first “adult” poems I really loved – my father used to recite it when I was little. There’s an incredible rhythm to it in Hungarian which is hard to transfer to English.

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