03. 24. 2009. 09:29


Miklós Radnóti (1909–1944)

"Silver full moon at midday / is the sun, a mere faint presence in the heavens." – Miniature portraits of the months of the year, written mostly after the outbreak of World War II in which the poet was eventually killed. Idyllic sketches, with threatening overtones creeping in.

The sun rises late, the sky
with thickened darkness overflowing.
So blackly it is filled,
it nearly drops.
The crack of dawn’s step upon the ice
into the grey coldness.
[February 5, 1941]
It floats up again, then settling on the ground,
at last the snow is melting;
it overflows, hollows out a path.
A sudden flash of sun. A sudden flash of sky.
The sun flares up, it squints.
And behold in their white voices
the flock outside begins to bleat,
the sparrow now chirps, ruffles round its plumes. 
[February 21, 1941]
The goosebumps, look, on the puddles’ surface; with its wild,
merry, gawky-adolescent
winds beneath the trees,
March comes clamoring.
The shivering bud is still unseen,
the spider’s web unwoven,
but to and fro run the little chicks,
spheres yellow, golden.
[February 26, 1941]
A waft of breeze cries out, steps on tiny glass,
and scampers off, one-legged.
April, o April,
the sun isn’t shining, the wee buds,
noses still moist, not yet split asunder
under the whistling sky.
[March 12, 1939]
From the tree a petal shudders, floats down;
with its white fragrance twilight descends.
Cool evening drifts from the mountain,
where the tree-lined alleys ramble.
Warmth, tiny and chilled, lies in wait,
the candles of the wild chestnut illuminate.
[February 25, 1941]
Just look round, it is noon, and you shall see wonders,
The sky, its brow unfurrowed, is cloudless.
The streets’ acacias are all in bloom,
the golden crest of the rivulet rises,
and into the radiant air, glittering signs,
inscribed by a large dragonfly,
lazy, swaggering, his body diamantine.
[February 28, 1941]
Rage contorts the cloud above,
it grimaces.
Rainshowers scamper, barefoot,
helter-skelter, tresses moistened.
They grow weary, slip into the earth,
evening has come.
The pure body of sweltering heat
sits above the luminous-faced trees.
[June 12, 1940]
In the strident sunshine
the meadows so unkempt
and illuminating yellow among the leaves
the beautiful golden rennet.
The red squirrel’s squeal is heard, and on
the proud wild chestnut, the pricks of the thorn.
[July 21, 1940]
O, how many Septembers have I yet seen!
So many jewels beneath the trees, lustrous, brown:
wild chestnuts. All of Africa conjured up,
the torridness! before the cooling rains.
Twilight’s bed upon the clouds is thrown,
veiled light showering down upon the weary trees.
With loosened hair, the approach of Autumn sweet.
[July 15, 1940]
Quivering chill golden breeze,
the wanderers now take a seat.
In the pantry’s depth a gnawing mouse,
The golden shimmering branch above.
Here golden hues are all around
the yellow banners tangled, sodden,
not daring yet to cast them down,
the fluttering banners of autumn corn.
[February 7, 1941]
The frosts have come, on the houses’ walls their shriek,
the teeth of the dead chatter. This to perceive.
And rustling above on the brown dry tree
the wild myrtle’s small autumnal weeds.
A barn owl sends a prophecy down to me.
Am I afraid? Not even afraid, maybe.
[January 14, 1939]
Silver full moon at midday
is the sun, a mere faint presence in the heavens,
Fog rises, birds are indolent.
Snow falls at midnight, and across
the darkness the rustling of angels’ wings.
Death, across the deep snows,
soundlessly approaches.
[February 11, 1941]
Translated by Ottilie Mulzet
Previously on HLO
Miklós Radnóti: a portrait
Poems by Radnóti

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