Dezső Kosztolányi, the self-styled homo estheticus, was one of the great men of Hungarian letters in the first half of the twentieth century. Little of his poetry has been translated because of its technical ingenuity, but anything by him is ipso facto worthy of attention.
inveterate misanthropy footsteps
mean nervous tension, sleepless vigilance.
Do not allow the impious to corrupt
what heart and mind and hand have here contrived,
and may your master day-dream undisturbed
within this narrow circle close confined.
May those who with myself and with my work
have naught in common never pass this wall.
Beyond it is the street, the vulgar street,
a horror alien to my inmost heart.
Turn to me your myopic, opal eye
where goodness with distrust eternal blends.
Above all else, preserve tranquillity.
Him that disturbs it bite and drive away,
and him that over trifles makes a fuss,
for still before me lies a long, long road;
my busy hand still plies the pen on trust.
And yet, do not be angry with the poor,
the beggars that may stare in at the gate,
gaunt figures standing in the moonlight, for
already they have troubles that are great.
But rather keep your mind on literature,
and if this way should come some snide attack
and you should hear somebody bark at me,
do me a favour and just bark straight back.
Translated by: Bernard Adams
Tags: Dezső Kosztolányi