01. 02. 2010. 20:17

Guard Me and Protect Me

Flames leap into our sky, and those who read / the heavens’ blazing portents fall to earth. / There is a white pain that encircles me / like salt at ebb-tide tracing the sea’s girth.                                                                      

Now every night the wind blows in my dreams
and with a slapping sound the snow-white sails,
catching the light, grow plump for a long voyage.
 
I’m writing this slow poem as if someone
who, starting life anew, must bid farewell –
henceforth to write his poems with a stick
on drifting sands in far-off Africa.   
 
But from all over – Africa as well –
you can hear terrible cries; time does her best
like a wet-nurse – all day, all night – to feed
her fearful children at her ashen breast.  
 
What, between two wars, is the word worth?
What am I worth – I, a scholar of rare
and weighty words – if there are deranged hands        
clutching at bombs insanely everywhere?   
 
Flames leap into our sky, and those who read 
the heavens’ blazing portents fall to earth.  
There is a white pain that encircles me  
like salt at ebb-tide tracing the sea’s girth.                                                                      
 
Oh you, my white pain, guard me and protect me.
Consciousness pure as snow, stay with me here.
My words are clean, and may they never be
begrimed by the brown smoke of burning fear.
 
1937

Miklós Radnóti was born a hundred years ago on May 5th, 1909. Some thirty-five years later, on November 9th 1944, he was executed by firing-squad and buried in a mass grave.
 

Translated by: Clive Wilmer and George Gömöri

Tags: Miklós Radnóti (1909–1944)