This English translation of a widely popular Hungarian poem was performed at a ceremony held by the Tom Lantos Institute in Vác on September 19, dedicated to the memory of four outstanding champions of human rights during the Holocaust – Radnóti and Lantos as well as József Antall Snr. and Henryk Sławik.
How others see this region, I cannot understand:
to me, this little country is menaced motherland
engulfed by flames, 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 I know 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 viewing a war map from the sky,
and even Vörösmarty’s old house escapes his eye;
what can he identify here? grim barracks and factories,
but I see steeples, oxen, and grasshoppers, farms 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 vineyard and a wood,
among the graves a granny still mourning her widowhood;
and what may seem a plant or a rail line that must be wrecked
is just a signal-house 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 could merge them in his topography.
True, most of us are guilty, our people as the rest.
We know our faults. We know how and when we have transgressed.
But blameless lives are among us, of toil and poetry and passion,
and infants with an infinite capacity for compassion
they will protect its glow down in gloomy bomb shelters, till
our land is marked out again by the finger of peace... then they will
respond to our muffled words with new voices fresh and bright.
Extend your vast wings above us, protective cloud of night.
Translated by: Thomas Ország-Land
Tags: Miklós Radnóti