07. 24. 2015. 12:44

The horror of dying young (a sonnet and aphorisms)

I have let go all the firm things I held to. I am under the protection of no God. I cannot say what things are wrong, what right. Now I must get the victory over myself by myself. For I preferred danger to security.

Preface

Ferenc István Dénes Gyula Békássy was born in Hungary on April 7, 1893, educated at Bedales and King's College, Cambridge, and killed fighting in the Hungarian army on the eastern front on June 25, 1915. These poems and aphorisms are chosen from the writings he left in English; they cannot represent him, for they were left unrevised, especially the long poem "Adriatica," and most of his work, which has since been published in Buda-Pest, was written in his native tongue. They remain as the evidence of promise unfulfilled.

His loveable qualities his friends will not forget; and they cannot matter to the world. Such traits are commonin obituaries at least. But the unique and fascinating thing about him, which the poems hardly show, though the aphorisms do in part reveal it, was his gift of being outside and inside himself almost at the same time. He lived in the moment, intensely; but he was bigger than the moment and saw at once beyond it, how it fitted in the exciting pattern of life, and what part of the past it would hereafter become. The intellectual east wind of Cambridge sharpened him, but never enslaved. He seemed to play his part in life so intelligently―without muddle, seeing through things, yet not casting them aside as therefore worthless. Only a pale shadow of him lingers here; but all who knew him, and some who did not, will be glad to have this memorial.

F. L. Lucas


Sonnet

I am that bondsman whom an earthly grace
Has to your whims unquestionably knit;
Love clamoured in my earliest embrace
That I should perfect and accomplish it.
Do not despise me: for the task is great;
I am not humbled in a lowly cause:
Love is no child, in ignorance elate,
Nor laughs and claps its hands without a cause
Come therefore; if my love be like the sea
And cannot its own ecstasy contain,
Be you my gentle wind and let me be
Your origin and virtue once again;
And tears and kisses be the fountain whence
Shall flow a new world's perfect innocence.

 

Aphorisms

The aim of education is to create, by means of circumstance, men and women independent of circumstance.

*

I have let go all the firm things I held to. I am under the protection of no God. I cannot say what things are wrong, what right. Now I must get the victory over myself by myself. For I preferred danger to security.

*

Every philosophy and faith should attract in proportion to its power of laughter and mirth.

*

Deep is delight; deep is feeling: but deepest of all is the eternal contradiction, the eternal paradox. There is insufferable contradiction in all things; and man's work and advancement have been devices to evade it. They have always ended by demonstrating it.

*

There are those whose character is not so far developed as their mind; these are the breakers of values.

But those whose minds are less developed than their characters; these are the conservers of values.

And he alone, in whom mind and character are one, is the Creator of new Values.

*

Assumption and Belief. ― Who could help, or desires to help, acting on certain unjustified assumptions?

But why should it be necessary, therefore, to believe them; cannot one admit, if this is the case, that they are as likely as not to be false? To know oneself is to abjure all improbable beliefs. Thus can truth be rightly valued, and logic used uncorroded in the service of nature.

*

The Poet's Creed. In all my relations with people, I desire intimacy; in each, being in a different state, I desire it for a different purpose.

*

Bells. ― Bells are the voices of some unutterably immense force: it is pitiful that they should come from church towers.

*

"Insight." ― A doctor for nervous diseases gains more and more insight into human character, yet the more he knows, the more wrong is his judgment of it, for the less he is able to consider anything in it that is not morbid. You Cambridge knowers of man! This is how you have insight.

*

Daisies. ― The best dreams cannot be put into words. Yesterday I was walking and talking in a field. Suddenly I looked down and saw daisies all round me. I had a strong thrilling emotion. I thought: "There they are!" "They," referring to the fact that I had dreamt and forgotten a dream, which I now remembered, of seeing daisies.

*

The Horror of Dying Young. ― It is not actual life, but the prospect of variety, that makes me want to live. Everything in me is just beginning to develop its nature; my every future instant is to be different from this one. When all my qualities are static and my whole being determinate, even though I may still be quite active, I shall not prefer life to death, or only because I do not like breaking habits and putting a stop to old relations with people.

Ferenc Békássy: Adriatica and Other Poems
Published by Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press
London, 1925

Photo: The castle of the Békássy family in the village of Zsennye (in the western part of Hungary). Ferenc Békássy is buried in the park. Today the castle is a residence for artists.

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