June 24, 2010

Sándor Weöres


Sándor Weöres [Hungary]
1913-1989

The son of family of the Hungarian gentry, Sándor Weöres continued the great intellectual tradition of Hungarian poetry of Babits, Kosztolányi, and Milán Füst. He was still a teenager when his first poems appeared in the major Hungarian literary review, Nyugat. By this time he had discovered Eastern philosophy and studied several ancient cultures and mythologies, all which appeared subjects in his earliest books, particularly A kő és az ember (1935, The Stone and the Man) and A teremités dícsérete (1938, In Praise of Creation).

Over the next several decades he continued to explore new areas in his poetry, despite criticism for his "nihilism" from Marxist critics, and produced over fifteen collections. His A hallgatás tornya (The Tower of Silence) of 1956 established as one of the major Hungarian poets of his generation. In 1970 he was awarded the Kossuth Prize.

During the Rákosi era of Hungarian government, Weöres supported himself primarily as a translator and a writers of children's verses, although these verses were read by adults as well. As a translator he published numerous Chinese and Japanese poets, and created the oeuvre of the imaginary 19th century poet, Erzsébet Lónyai, who, one woman poet of day wryly remarked, represented "the best feminine poetry in Hungary."

Weöres' intellectual pursuits also took him into metaphysics, producing a book, A lélek idézése (1958, Conjuring the Soul). He also wrote plays, the most recent, A kétfejú fenevad (The Double-Headed Beast), being produced in 1982.


BOOKS OF POETRY

Hideg van (Pécs: Kultúra, 1934); A kő és az ember (Budapest: Nyugat, 1935); A teremtés dísérete (Pécs: Janus Pannonious Társaság, 1938); Theomachia (Pécs: Dunántúl, 1941); Medúza (Budapest: Egyetemi Nyomda, 1943); Elysium (Budapest: Móricz Zsigmond, 1946); Gyümölcskosár (Budapest: Singerés Wolfner, 1946); A szerelem ábécéje (Budapest: Új idők, 1946); A fogak tornáca (Budapest: Egyetemi Nyomda, 1947); A hallgatás tornya (Budapest: Szépirodalmi, 1956); A léek idézése (Budapest: Európa, 1958); Tarka forgó (Budapest: Magvető, 1958); Tőkút (Budapest: Magvető, 1964); Gyermekjákékok (Budapest: Móra, 1965); Merülő Saturnus (Budapest: Magvető, 1968); Psyché: Egy hajadani költőnő írásai [as Erzsébet Lónyai] (Budapest: Magvető, 1972); III vers (Budapest: Szépirodalmi, 1974); Harmincöt vers (Budapest: Magvető, 1978); Egysoros versek (Budapest: Helikon-Szépirodalmi, 1979); Ének a határtalanról (Budapest: Magvető, 1980)

BOOKS IN ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Selected Poems [with Frenenc Juhász], trans. by Edwin Morgan and David Wevill (London: Penguin, 1970); Eternal Moment, trans. by Edwin Morgan (London: Anvil Press, 1988)



On Death

Don't mind if you die. It's just your body's shape,
intelligence, separate beings which are passing.
The rest, the final and the all-embracing
structure receives, and will absorb and keep.

All incidents we live through, forms we see,
particles, mountain-tops, are broken down,
they all are mortal, this condition shows,
but as to substance: timeless majesty.

The soul is that way too: condition dies
away from it—feeling, intelligence,
which help to fish the pieces from the drift

and make it sicken—but, what underlies,
all elements that wait in permanence,
reach the dear house they never really left.

Translated from the Hungarian by Allan Dixon



The Colonnade of Teeth

1

The Colonnade of Teeth, where you have entered,
red marble hall: your mouth,
white marble columns: your teeth,
and the scarlet carpet you step on: your tongue.

2.
You can look out of any window of time
and catch sight of still another face of God.
Lean out the time of sedge and warblers:
God caresses.
Land out the time of Moses and Elijah:
God haggles.
Lean out of the time of the Cross:
God's face is all bloody, like Veronica's napkin.
Lean out of your own time
God is old, bent over a book.

3
Head downwards, like Peter on his cross,
man hangs in the blue sky with flaring hair
and the earth trundles over the soles of his feet.
The one who sees
has sleepless eyes he cannot take from man.

4
No sugar left for the child:
he stuffs himself with hen-droppings and finds what's sweet.
Every clod: lightless star!
Every worm: wingless cherub!

5
If you make hell, plunge to the bottom:
heaven's in sight there. Everything circles round.

6
Man lays down easy roads.
The wild beast stamps a forest track.
And look at the tree: depth and height raying from it to every
compass-point;
itself a road, to everywhere!

7
Once you emerge from the glitter of the last two columns
the cupola your hair skims is then infinity,
and a swirl of rose-leaves throws you down,
and all that lies below, your bridal bed: the whole world—
Here you can declare:
"My God, I don't believe in you!"
And the storm of rose-leaves will smile:
"But I believe in you: are you satisfied?"

Translated from the Hungarian by Edwin Morgan

_____
English language translations copyright © by Allan Dixon and Edwin Morgan.

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Zsolt Sesztak said...

English Hungarian translation