Hungarian Poems In my Own Translation

Attila József (1905-1937)

With a Pure Heart

No mother, no father,

No homeland, no God,

No cradle, no shroud,

No lover’s name to call out loud.

 

It’s three days since I last ate

A meal or a crust of bread,

The only thing I have to sell

Is my twenty years, my youth, myself.

 

If no one wants what I have to offer,

I can steal and rob to earn a dollar,

The Devil himself can claim my name,

With a pure heart I’ll kill and maim.

 

They’ll catch me and they’ll hang me high,

In holy ground my body will lie,

Poisoned grass will start to grow

On my beautiful heart in the earth below.

 

 

Radnóti Miklós (1909-1944)

Self-Portrait

I am twenty two years old. This

is how Christ must have looked in autumn

at the same age; he was fair-haired

and hadn’t yet grown a beard;

girls fantasised about him in their dreams.

 

I Cannot Know (Opening lines)

I have no way of knowing what this land may mean to others

But for me this small country bathed in fire is my birthplace,

It’s the far-off world of my childhood.

I emerged from this land like a delicate shoot from a tree,

And I hope that, in time, my body will sink back into this earth.

I am at home here.