Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Forced March - Miklós Radnóti

Crazy.  He stumbles, flops, gets up,            and trudges on again.
He moves his ankles and his knees            like one wandering pain,
then sallies forth, as if a wing            lifted him where he went,
and when the ditch invites him in,            he dare not give consent,
and if you were to ask why not?            perhaps his answer is
a woman waits, a death more wise,            more beautiful than this.
Poor fool, the true believer:            for weeks, above the rooves,
but for the scorching whirlwind,            nothing lives or moves:
the house wall’s lying on its back,            the prune tree’s smashed and bare
even at home, when dark comes on,            the night is furred with fear.
Ah, if I could believe it:            that not only do I bear
what’s worth the keeping in my heart,            but home is really there;
if it might be!—as once it was,            on a veranda old and cool,
where the sweet bee of peace would buzz,            prune marmalade would chill,
late summer’s stillness sunbathe            in gardens half-asleep,
fruit sway among the branches,            stark naked in the deep,
Fanni waiting at the fence            blonde by its rusty red,
and shadows would write slowly out            all the slow morning said—
but still it might yet happen!            The moon’s so round today!
Friend, don’t walk on. Give me a shout            and I’ll be on my way.

September 1944

Miklós Radnóti (1909 - 1944) Hungary
Translated by Steven Polgar, S. Berg and S.J. Marks
Source: LAMOTH
In August 1944, as consequence of Tito's advance, Radnóti's group of 3200 Hungarian Jews were put on a forced march from the Bor copper mines in Serbia to Central Hungary. According to witnesses, in early November 1944, Radnóti was severely beaten by a drunken militiaman, who had been tormenting him for "scribbling". Too weak to continue, he was shot into a mass grave near the village of Abda in Northwestern Hungary.

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