Now that I am able to spell Hungarian words correctly, I will try to write more blogs about my exploration of my heritage. Today, we have a poem by Sándor Petőfi who died at the Battle of Segesvár during the 1848 Revolution against Austrian rule, where he was shot by Russian troops allied with the Austrians.
Why Are You Still Singing Gentle Bards? (Mit Daltoltok Még ti, Jámbor Költők)
Why are you still singing gentle bards,
in times like these what good is the song?
The world can hardly hear your words,
the noise of war drones on and on.
Lay down your lute, wholesome boys,
your beautiful music falls too flat.
Even the lark’s melodious voice
disappears amid thunderous claps.
Or maybe not. Birds don’t really care
if down here they are even heard?
In the vast blueness of their air,
the lark sings for itself and god.
When sorrow or joy touches our hearts
songs fly from us so naturally,
and sail on the waves of a steady wind
like the tattered leaves of a rosewood tree.
So let us sing lads, like we used to,
but even louder, so our lutes will vie
with the clamor of a disturbed earth,
and add a note or two to the clearing sky.
Half the world in rubble … a bleak vision
and though it troubles our hearts and heads
let our souls descend on these harsh ruins,
and our songs like ivy gently spread.
At home, I have Petőfi’s complete poetic works in a volume I purchased in Budapest, when I was there in 1977. The above poem was translated by Arlo Voorhees and is one of several that appears at Pilvax Online Magazine. I may also in future add some translations of my own.