Deluge by Tamás Emod

translated from the Hungarian by Thomas Ország-Land (October 2010)

Tamás Emod 1888-1938: Hungarian poet, playwright and theatre director.




I. MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE

 

Beneath a rig of groans, in a tempest of tears,

engulfed by fear as an awesome deluge recurs,

 

on board a lost and battered, rudderless galley

afloat on the blood of this dreadful time of folly --

 

like sailors who trust their news to a bottle in the current,

I thrust these final verses into the torrent

 

 

so that, beyond death and terror and darkness, you

may still receive them one day in a better future,

 

you, in whom we have placed our faith and hopes

in vain, for we shall never reach your shores:

 

free shores, our home ever since the centaurs' idylls,

cultured Europe, our ancient, classical cradle.

 

***

 

We signal our final farewells before the night covers us,

our helpless pleas of distress flashed over the flood,

 

and still salute the offspring of tomorrow,

we the galley slaves of the present, the ship and the oars

 

whose festive garlands have been torn away,

we sad and sensitive souls of this brutal age

 

who have foretold the worst and seen it all

who had screamed out in fear before we fell,

 

the children lusting for wisdom, humour and trust

before the depth of hell roared over us:

 

before our plight sinks into blind oblivion,

I send you these lines, the final news of our lives.

 

***

 

Beyond the final Capes of Good Hope of existence,

chained to the galley's oar-bench beneath the mast,

 

we still survive like beasts in filthy stables,

abused as apes are, locked up in a cage,

 

our ears are cocked, our fur is bristling with fear

but silence! the guards assault us through the bars,

 

our human pride destroyed, we huddle dismayed,

we have consumed... even our flesh and blood,

 

we know that all our endeavours must be in vain,

that we must perish without release or escape:

 

despite the lights we've lit here forever, you

have abandoned your children, cultured Europe!

 

***

 

Beneath a rig of groans, in a tempest of tears,

engulfed by fear as an awesome deluge recurs,

 

like sailors who trust their news to a bottle in the current,

I thrust these final verses into the torrent

 

that bears me towards the jaws of fate through the spray

...here, in the year of 1938.

 

 

II. ONLY YOU

 

Despite your barefaced lying

despite your naked lewdness

and in your degradation

and in your destitution,

with obdurate defiance

I fear for you, I love you,

you easy slut, my poppet,

my only, only life.

 

 

III. DISTINCTION

 

Generous age, how you burn to trace

the race of your humble, itinerant son!

Allow me to make a gift in return.

Take this book, before I pass on.

 

 

THOMAS ORSZÁG-LAND is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent based in Budapest. His last major work: CHRISTMAS IN AUSCHWITZ: Holocaust Poetry Translated from the Hungarian of Andr?s Mezei (Smokestack, UK, 2010).

 

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