Deathmarch by Miklós Radnóti

Collapsed exhausted, only a fool would rise again
to drag his knees and ankles once more like marching pain
yet press on as though wings were to lift him on his way,
invited by the ditch but in vain, he’d dare not stay…
Ask him, why not? maintaining his pace, he might reply:
he longs to meet the wife and a gentler death. That’s why.
But he’s insane, that poor man, because above the homes,
since we have left them, only a scorching whirlwind roams.
The walls are laid. The plum tree is broken. And the night
lurks bristling as a frightened, abandoned mongrel might.
Oh, if I could believe that all things for which I yearn
exist beyond my heart, that there’s still home and return…
return! the old veranda, the peaceful hum of bees
attracted by the cooling fresh plum jam in the breeze,
the still, late summer sunshine, the garden drowsing mute,
among the leaves the swaying voluptuous naked fruit,
and Fanni waiting for me, blonde by the russet hedge,
while languidly the morning re-draws the shadow’s edge…
It may come true again — the moon shines so round — be wise!
Don’t leave me, friend, shout at me, shout! and I will arise!

From: http://www.pennilesspress.co.uk/annexe/radnoti.htm

Date: 1944, translation 2009

By: Miklós Radnóti (1909-1944)

Translated by: Thomas Ország-Land (1938- )

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2 Comments to “Deathmarch by Miklós Radnóti”

  1. What a powerful poem. Devastating. Thank you for introducing us to this poet. For those who haven’t Googled him, he was a Hungarian Jew who died in 1944, age 35, shot into a mass grave. Eighteen months after his death, the mass grave was exhumed and in the front pocket of Radnóti’s overcoat his small notebook of final poems was found.

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