Mankind by Mihály Vörösmarty

1.
Listen. For the singing must be still:
Now the world speaks plain.
Hot wings of the rainstorm turn to chill,
Frozen the wind and rain—
The rain is tears, is sorrow’s smart,
The wind sighed by the human heart:
It makes no difference—spirit, virtue, sin:
All hope is vain!

2.
You have heard the story: humankind
Born of their fathers’ breath,
Reaped with their fathers sowed and as they sinned,
Inheritance of death:
And the survivors howl for Law,
And law in turn kills m any more,
The best have failed, the worst’s plots reign:
All hope is vain!

3.
Then the heroes came, and they bestrode
The law with their bright blaze.
Work began: steel cut its bloody road!
Mankind gloried in self-praise.
And when its heroes died, again
It mauled itself in its great pain.
The news? Lightning upon a darkling plain:
All hope is vain!

4.
There is a long peace, and humankind
Teems grossly to beget
So the plague perhaps may one day find
A grander banquet set.
With greedy eyes it scans the sky:
Earth’s not its own, that’s why,
The Earth’s as hard as grave-ground for this strain:
All hope is vain!

5.
How fertile is the earth, and human hands
Make it more fertile still,
Yet poverty stalks over all the lands
And bondage stamps its will.
Must it be so? Or if not, why
Must ancient times repeat the cry?
What’s lacking? Is it virtue? power? Again
All hope is vain!

6.
A godless contract binds you in its bans,
Reason and evil will!
You nourish with the rage of ignorance
Your armies to the kill.
Reason or rage, devil or beast,
Whoever wins, men die at least:
This mud ran mad, this god-faced knot of pain!
All hope is vain!

7.
Beneath Mankind the good earth groans, and now
War years and peace years burn.
The curse of brother-hate blooms on its brow:
You’d think that it would learn,
But then it spawns some greater sin.
Humans are dragon-teeth, the strain
Of Man’s the dragon-toothed, the race of Cain:
All hope is vain! All hope is vain!

1846

From:  Ozsváth , Zsuzsanna and Turner, Frederick (eds. and transls.), Light within the Shade: Eight Hundred Years of Hungarian Poetry, 2014, Syracuse University Press: Syracuse, New York, pp. 30-31.
(https://books.google.com.au/books?id=l23iAwAAQBAJ)

Date: 1846 (original in Hungarian); 2014 (translation in English)

By: Mihály Vörösmarty (1800-1855)

Translated by: Zsuzsanna Ozsváth (1931- ) and Frederick Turner (1943- )

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: