István Örkény


Fohász Budapestért

Budapest, my glorious city, forgive me, your errant son, who was born here, yet knew you not, who loved you but denigrated you so.

How could I have thought of you that you are no more than any city, and merely one among many!

I walked your paths and believed your cobbled ways were no more than that. I sat on your trams regarding them as pure conveyance. I visited many of your houses and believed that one could only live, eat and drink within their walls… I did not know that these windows were embrasures, that barricades could be made from trams, and that one could charge along these streets, fight and win!

Around the world, on every map and globe they have now rewritten your name, Budapest. This word no longer implies a city. Budapest is today synonymous with attacking a tank with one’s bare hands. In every language in the world, Budapest means loyalty, self-sacrifice, freedom, national pride. Every person who loves their city of birth wishes for it to be as you, Budapest!

I wish this too: be forever as you are now, Budapest. The abode of proud and courageous people; guide the Hungarians along the good path, Budapest, the shining star of mankind! Welcome people of all nations but endure no more occupying hordes and foreign flags between your hallowed walls.

Budapest, you yourself be Budapest: and allow your unworthy sons to be worthy of you and one another.

Live on eternally in your work, in battle, in smoke, blood, soot and glory, capital of liberty, Budapest!

Igazság [Truth], Friday, 2 November 1956

Translated by Adrian Hart

László Nagy

Karácsony, fekete glória

Herald of no peace from God,
you bull-headed angel!
You brought a tree reeking of blood
– glory! –
and caskets for a manger.

Memories of brimstone fires,
in hellish circles ever wider,
a rose of flames over the city
– glory! –
bloom like sparks around a sparkler.

Tree of death reaching the stars,
adorned with balls of slimy red –
my hurting eyeballs bulge to strain
– glory! –
against the forehead of the dead!

December 1956 Translated by Péter Balikó Lengyel

Ferenc Buda


Pesten esik a hó

The snow is falling on Budapest
It eddies, churns and swirls
Onto the Danube’s ripples
Onto the soulless rubble
Onto window-eyes shot through
Onto peoples’ mouths turned blue
Onto Csepel and its chemical works
Onto the Castle where nothing stirs
On wounds with ragged borders
On workshops and defiant workers
On blood dried on the asphalt
As white as a corpse it falls
Wind sweeps it along the pavement
Wind lofts it across the firmament
The snow is falling on Budapest
As fresh binding on open sores
Pest snow-white down to its toes

Translated by Peter V. Czipott

Anna Kiss


Already gone, the rainbow,
from behind my father’s head,
the black lamb in my mother’s apron
turned out to be a wolf instead.

A disgrace, the crocus in our teeth,
we dance in the maddened winds,
with wolf-like smell
and lantern eyes
we dance, we pause,
until we die,
they need our pelts,
on cudgel tips,
our necks
in the noose.

Translated by Thomas Cooper

György Petri

Nagy Imréről

Faceless, just another suited-
bespectacled leader, you had no grit
in your voice; no clue as to what to say

to the crowd out of the blue, taken aback
by such swiftness. I felt cheated
as you spoke, old man behind the pince-nez,
not yet knowing

the concrete courtyard where the verdict
would be read, in a rush no doubt,
nor the rough rasp of the rope, that final shame.

Who can say what could have been said
from that balcony? Once shot to hell,
the chance will not return. No jail or execution
can hone the blunted edge of the moment.
Yet here we are, permitted to remember
that disinclined, slighted, hesitant gentleman
who, against the odds,
abandoned himself
to rage, mirage, an entire country’s crazy hope 
when the city awoke to
being blasted into pieces.

Translated by Péter Balikó Lengyel

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