Hungarian Conservative

4 June — ‘A Nation Dismembered’

The Trianon memorial in Béke Square, Csepel, Budapest.
Wikimedia Commons
The following are poems by cross-border Hungarian poets translated into English that originally appeared in a 2019 anthology published by Hungarian Review.

The article featuring the Trianon experience-themed poetry[1] was originally published on Hungarian Review.



Isten háta mögött

empty mangers empty stalls
christmas here no longer calls
no use waiting for
the wisemen at the door

the creator’s got a lot to do
can’t see to all those in the queue
the star of that night
is far from here to give much light

we know we must have faith in him
but the evenings are so dim
the lack of loving care
leaves us feeling cold and bare

in foresight oh lord you don’t lack
but take a look behind your back
folks here for a while
have been waiting for your smile


Translated by Paul Sohar

A detail of the 14th century St Ladislaus mural in the Székelyderzs (Dârjiu) Unitarian fortified church (Seklerland, Romania). PHOTO: Tibor Oláh/MTI



Csehszlovákiai magyar költő fohásza az Úrhoz

 My Lord, enlighten our wits,

 create ministers, scalawags

 and piano tuners for us,

 deliver us from tinnitus,

 from earlobe-tugging and tongue transplants,

 for our fate’s as thorny as a cactus,

 and hard, too, as a ram’s horns –

 look upon your peasants, my Lord,

 stuck neck-deep in the ground like onions,

 yielding nothing but barren invective;

 do something with us, All-powerful,

 let us not forever snare flies

 like the fly-amanita fungus:

 seat us on your shining threshold,

 slip your business card into our breast pockets

 and initiate us into your secrets!


 we’d willingly accept from You

 some powerful trumpets,

 the jawbone of an ass,

 brimstone hail, and whatnot.

Be good-hearted toward us, my Lord:
we’ll rustle up a burning briar bush for You,
from which your crackling mercy
can pummel us, too,
now and forever after


Translated by Peter V. Czipott

An aerial view of Lőcse (Levoča) in the Uplands (Slovakia). PHOTO: László Molnár-Bernáth/MTVA/MTI




Ladies and gentlemen
the man in whose blood
they pan for gold
Louis Armstrong
now sings for you

Homeless in my homeland
I’m a livid spot on my country
it’s me
the dirty scum
it’s me
the blood spat on snow
it’s me
the dark billiard ball
it’s me
the second-hand burial suit
it’s me
the twentieth-century black pine boksz
it’s me
the lump of coal thrown in the fire

a homeless
livid spot
the holy ascension of liberty
that’s me
the worn-out record
that’s me
the soot-stained glass
held up to the solar eclipse
that’s me
the shadow of graveyards
that’s me

a livid spot on my homeland
homeless in my homeland

in whose blood
they panned for gold
ladies and gentlemen
the man with the golden horn
Louis Armstrong
sang for you

Translated by Paul Sohar

The renovated Teleki House in Marosvásárhely (Târgu Mureș, Romania). PHOTO: Gábor Kiss/MTI



Ha egyszer elfogyunk

Often I can’t fall asleep,
the bed is hot, I’m tossed by the wave,
in dreams I see my people’s fate
is no great obsequy but a withering.
And I groan out loud like a galley-slave.

I don’t fathom ourselves and you, God:
so, have we no minds, have you no heart?
your hat will lose its crown of flowers,
it’ll be a shame if once we disappear,
and a greater shame, if we forever depart.


Translated by John M. Ridland and Peter V. Czipott

The equestrian statue of Ferenc Rákóczi II in Beregszász (Berehove, Ukraine). PHOTO: János Nemes/MTI

1 A Nation Dismembered: The 1920 Treaty of Trianon in Hungarian Poetry. Hungarian Review, Budapest, 2019, 216 pp. 

The following are poems by cross-border Hungarian poets translated into English that originally appeared in a 2019 anthology published by Hungarian Review.