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Interestings Literature ODE TO THE HUNGARIAN LANGUAGE

ODE TO THE HUNGARIAN LANGUAGE

As violet twilight darkens my lodging
I see before me St. Gellért’s handmaiden,
on whose  lips on an ancient evening
song burst forth in Hungarian.
Her Magyar face is distant and fading –
yet, some secrets we must still be sharing:
for her song flows through my every pore
on a distant shore.

Magyar tongue, my loyal mate in life,
you gave comfort to my wounded pride;
through loss, suffering and adversity
you were the promise, a brighter destiny.
Attack me with guns or accusations:
I shall be armed with alliterations!
Each ancient, vibrant verb
protects me in every nerve.

Your melodious vocal harmony
will stay with me through eternity.
Those sturdy nouns, so vain and proud,
possessive endings, like greedy Counts.
Your gay adjectives and playful similes
stood guard over us through the centuries.
In each word I see your physiognomy,
tormented Hungary.

It’s the speech of Árpád’s people,
and not that of the Latin scribbler,
nor the chatter of foreign barons,
but the prayer of toiling peasants.
Magyar tongue! Can you withstand the gale?
You’re our future, stand firm and hale!
Your soft sounds cover the nation’s face
like St. Veronica’s veil.

Magyar speech, so flowing and vivid:
you bubble, like our rebellious spirit.
We lost at Buda, Mohács and Muhi –
but church bells still toll for Hunyadi’s victory!
Unfulfilled promises and burning desires,
a brighter future, or fateful disasters;
Tokaj’s wines, ancient songs: they’re all
in one sobbing tárogató-call.

György Faludy

(A free, partial translation by Éva Kossuth on the occasion of Hungary’s millecentenary. Vancouver, 1996)

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