People are murdered all the time,Somewhere – be it in the lapsOf dozy valleys, or on watchful peaksThat peer; so what a cold comfortTo say ‘Ah, but it’s so far off!’Shanghai or Guernica –Either is just as close to my heartAs your small frightened hand,Or the planet Jupiter high above us.No don’t look up at the sky,Don’t even look at the earth, just sleep.For death is racing throughThe sparkling dust of the Milky WayAnd pouring molten silverOn the headlong shadows tumbling down.
by Miklós Radnóti
Copyright © Miklós Radnóti; reprinted 2010.
'Lullaby' is taken from Forced March, published by Enitharmon Press.
Notes courtesy of Enitharmon:
Forced March is a new edition of Miklós Radnóti’s
selected poems, in the powerful and moving translations of Clive Wilmer
and George Gömöri. Poet Dick Davis explains why this book is so
important: ‘Radnóti has emerged as the major poetic voice to record the
civilian experience of World War II in occupied Europe. His poems are an
extraordinary record of a mind determined to affirm its civilization in
the face of overwhelming odds. He is one of the very greatest poets of
the twentieth century, and Clive Wilmer’s and George Gömöri’s versions
are by far the best that exist in English.’ You can find out more about
this book here.
By the time the Second World War broke out, Miklós Radnóti was
already an established poet. When the Nazis took over his home town of
Budapest, Radnóti was sent to a labour camp at Bor in occupied Serbia.
Then, in 1944, as the Germans retreated from the eastern front, Radnóti
and his fellow labourers were force-marched back into Hungary. On 9
November, too weak to carry on, he and many comrades were executed by
firing squad. When the bodies were exhumed the following year, Radnóti
was identified by a notebook of poems in his greatcoat pocket. These
poems, published in 1946 as Foaming Sky, secured his position as one of the giants of modern Hungarian poetry. You can learn more about Radnóti here and here.
Enitharmon Press takes its name from a William Blake
character who represents spiritual beauty and poetic inspiration.
Founded in 1967 with an emphasis on independence and quality, Enitharmon
has been associated with such figures as Samuel Beckett, Harold
Pinter and Kathleen Raine. Enitharmon also commissions internationally
renowned collaborations between artists, including Gilbert &
George, and poets, including Seamus Heaney, under the Enitharmon
Editions imprint. Discover more about Enitharmon here.
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