Poetry Centre

Weekly Poem for 29 November 2010

  • Lullaby

    People are murdered all the time,
    Somewhere – be it in the laps
    Of dozy valleys, or on watchful peaks
    That peer; so what a cold comfort
    To say ‘Ah, but it’s so far off!’
    Shanghai or Guernica –
    Either is just as close to my heart
    As 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 through
    The sparkling dust of the Milky Way
    And pouring molten silver
    On the headlong shadows tumbling down.

    1937

    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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