Sunday, March 21, 2010

Poem of the Week: "Van Gogh's Prayer," by János Pilinszky

Flipping through my back issues of Poetry magazine is always hit and miss for me. Sometimes, I'll find something suprisingly good. Most of the time, I roll my eyes at how hard the poets and the magazine try and fail to capture my attention. But this morning when I was flipping through the March 2008 issue, I found a poem I'd forgotten I loved. I'd even penned a giant asterisk in the corner of the page to mark it. And yet, two years later, I failed to remember it. So I reread it and enjoyed it all over again. So, here is that poem, by a Hungarian poet whose work I will now be looking up. I think it is quiet and simple and very lovely.

Van Gogh's Prayer, by János Pilinszky
Translated by Clive Wilmer and George Gömöri

A battle lost in the cornfields
and in the sky a victory.
Birds, the sun and birds again.
By night, what will be left of me?

By night, only a row of lamps,
a wall of yellow clay that shines,
and down the garden, through the trees,
like candles in a row, the panes;

there I dwelt once and dwell no longer --
I can't live where I once lived, though
the roof there used to cover me.
Lord, you covered me long ago.

1 comment:

  1. Nice. The problem with translated poetry is how horribly it sometimes translates. This one however, translates well :)