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PETŐFI, Sandor



The Thought Torments Me


“When every nation wearing chains

Shall rise and seek the battle-plains,

With flushing face shall wave in fight

Their banners, blazoned in the light:

“For liberty!” Their cry shall be;

Their cry from east to west,

Till tyrants be depressed.

There shall I gladly yield

My life upon the field;

There shall my heart’s last blood flow out,

And I my latest cry shall shout.“


The National Poem


On your feet, Magyar, the homeland calls!

The time is here, now or never!

Shall we be slaves or free?

This is the question, choose your answer! -

By the God of the Hungarians

We vow,

We vow, that we will be slaves

No longer!


We were slaves up til now,

Damned are our ancestors,

Who lived and died free,

Cannot rest in a slave land.

By the God of the Hungarians

We vow,

We vow, that we will be slaves

No longer!


Useless villain of a man,

Who now, if need be, doesn't dare to die,

Who values his pathetic life greater

Than the honor of his homeland.

By the God of the Hungarians

We vow,

We vow, that we will be slaves

No longer!


The sword shines brighter than the chain,

Decorates better the arm,

And we still wore chains!

Return now, our old sword!

By the God of the Hungarians

We vow,

We vow, that we will be slaves

No longer!


The Magyar name will be great again,

Worthy of its old, great honor;

Which the centuries smeared on it,

We will wash away the shame!

By the God of the Hungarians

We vow,

We vow, that we will be slaves

No longer!


Where our grave mounds lie,

Our grandchildren will kneel,

And with blessing prayer,

Recite our sainted names.

By the God of the Hungarians

We vow,

We vow, that we will be slaves

No longer!



I'll Be a Tree


I'll be a tree, if you are its flower,

Or a flower, if you are the dew-

I'll be the dew, if you are the sunbeam,

Only to be united with you.


My lovely girl, if you are the Heaven,

I shall be a star above on high;

My darling, if you are hell-fire,

To unite us, damned I shall die.

Translation: E.F. KUNZ


At the End of September


The garden flowers still blossom in the vale,

Before our house the poplars still are green;

But soon the mighty winter will prevail;

Snow is already in the mountains seen.

The summer sun’s benign and warming ray

Still moves my youthful heart, now in its spring;

But lo! my hair shows signs of turning gray,

The wintry days thereto their color bring.

This life is short; too early fades the rose;

To sit here on my knee, my darling, come!

Wilt thou, who now dost on my breast repose,

Not kneel, perhaps, to morrow o’er my tomb?

O, tell me, if before thee I should die,

Wilt thou with broken heart weep o’er my bier?

Or will some youth efface my memory

And with his love dry up thy mournful tear?


If thou dost lay aside the widow’s vail,

Pray hang it o’er my tomb. At midnight I

Shall rise, and, coming forth from death’s dark vale,

Take it with me to where forgot I lie.

And wipe with it my ceaseless flowing tears,

Flowing for thee, who hast forgotten me;

And bind my bleeding heart which ever bears

Even then and there, the truest love for thee.


My Wife and My Sword


Upon the roof a dove,

A star within the sky,

Upon my knees my love,

For whom I live and die;

In raptures I embrace

And swing her on my knees,

Just as the dewdrop sways

Upon the leaf of trees.


But why, you’ll surely ask,

Kiss not her pretty face?

It is an easy task

To kiss while we embrace!

Many a burning kiss

I press upon her lip,

For such a heavenly bliss

I cannot now let slip.


And thus we pass our day,

I and my pretty wife,

Beyond all rare gem’s ray

Is our gay wedded life.

A friend, my sword, it seems,

Does not like this at all,

He looks with angry gleams

Upon me from the wall.


Don’t look on me, good sword,

With eyes so cross and cold,

There should be no discord

Between us, friends of old.

To women leave such things,

As green-eyed jealousy:

To men but shame it brings,

And you a man must be!


But then, if you would pause

To think who is my love,

You’d see you have no cause

At all me to reprove.

She is the sweetest maid,

She is so good and true;

Like her God only made,

I know, but very few.


If thee, good sword, again

Shall need our native land,

To seek the battle-plain

Will be my wife’s command.

She will insist that I

Go forth, my sword, with thee,

To fight, if need to die,

For precious liberty!