The Storm

II. The Second Eclogue (1941)

Last night we flew so far that I had to laugh in rage;
their fighters droned like bee-swarms trying to engage
us from above with strong defensive fire -- but, my friend,
our fresh squadrons showed up on the horizon in the end.
I thought they’d prang and pick me up with dust pan and brush
but I’m back, see! and tomorrow cowardly Europe can rush
again to air-raid shelters to hide from me while it may...
but never mind, friend. Did you write since yesterday?

I did, what else could I do? The poet writes his lines,
the pussy cat miaows and the puppy whines,
the fishy coyly spawns. I write about everything
so even you should know, up there, while soldiering,
how I live when the bloodshot sick moonlight staggers down
among the ruined streets as the bombs destroy the town,
walls cave in, homes explode, the squares curl up in fright,
breath falters, even the sky is disgusted with the sight,
the bombers come, persistent, sometimes they disappear
to swoop in rattling frenzy on the houses drowned in fear!
I write, what else could I do. Poems too can be vicious
and dangerous, you know, odd lines are too capricious
for words, demanding bravery... the poet writes his lines,
the pussy cat miaows and the puppy whines,
the fish -- and so on. Can you make anything? No! you sit
and listen to your engine until your eardrums split;
you cannot even hear me! You’ve grown one with the plane.
How will you feel when flying over us again?

You’ll laugh. I fly in fear... desiring, up above,
to lie on a bed, eyes closed, caressing with my love.
Or just to hum about her and to conjure up such a scene
daydreaming in the steamy chaos of the canteen.
When I am up, I would come down! down here, I long to fly,
without a place of my own between my own earth and sky.
I have grown much too fond of the aeroplane too, I know,
but we have learned to share the same rhythm of pain long ago...
You understand -- and please... write about me! make it known
that I too was a man: destructive, homeless, alone
above and below. Who could grasp the causes of my deed?...
Explain me, won’t you?


If I live -- with some who still want to read.

Miklós Radnóti

Translated from the Hungarian
by Thomas Land

If you've any comment on this poem, Thomas Land would be pleased to hear from you.