The Storm

III. Letter to My Wife (1944)

Mute worlds lie in the depths, their stillness crying
inside my head; I shout: no-one’s replying
in war-dazed, silenced Serbia the distant,
and you are far away. My dreams, persistent,
are woven nightly in your voice, and during
the day it’s in my heart still reassuring -
and thus I keep my silence while, profoundly
detached, the cooling bracken stirs around me.

No longer can I guess when I will see you,
who were once firm and sure as psalms can be -you,
as lovely as the shadow and the light - you,
whom I could seek out mute, deprived of sight - you,
now with this landscape you don’t know entwined -you,
projected to the eyes, but from the mind - you,
once real till to the realm of dreams you fell - you,
observed from my own puberty’s deep well - you,

nagged jealously in my soul for a truthful
pledge that you love me, that upon the youthful
proud peak of life you’ll be my bride; I’m yearning
and then, with sober consciousness returning,
I do remember that you are my wife and
my friend -- past three wild frontiers, terrified land.
Will autumn leave me here forgotten, aching?
My memory’s sharper over our lovemaking;

I once believed in miracles, forgetting
their time; above me, bomber squadrons setting
against the sky where I just watched the spark and
the colour of your eyes - the blue then darkened,
the bombs then longed to fall. I live despite them
and I am captive. I have weighed up, item
by painful item, all my hopes still tended -
and will yet find you. For you, I’ve descended,

along the highways, down the soul’s appalling
deep chasms. I will project myself through falling
live flames or crimson coals to conquer the distance,
if need be learn the treebark’s tough resistance -
the calm and might of fighting men whose power
in danger springs from cool appraisal shower
upon me, bringing sober strength anew,
and I become as calm as 2 x 2.

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.