Small flames are fluttering and slowly and forever dying –
along the bright meridians, the souls of the soldiers flying.
Souls all alike! no matter who each one had been or done
exposed to screaming icy winds or oppressed by the searing sun,
all serving by cannon, drunk with longing, vomiting in the grip
of crippling fear... all sailors on board a heaving battleship!
The watch is kept by sensitive death. Below, mines grimly glide.
From time to time, their slimy harvest washed up by the tide –
a swaying catch of corpses and shattered dolphins, lifeless
There too, the sun still rises, but no-one welcomes such a dawn.
High up, an aircraft rumbles. Its advance across the sky
reflected by its silent shadow drawn upon the sly,
dark waters. Whirlpools hiss towards it. Signals flash their
and blooms of human blood will deepen the red of the coral reef.
The peril howls all day. Light oil seeps from the fine machine.
The ship is tracked by echoing rage, like a hostile submarine.
At last, the sun is drowned in smoke and, like a terrified,
a writhing face, the moon appears upon the other side,
and flames are fluttering again and slowly forever dying –
Along the bright meridians, the souls of the soldiers flying.
Miklós Radnóti (1939)
Translated from the
& Edited by Thomas Land
Radnóti and his wife
If you have any comments on this poem, Thomas Land would be
pleased to hear from you.