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1.Dezső Kosztolányi: The Complaints of the Poor Little Child ( 1910. Selections)


Dezső Kosztolányi: The Complaints of the Poor Little Child  ( 1910. Selections)



Like someone who fell among the rails


and feels anew his waning life…

and sees in ways he never saw before

the infinite, the far-off life, ..


to this I say farewell…

among rails and among wheels

for one moment I grasp that which is eternal…


And I see him, the little child…

in his white shirt toddling…

I hear his soft, delighted laugh

and see his sleepy head on his chest…


He is the priest, the just, the saint,

I gaze upon him as upon a stranger…


and I weep for him who is no more…



I am still proud to be Hungarian

and grandfather, that warrior of old,

listens to my boasts, smiling and proud.

An ancient wound-scar keeps his brow aflame,

and I, at his knee, swaggering, declare:

„We magyars are winning! Everywhere!”


His eyes alone fill up with clouds sometimes.

Woe, this poor orphan must never be told

that there are worlds, far-off and passing strange

and Versailles’ gardens blossom out in gold….

Woe, he must never know, nor ever see them,

he must not see their splendor, hear their calls—

his native tongue, under these ancient trees,

a sounding sea, protects while it enthralls.

This sweet dream of his must be protected,

as one would guard the sleep of a sick child…

He must not know that his life is no life,

and, in the instant of his birth he died…

Woe, he must not be told that—All is vain!

What, if he sang? What if he prophesied?

Little Hungarians are all born mute.

Their cries go unheard by the world outside…




The little dog.

                        He is my favorite.


 High up, upon a silk cushion he thrones.

I can just sit, admire him for hours,

while I am counting his fast heartbeat, pulse,


And while he dreams of bones and dinnertime,

I wonder, what do doggies dream about?

What kind of life is his?  What kinds of dreams haunt him

in this savage and endless world of ours?


The poor dear is always sad.  I ask him why he grieves.

He avoids my look, his moist eyes shun my gaze.

His wise, brown eyes hooded  with secret haze.

I press on: ’Do you  feel that no one here loves you?’

He hangs his head.  I fear that he agrees.…


Then I call him: ’Let’s go and play outside!’

His bushy head sinks slowly in my lap…


Sometimes I ask him, ’Is your home too far?’

At such times, I think, I see him mourn.

Then again, ’Tell me, does life weigh you down?’

He snuggles up to me,  brother from afar…


Still, I keep nagging, ’Talk about your world

where there are doggy-homes and dog-statues!

about your far-away dad, sisters, brothers!

Tell me: do you miss your  mommy very much?

You wait and wait, and no news ever comes…’


I try to pry his mouth open—no luck!

…He does not speak.  He does not answer me.

Just weeps and weeps.

                                   Poor little dog just weeps.  



My little sister is betrothed to sorrow


and now she sits, so mute, without a moan,

among her flowers, forever alone.

A flower, she, her soul’s a flower fallow.

My little sister is betrothed to sorrow.

Just sits and waits. A window and a chair.

Her misery over her heart hovers,

and roses, blooming, blossom for others.


On her poor head her silent, earnest hair

droops miserably, like a shabby orphan,

as a dead maiden’s, prepared for her coffin.


She looks so mild, eyes peaceful and clear,

she cannot cry, and smile she does not dare.


But sometimes, when she thinks herself alone,

opening old chests, she gives a stifled moan,

bewailing her poor, ungarlanded head,

and darkness mantles her, a cloak of lead.

Her tears drop slowly on the ancient lace,

and her heart—woe—so like a broken vase,

a diamond-vase, resounds so eerie-twinkled,

for someone took that chaste heart for a trinket

and smashed it.  I can often hear it weep,

and sometimes, if its sighs chance in my room,

I whisper half-crazed prayers to the moon,

and, till the dawn comes, cannot go to sleep.


Above her garden, she just sits and watches

the slothful evenings move on lazy crutches

and every day she meeets the sad, pale morrow.


And waits.

               Because she is betrothed to sorrow.




Go, little child.  Your path leads into the Infinite,.

but before me there is only the nothing.

The Nothing.  A few more bold years,

then manhood, and yellow old age.

So, sweet one, forgive the singer of songs

who had forced you upon the stage—

Go to the sad publishing houses of Budapest,

and slowly uncover your speaking wounds.

Go to the Café New York, and on the catafalk of a marble-topped

table learn to die all over again.

Go into the cross-fire of envious eyes,

let them examine what is literary in you…


Go, go, poor little one!


 From Fall Concert (1911) Fragment


Locust-cry at an ancient door

Abandoned by everyone


From Magic(1912)


„Régi szerelmes levele”—a fragment)


For my heart aches for signals from Beyond,

it longs for Death, with yearning it grows faint,

I’m like some wall-eyed medieval saint,

who is demented, and in love with God…


From Poppy, 1916


„Ode to my wife, so distant, so ill”


My own wife, oh, you dear, you dear,

how very rarely did I for you sing!

I did not trust in paper and in ink,

fearing, the petals of the words would wilt.

Nor did I take you, with hair piled up high,

to shining dance-floors, our arms entwined,

you, who had come to me, to earth, so mild,

over a sea of tears, of gritted teeth.

We roamed the poor districts, midst cast-off dogs,

while the Fall bled with resigned, plain smiles,

We wept in the fog, wounds scarlet andd raw.

What did „they” know, the „cultured,” stuck-up crowd,

about the real you? That snob who now

parades on the ballroom floor

with a jewel-eared, dumb houri on his arm…


I don’t believe in „Woman.” The hand

which gives and takes. Nor the mouth

now laughing, now sighing-sad,

in arms which call, enticingly lure—

But I’ve believed in your eyes, so good, so good.

I’ve believed and stopped.  I’m waiting here.


To me, you are the Good.  Goodness itself.

When you are with me, I’m alive again..

But when you are away, you’re grief itself,

At such times, you are sadness, you are pain.


Look now!  This empty room is stirring!

The poet’s jacket looks so slovenly,

It spreads its crippled arms so longingly,

for it also yearns for you, poor thing…


For life has made me into a hero prized.

It has given meg gold and mirrh and fever,

it had made me a gloater and a griever,

but you alone made me a knight of Christ

who gladly gives away his cloak to one

he loves.  For you I tore away my mask.

You have brought me pain in a well-wrought flask

and poverty, its treasures, and its balm.


Mankind measures now fevers of the world,

but I watch a column of mercury.

Thirty-seven-two?  Thirty-seven-three?

and on the bare streets, all my footsteps hurt.

Trembling, I look into the distance, woe,

where Tatra’s splendor arches in the snow,

and patients lie, and silently they seize

their cold thermometers, in winter’s peace.



„Sonnet about the old king” (fragment)


I was happy then…

and aching with mysterious, sweet life…

I wrote, I sang…

For I was a poet, and I was twenty-five…


From Bread and Wine (1920)(Fragment)


„Happy, sad song”


Bread have I, and wine have I also,

child have I, and I have a wife,

is there cause to complain, then, my soul?

there’s enough food to provide a good life…



That which I sing, the sadness, sorrow,

brings tears to many cheeks, not one,

and Hungary, the ancient mother,

calls me her youthful, singing son.


I can take baths, to cool and to rest,

Sweet, soothing tea—my nerves in danger--

When I am  roaming in sad Budapest,

I’m not considered a complete stranger



And yet…I feel something is lost…

The priceless pearl  my soul had longed to buy—

I’m home already in this  world of ours,

But I have lost my precious home on high….




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