Saturday, May 05, 2012

`How Poets Die in This Age'

Let us remember the birth of a poet more often remembered for his desolate death at age thirty-four. Miklós Radnóti was born on this date in 1909 in Budapest.  When I spoke of Radnóti with an Israeli-born computer scientist whose parents came from Hungary and Rumania, he said: “You remember him? You must remember him!” Radnóti’s posthumous existence as man and poet is a miracle, and I’ve recounted some of the story here.

What might Radnóti have become in a world less murderous? He was city-born but his gift, like Keats’, was pastoral and eerily prescient. In “Third Eclogue,” translated by George Gömöri and the English poet Clive Wilmer in Forced March: Selected Poems (2003), he writes:

“Pastoral Muse, oh assist me! How poets die in this age . . .
The sky falls in on us, no tumuli mark our ashes,
No Greek urns, graceful in form, preserve them. Only poems –
A couple if any – survive us . . . Can I still write of love?
I see how her body shines. Oh help me, pastoral Muse!”

One thinks of the self-penned epitaph on Keats’ stone in Rome, “Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water,” and of the sonnet which concludes:

“..on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to Nothingness do sink.”

In “Foaming Sky,” Radnóti writes:  “I know we ought to forget, but I / Never forget a single memory.”

No comments: