István Kemény - GRAND MONOLOGUE

The French will come to rule us once again
And splendid knightly orders be persuaded
To follow in the train of yet another
Lousy king towards the Holy Land,
Though he, en route, will stop to fight a battle
One would have thought impossible to lose
In whitch they, and their enemies, all die –
And what shall issue forth from this on earth
To greet the daylight? Well, there was a storm
Last night, with rain, and then on Tuesday what
The forecast said would happen, happened, and
The French returned to rule us once again.

When we say ’French’, we really mean the past,
The Gothic, Ancien Régime, the Terror,
Each of which, unparagoned in its style,
Epitomised uniquely a modality
Humans lived and died in. Nevertheless
By Gothic, Ancien Régime and Terror,
We also mean the Church, the Courtly Gardens
And the atrocious gas chambers – although
One day these things will also be forgotten,
And that will simply be that, and then suddenly,
The churches, courtly gardens and gas-chambers
Will turn alike into a sort of warm
Sunday afternoon in a quiet house
Sequestered far away up the Po Valley
With a monkish-looking jalopy in the courtyard
And the year 1938 will be no more
Than the year Mother was born, and the ladle
Used for serving at lunch fell in the bowl
And vanished in the bouillon several minutes
Meanwhile a longish afternoon’s expected
Though with no more omens, things having gone
Quiet for a change on that front nor shall we
Start trembling if, the whole night long, the foliage
Of our health keeps rustling in the west wind
For we have been changed back into a forest
And all that’s left inside the house is the droning
Of a vacant screen instead of the sea and
Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
A big dark yawning alley gapes and nothingness.

Translated from Hungarian by George Gömöri, Richard Burns and David Hill