Endre Ady

Endre Ady (1877 - 1919)

Born in Érmindszent, a village in eastern Hungary (today in Romania), Ady was the most significant poet of his generation and one of the greatest lyric geniuses of Hungary. He came from an impoverished gentry family. In 1901 he went to Nagyvárad (today Oradea in Romania) where he joined the editorial staff of Nagyváradi Napló (Diaries of Nagyvárad), an influential organ of the left wing opposition. He attacked the social and political backwardness of the country A few years later all these issues showed up in his verses, transformed into exquisite poetry. In 1904 he went to Paris for the first time, an experience that left a deep mark on him. In his poetry, Ady broke away from the Vörösmarty-Petôfi-Arany line of pure, romantic love, adding to it a dimension that he drew from the French poetry of Verlaine and Baudelaire without imitating them. Whatever he wrote, starting with his New poems (Új versek) through Blood and Gold (Vér és arany), On Elijah's Chariot (Illés szekerén) and Longing for Love (Szeretném, ha szeretnének) to Who sees me? (Ki lát engem?), Leading the Dead (A halottak élén) and The Last Boats (Utolsó hajók) Ady was always the centre of fierce controversy. For a lot of readers Ady's poems seemed nonsensical. But above all, he was attacked for his espousal of left wing causes, for his explicit eroticism, and for his unorthodox approach to God.

Most literary critics count Ady as the herald of the 'the modern age' in Hungarian poetry.


An angry angel hurled from the heavenly height
Drumroll alarms onto the sombre earth,
Hundreds of stars burnt out their light,
Hundreds of young brains were overturned,
Hundreds of veils were torn, defiled:
It was a curious,
Curious summer night.

Our old beehives burst into flame,
Our loveliest filly broke her leg,
I dreamt that the dead came back to light.
Our faithful dog, Burkus, disappeared,
Our good servant Meg, mute all these years,
Shrilled sudden chants of a savage rite:
It was a curious,
Curious summer night.

The worthless were swaggering bravely,
Fancy robbers went out to rob,
And true-hearted men had to hide:
It was a curious,
Curious summer night.

We gathered that man was imperfect,
Tight-fisted when sharing his love,
But still, it just couldn't be right,
The live and the dead on the turning wheel:
Has man ever been a punier mite,
And the Moon in a more mocking mood
Than on that terrible night?
It was a curious,
Curious summer night.

And horror leaned over the spirits
with malevolent, gloating delight:
The secrets of every forefather
Dwelt deep in the souls of the sons.
And Thought, the proud servant of Man,
Inebriated, went out to lead
His blood-shedding, dreadful Wedding Feast.
That lad was lowly, lame, contrite:
It was a curious,
Curious summer night.

I know I believed that on that night
Some neglected God would soon alight
To take me and deliver me to death,
But I am still alive, though different,
Transfigured by that shattering event,
And as I am waiting for a God,
I remember that terror-haunted,
Devastating, world-burying night:
It was a curious,
Curious summer night.

Translation: July 1996


Holy ecstasy-swans on great glad Waters
Seize me, but in vain.
I hear the gaggling of sensible ganders,
Nothing can remain,
There is nothing to last.
I hear my future faltering sobs
When I'm still smiling,
And when dark ravens are cawing in my soul
A chirpy starling
Will cheerily chime in.
My longings frighten me. Fulfilment follows
And I'll feel defiled.
I dread contentment. Behind it storms the steed
Of passion, the Wild.
Oh, life terrifies me.


I carve my defiant, raging pulse
In basalt rock on the Mount of Skulls,
My Christ, the poet I adored,
I sold you, Lord.

I dreamt every dream that pierced your heart,
I lived as your soul, your counterpart,
I crowned you, I of all the men,
I loved you, then.

Now I have sold you, almighty king,
For Life is my love, my everything,
For I have mighty visions too,
As poets do.

Your sacred lips do not fan my fire,
Not for me your hallowed empire,
A girl wants money, silks to wear,
She wants me there.

Am I so mean? Life is demeaning,
Has the Word lost its wondrous meaning?
Why am I lured and mortified
By paid delight?

I toss my carved rock to the abyss,
The earth will tremble for centuries
And future doomed, dejected eyes
Will empathi


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