Sándor Weöres

Sándor Weöres (1913-1989)

The son of a gentry family from Western Hungary, Weöres was the intellectual and artistic heir to everything that Babits, Kosztolányi [qq.v.] and Milán Füst knew and stood for. He burst on the Hungarian literary scene fully formed and possessing a talent which enabled him to write in all possible forms of Hungarian poetry including sonnets, Alcaics, Sapphics, blank verse, and free verse. Function disappears and is replaced by a community-minded spiritualism. Weöres handled Hungarian folk rhythms with as much ease and elegance as any Latin or Greek metre or other Western European verse form. He won the Baumgarten Prize in 1936. He studied law, then Hungarian language and literature at the University of Pécs; his doctoral dissertation (1939) bears the title The Birth of the Poem [A vers születése] which is significant both as a theoretical treatise and as the meditation of a truly great poet. His first volume It Is Cold [Hideg van] appeared in 1934 and was followed by other highly successful ones such as The Praise of Creation [A teremtés dicsérete], 1938; The Portico of Teeth [A fogak tornáca], 1947; and The Tower of Silence [A hallgatás tornya], 1956.
Weöres was unable and unwilling to go along with the dictates of 'socialist realism' as he was drawn to a spiritualist world-view encompassing ancient China and Japan, along with the Epic of Gilgamesh from ancient Mesopotamia. He survived during the Rákosi era mostly as a translator and a writer of children's verses which were, however, eagerly read by grown-ups as well.
He travelled to the Far East, including Malaya. He had an uncanny ability to wear any mask he chose to. He published a collection entitled Psyche, in which he reproduces the poetry of an imaginary poetess from the arly nineteenth century, called Erzsébet Lónyai. 'The best feminine poetry in Hungary was written by a man' -one woman poet wryly remarked. He was a poet of extraordinary inventiveness, earthy eroticism, and insatiable curiosity. His search for meaning constantly led him into the area of metaphysics. In Weöres's poetry the 'urbanist-populist' distinction disappears and is replaced by a community-minded spiritualism.


Wooden table, wooden chair,
just a stool is missing there.

Wine is spilt? They wouldn't care -
wouldn't table, wouldn't chair.

They would float on ordinaire,
happy table, happy chair,

like a floating chord in air.
But the stool still isn't there.


In walnut leaf soft murmurings:
sough of six legs, four pearly wings,
two ball-tipped feelers probe the veins
for pathways on the leafy plains.


  © All rights belong to the authors or their heirs. 2004.