Peter Zollman, the translator of these poems, lives in England. A Ph.D. in electron physics, he had had a highly successful professional career. In the last eight years, however, he has been a full-time translator of poetry and verse-drama.

Ottó Orbán


Nowadays, all worn and weary, I just dawdle, bleak and bleary,
browsing through anthologies of not forgotten English lore.
In its well-thumbed hardback haven, look, I find that darkly graven
mesmerising verse, the Raven, croaking me a crazy caw,
underworldly hurdy-gurdy, words and music to adore,
but the music tells me more.

Oh that music, ancient hidden grizzly ghost, it haunts unbidden,
old poets and old poems I read at fourteen, or before,
wild in scansion I would wallow, trusting: re-born art would follow
if shafts stolen from Apollo, and a fresh-made bow to draw,
could re-launch that stubborn tune, from age to age, always to soar,
salvaging the precious score.

Even if the poem rambles, sometimes gallops, sometimes ambles,
even then, it is the very son of god we would restore,
we would save the infant lord, a donkey-ride across the border,
visions of a future order, later, nearing fiftyfour,
while the world was still a shambles] to a future sunny shore,
better than the heretofore.

Listen, can this world be real? Where's the epoch's grand ideal?
Where's the planned proud Paradise, and where's the credo that we swore?
Edgar Allan, vagrant actor, what's the good of your character
weakened by the poem's spectre, music-manic troubadour?
Don't expect to beautify this fatal tragicomic flaw
by music or metaphor.

Soon the century is ending, and the raven, hush! descending
like a black cloud, slowly, slowly settles in our inner core.
Death, my own, is nightmare-visioned: I'm alive he dreams, but isn't
free to move, he lies imprisoned by himself, he locked the door —
nailed to earth by shafts of starlight, scans the night, the other shore,
motionless forevermore.

Translation: May 1995
Translated by Peter Zollman




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