War Diary Poem by Miklos Radnoti

War Diary

Rating: 4.0

1. Monday Evening

You see, now fear often fingers your heart,
and at times the world seems only distant news;
the old trees guard your childhood for you
as an ever more ancient memory.

Between suspicious mornings and foreboding nights
you have lived half your life among wars,
and now once more, order is glinting toward you
on the raised points of bayonets.

In dreams sometimes the landscape still rises before you,
the home of your poetry, where the scent of freedom
wafts over the meadows, and in the morning when you wake,
you carry the scent with you.

Rarely, when you are working, you half-sit, frightened
at your desk. And it's as if you were living in soft mud;
your hand, adorned with a pen, moves heavily
and ever more gravely.

The world is turning into another war—a hungry cloud
gobbles the sky's mild blue, and as it darkens,
your young wife puts her arms around you,
and weeps.

2. Tuesday Evening

Now I sleep peacefully
and slowly go about my work—
gas, airplanes, bombs are poised against me,
I can neither be afraid, nor cry;
so I live hard, like the road builders
among the cold mountains,

who, if their flimsy house
crumbles over them with age,
put up a new one, and meanwhile
sleep deeply on fragrant wood shavings,
and in the morning, splash their faces
in the cold and shining streams.


I live high up, and peer around:
it is getting darker.
As when from a ship's prow
at the flash of lightning
the watchman cries out, thinking he sees land,
so I believe in the land also—and still I cry out life!
with a whitened voice.

And the sound of my voice brightens
and is carried far away
with a cool star and a cool evening wind.

3. Weary Afternoon

A dying wasp flies in at the window,
my dreaming wife talks in her sleep,
and the hems of the browning clouds
are blown to fringes by a gentle breeze.

What can I talk about? Winter is coming, and war is coming;
soon I will lie broken, seen by no one;
worm-ridden earth will fill my mouth and eyes
and roots will pierce through my body.


Oh, gently rocking afternoon, give me peace—
I will lie down too, and work later.
The light of your sun is already hanging on the hedges,
and yonder the evening comes across the hills.

They have killed a cloud, its blood is falling on the sky;
below, on the stems of the glowing leaves
sit wine-scented yellow berries.

4. Evening Approaches

Across the slick sky the sun is climbing down,
and the evening is coming early along the road.
Its coming is watched in vain by the sharp-eyed moon—
little puffs of mist are gathering.

The hedgerow is wakening, it catches at a weary wanderer;
the evening is spinning among the tree branches
and humming louder and louder, while these lines build up
and lean on one another.

A frightened squirrel springs into my quiet room,
and here a six-footed iambic couplet scampers by.
From the wall to the window, a brown moment—
and it's gone without a trace.

The fleeting peace disappears with it. Silent
worms crawl over the far fields
and slowly chew to pieces the endless
rows of the reclining dead.

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