vincent-van-gogh-self-portrait-with-a-straw-hat-c-1888
VAN GOGH’S PRAYER
by János Pilinszky
TRANSLATED BY CLIVE WILMER AND GEORGE GÖMÖRI

A battle lost in the cornfields
and in the sky a victory.
Birds, the sun and birds again.
By night, what will be left of me?

By night, only a row of lamps,
a wall of yellow clay that shines,
and down the garden, through the trees,
like candles in a row, the panes;

there I dwelt once and dwell no longer—
I can’t live where I once lived, though
the roof there used to cover me.
Lord, you covered me long ago.

SOURCE: Poetry (March 2008)

IMAGE: “Self-Portrait in a Straw Hat” by Vincent van Gogh (1887).

pilinszky

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: János Pilinszky (1921-1981) served with the Hungarian army in WWII. Harmadnapon (On the Third Day, 1959) established him as a courageous witness to the horrors of mid-twentieth century Europe. Two selections of his work have appeared in English: Selected Poems, translated by Ted Hughes and János Csokits (Carcanet, 1976)—later expanded into The Desert of Love (Anvil, 1989)— and Crater, translated by Peter Jay (Anvil, 1978).