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Németh, Ernő: In Transylvania

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The valley of the Olt I walked  in,

its air was crisp and smelling cleanly,

towards the south the snow-capped mountains

were reflecting the sunshine clearly.

I walked the rocks along the Torda —

in my mind I still walk its bowers,    

I still could find my footprints form up —

now fully covered by wild flowers.

On rocky ledges edelweiss blooms,

the songs resound among the mountains,

I hear again the alpenhorns boom,

and listen to the shepherds folk tales.

The folks of Prince Csaba in the stars

in full gallop span the Milky Way,

campfire flames among them throw sparks:

my soul drinks in the legends this way.

The memories drift clearly, gently,

my youth returns again in secret,

I string the old chords reverently,

the snow-capped mountains ring its quartet.

Ottawa, 1968                                           Frank Veszely translation, 2006

The above poem was written by Ernő Németh (1903 – 1987), “Ottawa’s  household poet” according to George Demmer, collector of Canadian Hungariana, who has just completed collecting all his writings. Németh came to Canada in 1957 after much suffering at home as a result of two world wars and ten years of communist persecution, for his family’s sake rather than his own. He was, and remained an ardent Hungarian patriot, who at 54 years of age found it difficult to adapt in a new culture.

His poetry is full of sad-sweet reminiscences of the past and descriptions of his beloved old country in which he travelled extensively in his youth, exemplified by the poem translated here. We remember him with respect and affection on the twentieth anniversary of his passing away.   The original poem in Hungarian is attached below.

Én is jártam az Olt völgyében,          

levegõje éles volt, tiszta,                   

a havasok ragyogtak délen,                

napsugarat tükröztek vissza.             

Jártam a sziklát a Torda mentén,       

s gondolatban most is ott járok,             

léptem nyomát még meglelhetném,   

eltakarják a vadvirágok.                     

Gyopár nyílik a sziklás parton            

hegyek között csendül az ének,           

havasi kürtök hangját hallom              

s a pásztorok nekem mesélnek.           

Csaba népe a csillagokban                   

a tejúton fölöttünk vágtat,                   

a pásztortûz magasba lobban,              

s lelkem issza a legendákat.                 

Száll az emlék, tisztán, szelíden,          

ifjúságom eljött titokban,                     

a régi húrt még megpendítem,             

s hangja ott zeng a havasokban


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