Mihály Babits

Vinegar Song

Would you have thought, in your freedom and power,
tumbling over hedges, dazzled by the sun,
that the sting would hurt, that at night you would fear
and how good it might turn out to love someone?

You never thought you'd love, you were so brave, right? -
just girls' tender breasts and eyes, refreshing, cool,
tresses bathed in fresh light, deep, open dawn tent,
and music sieved from bodies into your soul?

Heedless, but now you crave any small relapse,
recalling just a sip from oblivion,
to drink the old, tender must with sticky lips -
but vinegar would come and draw your mouth down.

Weak, flameless must, how you'd boil, leave your ruin,
from lavender, dream mother-of-vinegar,
ferment borate again, boil, pour libation,
but what a sodden taste is twice-boiled desire!

Now lurch in the graveyard, soured with vinegar,
old drunkard, water-chattering, done and gone,
and with tasteless silence, drink some cool water
mixed with borate again, unfortified wine.

Even this mild moisture comes to a scalding boil.
It can't stay mild in the vat of emotion -
thus the easy becomes corrosive, and you'll
gulp down hissing drops, poor thing ... I'll gulp them down ...

Now my weak verse, go, my little orphaned whine,
yet verse of my blood, poetry dear to me,
profess to the world what rings yet through my vein,
this strange old beat, which in my stead, dares to cry.

tr. Andrew Singer