The Belling

The Belling
Southword Editions, 2005.
Poems by László Lator. Translated from Hungarian by Divers Hands.

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László Lator's poetry displays a Rilkean density and intensity. His concerns are a combination of the alchemical and the existential. An obsession with middle Europe's tragic history and the fate of the individual framed within is related often with a Judeo-Christian symbology and a unique mercurial phrasing.



Selected Poems from The Belling




Like a snake on the landscape’s body

the road curls between the trees.

A sandy murmur of voices

brushes the foliage as slowly

everything is eroded by the breeze

and rust falls on the petrified leaves.


Here is the shelter, the home

of rampant sin – another Sodom.

Anyone who reads the stars flees

or sacrifices a fledgling dove.

Wanderer, shake the dust from your shoes,

skedaddle far from this dive,

get out of here, shift your bottom,

pluck yourself out of Sodom.


The clouds could be dragons from hell

as evening slouches towards darkness.

Convulsed by an Idol’s spell

the captive flock is helpless.

The Idol, like Janus, has a double –

one has the grin of the feebleminded,

his other face glares menace and trouble:

a Cyclops that should be blinded.


He’s filled with green demonic brightness

from his horrible head to his toes:

from him an electricity oozes,

he is shining metal, his bronze arse glows.

We should see, O we’d all notice

if only for a moment his spell would cease

and its enthralling radiance

retreated to embers in his yellow eyes.


Like a snake on the landscape’s body

the road curls between the trees.

A sandy murmur of voices

brushes the foliage as slowly

everything is eroded by the breeze

and rust falls on the petrified leaves.


The bristly grass rattles,

snake headed roots hiss:

we have missed the moment for freeing ourselves –

fire comes, fire comes to consume us.

We know what will be will be as

a golden glow creeps beneath the grass.

The skeletal bark shines,

the frail walls incandesce.


An inner burn crackles

in the molten metal atmosphere.

As in Dante’s Circles

sulphur chokes the air.

Already fire is hatching,

its winged dance is unwinding

to scorch foliage, trees, with its desire.


Now the poisonous flames are squatting,

crouching over the green embers

until with a rustling swaying

they again fan, higher and ever higher.

The fire is a sea, it swirls and swells –

we have missed the moment for freeing ourselves.


The land will glow for seven days,

burn in tormented fever.

On the eighth– you will walk in ashes

and sackcloth through a humming shower

into a fog that has no memories,

you shall grope until a lunar

vista is re-created by your blinded eyes.




Dawn Sketch


Out of the air strong music rises,

springs higher, bends down, curtseys;

birds whose great throats are golden

swim beneath the ripening sun.


From rifts in swaying distances

serene light tremulously dances;

the poplars get a move on, start walking,

between their arms heavens are stretching.


Treading the landscape the sky

radiates shamelessly, then goes shy;

above the road in spacious droves

go the heavy-uddered cows.


Seven showering rays grow, become

seven plump bright-winged columns;

days are days, always the sun

dies and night comes stealing in.





Who or what sent you up here

to this forbidding plateau?

Higher and higher springs the heather

until consumed by scorching fire.


You eyes begin to take in

the roving curves of the land

as it embraces you in a spin

twirling you around and around.


Ravishing overabundance

torments yet is a dream of forever

as currents carry you in a dance

through ever more spacious pastures.


Unadulterated solitude

can open halls, lofts, stables

when brilliance pierces Time’s forehead

with a light that’s unendurable.


Now and then everything disappears

from the plateau…that is trouble

followed by doubt and numbing fear

in this place – so close, so ineffable.

Copyright ©2005 László Lator

English translation Copyright ©2005 Divers Hands




Laszlo Lator


László Lator was born in 1927 in Tiszasásvár, South-eastern Hungary. Poet, teacher, editor, translator. Educated at the University of Budapest, Lator graduated in 1951 with a degree in Hungarian and German Language and Literature and subsequently worked for five years as a grammar school teacher. Highly lauded as a poet, Lator has received many awards for his work, including the Attila József Prize in 1972 and the Kossuth Prize in 1995. As an editor, he worked first as a contributing editor and later took over the role of Editor-in–Chief of Európa Kiadó (Europe Publishing House). In 1992, Lator became one of the founding members of the Széchenyi Academy of Arts and Literature. An outstanding and prolific translator from numerous languages Lator is also one of Hungary’s most eminent literary critics. Politically active and socially conscious, Lator’s literary and non-literary contributions to Hungarian society have been essential.



Gregory O'DonoghueLiz O'DonoghueEugene O'ConnellPat Cotter


Divers Hands are Gregory O'Donoghue, Liz O'Donoghue, Eugene O'Connell and Pat Cotter.

























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