Thomas Ország-Land

Translated from the Hungarian
& edited by Thomas Ország-Land

Instead of a Tombstone

Translated from the Hungarian
& edited by Watson Kirkconnell

The author of this poem is an award-winning foreign correspondent who gained his first experience in war reporting on the streets of his native Budapest during the anti-Soviet revolution of October/November, 1956. The poem was first published by the revolutionary newspaper The Hungarian Independent that employed him as a cab reporter. It is still performed from time to time at celebrations marking the doomed revolution, and it has been just published in an anthology – Magyar ünnepepek, Közlönty & Lapkiadó, Budapest, 2013 – intended mostly for school children. The present translation is by the late-great Watson Kirkconnell, doyen of translators of Hungarian literature into English, who was president of Acadia University in Nova Scotia, Canada, when Ország-Land read philosophy there in the years following the revolution.


He shyly closed the lids of darkened eyes,
a small red flower blossomed on his breast.
A smile still lingered on his mouth’s surprise
as if at home he slept and loved his rest...

The little hero in the filth is laid
(around him fall his bread-loaves in the mud)
just as but now he paced the barricade –
in vain let fall his bomb, and shed his blood...

He shyly closed the lids of darkened eyes,
a small red flower blossomed on his breast.
Beside his corpse a steaming gutter lies.
The world sings victory, but signs a jest.

Thomas Ország-Land's next book will be
The Survivors: Holocaust Poetry for Our Time,
to be published by Smokestack Press, England, 2014.

Thomas Ország-Land © 2014

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Caption: Images of the 1956 Hungarian revolution

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