Sandor Petofi - The End of September
The end of September - a Love Poem
The End of September - A Love Poem
More than thirty years ago, my friend Tom Peterdy introduced me to the poetry of Sandor Petofi, the great Hungarian poet. Tom knew that I was studying Hungarian and he suggested that I try to translate several of Petofi’s poems. One of them was Szeptember Vegen, which translates to "The End of September’.
My friend Tom had fled to Vienna from Budapest with his young wife when the Russians had invaded in 1956. Unfortunately, his wife could not bear to be away from her family and friends and so she soon returned home. Heart broken, Tom continued on to America where I met him around 1990.
Tom loved Sandor Petofi’s poetry, particularly his love poems, and Szeptember Vegen held a special meaning for him. Sandor Petofi wrote this poem in 1847 when he was only 24 years old. Somehow he had a premonition that he would die young. One year later, on July 31,1848 he died in Szegesvar, Hungary, in the battle for independence from Austria. Sandor Petofi had married Julia Szendrey in 1846 and it is presumed that he wrote the poem for her.
Needless to say, I fell in love with Szeptember Vegen too. In fact, it was this poem that inspired me to also try to write poetry. Before you read it, let me remind you that it is never easy to try to translate poetry from one language to another. This is particularly true when translating Hungarian, a Finno-Ugric language, into English, an Indo-European language.
The grammar for these two languages is completely different. Generally speaking, Hungarian is more compact than English using verb endings in place of pronouns and noun endings in place of prepositions. I chose not to try to make the translation rhyme, but rather I concentrated on trying to convey what the poet was trying to say. I also slightly modified word order and phrasing to make the verses flow better in English.
At the end of this article I have included three links:
- to another translation which insists on rhyming.
- to an excellent source for understanding Hungarian grammar, but it is not for beginners.
- to an on-line Hungarian to English dictionary.
Without any further delay, here is my translation:
The End of September
The flowers still bloom in the valley gardens.
The tree is still green outside our window.
But in the distance can you see winter’s world?
Soon the snow will cover over the rooftops.
Yet in my young heart a ray of summer still burns,
And deep within me lives the unending spring.
But behold, my dark hair is already streaked with gray.
The winter frost already strikes my head.
Soon the flowers will die, life hurries on.
Come my wife, sit here on my lap.
You who now place your head against my heart,
Will you one day gaze tearfully at my corpse?
If I should die before you,
Will you kneel down at my grave?
Or will you one day bring a young lover with you,
For whom you have forsaken my name?
If you cast aside your widow’s veil,
On my grave post hang a dark flag.
I will rise up for you from my earthly grave
In the depths of winter’s night and take it down.
To wipe from my eyes the tears shed for you,
Who so easily forgot her devotee,
And to bind up the wounds in the heart of one,
Who still loves you for all eternity.
Sandor Petofi – September, 1847
1. An Alternate Translation
2. Guide to Hungarian Grammar
3. Hungarian to English Dictionary
To read another love poem by Sandor Petofi, translated from Hungarian into English, go to:
Map of Hungary
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gepeTooRs on April 13, 2016:
Should you do not thoughts my asking, do you make very good funds from this blog?
Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on October 25, 2015:
This was a beautiful and poignant poem. There are no better words to describe it, since it was moving about love and being away from someone you love, even it was two continents.
Rozina Iftikhar from Islamabad on October 08, 2015:
a sweetly sad -poetic story, very beautifully translated..I just loved it...thanks for the treat!
LoorgeMoldell on March 07, 2013:
My partner and i utilized to acquire high on lifetime yet these days I have piled up the opposition.
Eiddwen from Wales on September 06, 2012:
What a wonderful hub ;all so interesting and awesome. I now look forward to so many more by you.
Enjoy your day.
rjsadowski (author) on August 31, 2012:
Thank you so much for your comment.
I will certainly look into translating more of his poems just for the pure pleasure of it. I do not speak Hungarian and translate it only with some difficulty but I love the language and the culture.
sylvain on August 31, 2012:
Thanks for this great translation of the greatest Hungarian poet. You mentioned that you love Petőfi's love poems. I also love from him, and will be so great to translate them: Szeretlek, kedvesem (I love you, my dear - one of his last poems), Beszél a fákkal a bús őszi szél (The sad autumne wind speaks with the trees - in which he speaks about the two most important things in his life, love and hope for the freedom of people), Itt benn vagyok a férfikor myarában... (I am here now in the summer of manhood), Minek nevezzelek... (how can I call you...), A szerelem országa (The land of love - a long, but so beautiful poem), Költői ábránd volt, mit eddig érzék (What I feeled until now was a poetic dream). I also recommend his poems about nature, that show his love to the nature, which he loved as the only God: A bokor a viharhoz (The bush to the storm - a very beautiful and meaningful epigramme), A Tisza (The Tisza river), Kis-Kúnság (The Kis-Kúnság region - where he was born), A puszta télen (The Puszta in winter). Well, I love all his poems and all the genres he wrote, because he was good in every types of poetry and theme: lieds, folk-song type poetry, political, revolutionary, war poetry, or epic poetry of huge proportions. And I like also his odd, horror type poems of his crisis period of 1845-1846, which show very well his hatred about the viciousness of people, the society and tyranny, like the poems Az őrült (The mad man), Az utolsó ember (The last man), Hogy van, hogy azt a sok gazembert (How can be that those villains), Álmos vagyok és mégsem alhatom (I am sleepy, but cannot sleep), Álmaim (My dreams), Téli éj (Winter night), A világ és én (The world and I). But most interesant are his visionary poems, that tell us about how he will dye, or about the revolution: Egy gondolat bánt engemet... (A taught do not let me alone), or the outbreak of the 1848 revolution: Mit csinálsz, mit varrogatsz ott... (What are you doing, vhat do you sew...) etc.
Marites Mabugat-Simbajon from Toronto, Ontario on March 15, 2012:
Awesome translation you did and a very touching poetry indeed. It feels like I can see Sandor and Julia before my eyes.
rjsadowski (author) on March 03, 2012:
This is the poem that inspired me to write poetry. Buried among all of my recipe hubs there are Love Poems and Sad Stories.
Maree Michael Martin from Northwest Washington on an Island on March 02, 2012:
A most beautiful love poem. Thank you for taking the time to translate it for us to read and share its beauty.
caribe on January 09, 2012:
Hi! I'm from Hungary and I love the original..Telling the true this is not bad. It's funny to read how may sound the poem in english.I must congratulate.
Carolina from Switzerland on January 07, 2012:
This a great love poem and i love this. An expression of true love and devotion. Thanks for sharing.
rjsadowski (author) on December 18, 2011:
TGhanks for your comment. Sandor Petofi is not well known in America because of the difficulty in translating poetry from Hungarian to English. Besides his love poems, he wrote many patriotic poems.
GoldenBird on December 18, 2011:
I was almost unable to say that it is a translation. Beautiful work!
I did not know about Sandor Petofi- just read about him. I now believe he was a prolific artist. So sad he died so young. Still, this poem will not let humanity forget him.
Wonderful work rjsadowski!
Sam Walker on November 30, 2011:
I can see why Tom loved Sandor Petofi's work, I think I would too, there were some real great lines in here that I loved, and an all too rare unabashed honesty and introspective. Thanks for translating, and a nice narrative too.
Tia Maria on November 23, 2011:
An interesting poem on the seasons of life and love, thank you for translating and sharing this.
rjsadowski (author) on October 23, 2011:
You are welcome. It is interesting how different lines in a poem effect people differently. I like the next line a lot.
" The winter frost alresdy strikes my head."
nenytridiana from Probolinggo - Jawa Timur - Indonesia on October 22, 2011:
my dark hair is already streaked with gray is the words thar remind me of my age. It was touching rjsdowski. Thank you.
rjsadowski (author) on October 18, 2011:
And rhyming is almost impossible when translating from one language to another.
Lilliana Delanor from Michigan, USA on October 18, 2011:
Rhyming is both overated and unnecessary.
Twilight Lawns from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K. on September 06, 2011:
A lovely poem, which in its simplicity captures so much, and evokes more.
So glad you didn't try to rhyme it but kept true to the source,
rjsadowski (author) on August 28, 2011:
Glad to share. Not many Americans are familiar with Hungarian poetry because there are precious few translations. In his ahort lifetime, Sandor Petofi wrote numerous poems on many different subjects. However, I prefer his love poems.
rmjudkins on August 28, 2011:
rjsadowski, thanks for sharing your translation of this poem. This work is resplendent with the imagary of nature's seasons evoking the solitary cycle of life. Petofi appears to, at some level, experience all of the seasons simultaneously. He laments the rapidly approaching winter of a fleeting life. I find this an interesting read. Regards, Robert