“Poetry reaffirms our common humanity by revealing to us that individuals, everywhere in the world, share the same questions and feelings. Poetry is the mainstay of oral tradition and, over centuries, can communicate the innermost values of diverse cultures.” United Nations.
This statement is as relevant now as it’s ever been. Reminding people of our shared humanity is an urgent task, an essential response to the political debates taking place in Europe (and the world). We’ll be taking a look at how the arts are responding in a series of upcoming articles, but for now, let’s mark the day with a reminder of the cyclical nature of things. An extract from one of the great Hungarian works of the 19th Century, Imre Madách’s The Tragedy of Man.
Life’s an ocean, roaring, tidal,
Every breaker bears a world,
One flung upward, one dragged downward,
Who cares which was they are hurled? –
You fear now for the individual
Engulfed by masses, then you feel
for millions of vanquished subjects
Ground under the tyrant’s heel.
You fear for Poetry the one day,
The state of Science ruins the next,
Lock the waves up in your system,
Bind the breakers in a text,
Struggle as you will, grow weary,
Water’s all you stand to gain,
The roaring splendour of the ocean,
Laughs and thunders in disdain.
Let it thunder, life will govern
all the strands of her domain.
Nothing’s lost, however many
Battles she may fight. The years
Pass and leave her ever youthful:
Her siren voice attends your ears.