Purple Swallow

verse translation of a poem by Ágnes Nemes Nagy

artwork: Jacqueline Molnar

Swallow sat, a purple spot,
perched atop a crimson wire,
purple, such the bird’s attire.

All alone up there, afloat,
in her violet overcoat,
purple arcs her lines, her plumes,
purple arc her shadow looms,
on needle-thin purple legs,
‘top the crimson branch she stands,
purple are her eyes, her wink,
purple as is
purple ink.

As dusk fell, that April evening,
our swallow sat there, unflinching.
April, springtime in the air,
finally I left her there.
Purple beak,
purple feather,
she just might perch there, forever.

Hungarian poet-translator-educator Ágnes Nemes Nagy (1922–1991) is known for playful children’s rhymes that often feature nature, as well as for deeply romantic, adult-themed compositions. See below my earlier translation of hers, and the original text.

Lila fecske

Piros dróton ült a fecske,
piros dróton lila folt,
mert a fecske lila volt.

Ült a dróton egymagában,
ibolyaszín kiskabátban,
lila volt a háta, szárnya,
földre hullott lila árnya,
gyufa-vékony, lila lábon
álldogált a piros ágon,
lila volt a szeme csítja
lila, mint a
lila tinta.

Április volt, jött az este,
meg sem mozdult az a fecske.
Április volt, április,
én hagytam ott végül is.
Lila csőr,
lila toll,
most is ott ül valahol.

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Joe Váradi

Joe Váradi

Editor of No Crime in Rhymin' and Language Lab | ..."come for the sarcasm, stay for my soft side"