Birth of the Foal
By Ferenc Juhász
translated from the Hungarian by David Wevill
As May was opening the rosebuds,
elder and lilac beginning to bloom,
it was time for the mare to foal.
She’d rest herself, or hobble lazily
after the boy who sang as he led her
to pasture, wading through the meadowflowers.
They wandered back at dusk, bone-tired,
the moon perched on a blue shoulder of sky.
Then the mare lay down,
sweating and trembling, on her straw in the stable.
The drowsy, heavy-bellied cows
surrounded her, waiting, watching, snuffing.
Later, when even the hay slept
and the shaft of the Plough pointed south,
the foal was born. Hours the mare
spent licking the foal with its glue-blind eyes.
And the foal slept at her side,
a heap of feathers ripped from a bed.
Straw never spread as soft as this.
Milk or snow never slept like a foal.
Dawn bounced up in a bright red hat,
waved at the world and skipped away.
Up staggered the foal,
its hooves were jelly-knots of foam.
Then day sniffed its blue nose
through the open stable window, and found them –
the foal nuzzling its mother,
velvet fumbling for her milk.
Then all the trees were talking at once,
chickens scrabbled in the yard,
like golden flowers
envy withered the last stars.
This poem, written by Ferenc Juhász, one of the greatest Hungarian poets, narrates tenderly , yet powerfully, the story of the birth of a foal. Juhasz contextualizes it in such a way that the birth of the foal achieves a sort of cosmic dimension. The very heavens bless the moment of the foal's birth and dawn celebrates it by gamboling about and waving. The strength of this context is in such details, within a metaphorical framework, which bestow a human kind of consciousness onto the inanimate.
The poetic language is challengingly rich and sensuous, yet at the same time accessible and witty. Ferenc Juhász transforms a common event-the birth of an animal-into a glorious affirmation of life and thus imparting universal appeal.
Source : Sandor Weores and Ferenc Juhasz - Selected Poems (Penguin Modern European Poets series)