As I mentioned the other day, I recently came across a notebook containing some poems I wrote a few years ago. I have already posted the poems written at Llandudno Junction railway station in June 2007 (or at least those that were fit for sharing), so now it is the turn of the other occasion represented in the notebook – my visit to Hungary in July 2008. More specifically, these poems were written on the train as I was leaving the country.
I was visiting Hungary with my old friend Andy (one of the few friends from my pre-university days with whom I am still in touch) and his wife, Samm, whose family lived there. At the time, Andy and Samm had just bought a farm near Szeged (and next door to Samm’s mum’s farm) and were preparing to move out there. They decided to put on a British-style barn dance for members of the church they were moving to and invited me, as a fairly experienced barn dance musician, to go out and join them for it. We turned it into a week-long holiday and then they stayed on to do some work on the farm while I travelled home alone (we had jouneyed out together).
The first leg of my solo journey was on the train from Szeged (right down in the south of the country) to Budapest (the capital, up in the north), where I was to catch a plane back to the UK. It had been a wonderful week and, naturally I was quite sad to be leaving my friends behind (not to mention slightly daunted as this was actually my first significant time travelling alone in a foreign country). The weather, which had been beautifully sunny and warm for most of the week, was turning to rain and it was a grey, miserable day that complemented my mood fairly well.
The first couple of my poems (judging by their order in the notebook) were haiku, which seem to have been inspired by the scenery (in particular the sunflower fields which are one of my favourite features of the Hungarian landscape) and the weather. The first one is:
Flatlands stretch away
golden yellow green and black
sunflowers in the rain
I think I deliberately left out punctuation (especially within the middle line) to be ambiguous. And here’s a picture of one of the sunflower fields (taken on a brighter day; click on it to see it bigger):
The second haiku was probably written while the train was sitting in a station somewhere en route:
Soft breeze in station flowers,
Featureless grey sky.
After these haiku I next turned my attention to the limerick, another poetic form that I like to dabble with, although rather less often:
There was a young man on a train
Which crossed the Hungarian plain.
He sat wond’ring why,
In deepest July,
The weather was turning to rain.
I rounded off my days endeavours at very short poetry with a quick stab at a clerihew, which represents my second and (to date) final non-abandoned attempt with this genre. I have ignored the traditional constraint that the subject should be a famous person (and that it should poke fun at them). Instead, this one is about Samm’s younger sister, whom I met for the first time on this trip (actually, I may have met her at Andy & Samm’s wedding, as we were both there, but I don’t recall any contact with her then):
Is as sweet as can be.
She welcomed me in
With a big hug and a grin.
After having warmed up with these shorter poems, I tried writing something a bit longer. I have mixed feelings about this one, as I quite like the meter (which is vaguely inspired by the rhythm of the train) and the general sentiment expressed (the sorrow of parting, combined with the observation that it’s better to part from friends than never to have met them) but I’m not incredibly happy with most of the actual lines. Perhaps one day I’ll rework it. In the meantime, here is the poem as it currently stands (with a couple of minor edits from the first draft):
I’m sat on a train
Watching the rain
As we traverse the Hungarian Plain.
It seems that the sky
Is starting to cry
As the time has now come when we must say goodbye.
It’s terribly sad
And driving me mad
To come to the end of the good times we’ve had.
It’s always the same
And no-one’s to blame;
Though now I must go I’m still glad that I came.
It’s sad but it’s true
And there’s nothing to do;
Our ways now must part so farewell, dear, to you.
That’s how it must be
And I hope you can see
That I’m missing you, as I hope you’ll miss me.
By the way, in case you were wondering about the title of today’s post, one of the curious features of the Hungarian language is that they use the word “hello” (actually, I think it should probably be spelled “hállo”, although it’s probably more a feature of the spoken language anyway) as both a salutation and a valediction (i.e. a greeting for both ends of a meeting), rather like the Italian word ciao (itself evidently quite popular in Hungary, as well as a number of other countries). As it happens, I wrote about this in my old blog.