Mihály Vörösmarty – Fair Ilonka

Mihály Vörömarty / Fair Ilonka


The hunter waits in long and dreamy stand,

His strung arrow ready for fast game,

And climbing ever higher o’er the land

The sun points to noon with bright flame.

In vain he waits; in Vértes woods unseen

The gamer reposes near a cooling stream.


The hunter stays thus in the stand for long,

Hoping dusk will bring some sign of luck.

Tensely he waits, waits until evensong,

And lo! Fortune has finally struck!

Ah, it’s not game, just a light butterfly,

And a tall, beautiful girl flitting by.


“O colorful moth, golden butterfly!

Surprise me, alight upon me now;

Or lead me on as you fitfully hie

Westward where the sun is going down.”

Says she, and as a deer’s gait is light,

So playful too is the girl’s easy flight.


Up leaps the hunter and “Egad!” he cries,

“Here at last is royal game indeed!”

Leaving all else, in her footsteps he flies,

Following wherever they may lead.

He for the girl, she for the butterfly,

They race and for enchanting pleasure vie.


“Caught you!” the girls cries, reaching to capture

The small flitting butterfly with glee.

“Caught you!” the hunter cries with rapture

As he catches the girl handily.

From startled hand butterfly flies away;

The girl is captured by beaming eyes’ ray.


Does gray Peterdi’s house still proudly stand?

The old soldier – is he living still?

The house still stands, though dwindling now its land,

And his goblet the old man did fill.

With him, the radiant girl and their guest:

His eyes seductive magic now suggest.


And so the goblets have already gleamed

For Hunyadi, who in glory fell.

Tears from the old champion’s eyes have streamed

For country and the chief he loved so well.

Now it is tears, his blood at Nándor’s siege

Flowed freely for his country and his liege.


“My dear departed leader’s fair young race,”

Says the graybeard then, “Long live the king!”

Blood rushes to the hunter’s handsome face,

Untouched his goblet, not yet raised to drink.

“Why do you leave your goblet untouched still?

Pick it up, child, and follow with a will.


“Twice over could I father be to you.

It’s not scoundrels whose health I drink here.

The one I toast is a man through and through,

His brave lineage he’ll never besmear.”

And deeply moved, dignified in his mien,

Goblet in hand, the youth rises serene:


“Long live then the valiant leader’s son!

May he live while he lives for the land!

But woe to him, may his days be done

The moment that he turns from its command.

If a king’s faithless, better to have none:

The people’s plague a bad, impotent one.”


If you would like to read it in Hungarian, click here…

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