Written by Gyula Illyés
Translated by Andris Heks


‘Where there is tyranny,

there is tyranny,

not just in the barrel of the gun,

not just in the prisons,

not just in the interrogation rooms,

not just in the guard’s word

shouted through the night;

there is tyranny

not just in the prosecutor’s smoke-dark

streaming charge,

in admission,

in prisoners’ wall tapped Morse signals,

not just in the judge’s chilling

verdict: guilty!-

there is tyranny,

not just in the marshal’s bark:


‘fire!’; in the drum roll,

and in how they drag the corpse

to the pit,

not just

in the secret news

anxiously whispered

through the half opened door

in the ‘sh’ of the finger sealing the mouth:

‘don’t move!’;

where there is tyranny,

there is tyranny

not just in the displayed facial feature

that’s as stiff as grid;

and in that grid, in the already wordless,

writhing cry of pain

in the silence

boosting mute

torrent of tears;

in the bulging eye,

there is tyranny,

not just in the ‘on-your-feet’

blared ‘long live-s’,

‘hurrays’, songs;

where there is tyranny,

there is tyranny,

not just in the relentlessly

clapping hands,

in the opera, in the trumpeting,

in the just as hypocritically cheering stone monuments,

in colours, in galleries, separately in every frame,

already in the painter’s brush;

not only in the noise of the softly gliding

car at night,

and in that:

it pulled up at the gate,

it is there as you say ‘hello’

and you sense

through the silence of the receiver,

that a stranger is eavesdropping;

for tyranny

is presently there,

in every single thing,

as not even your old god would have been able to be;

there is tyranny in the nurseries,

in the fatherly advice,

in the mother’s smile,

in how the child replies to the stranger;

not only in the barbed wire,

not just in the book slogans

which are even more stupefying

than the barbed wire;

it is there

in the parting kisses,

in the way the wife asks:

when will you be back dear?

in the street,

in the routinely repeated how-are you-s,

in the sudden loosening of

the handshake’s grip,

and as your lover’s face

freezes instantly,

because tyranny is there

at your date,

not only in the interrogation,

it is there in the confession,

in the sweet word’s ecstasy,

like a fly in the wine,

because even in your dreams

you are not left alone,

it is in your bridal bed,

before that, in the desire,

for you will deem beautiful

only that which it already possessed once;

it was tyranny you lay with,

when you thought you loved,

on the plate and in the glass,

it is there in the nose, the mouth,

in cold and in twilight,

outdoors and in your room,

as if through the open window,

the putrid stench flooded in,

as if somewhere in the house

there was a gas leak,

if you talk to yourself,

it is tyranny that questions you;

already in your imagination

you are not independent,

even the Milky Way above is different:

it is a border zone, scoured by beams,

a minefield; the star:

it is a spying window,

the teeming sky canopy:

it is just one labour camp;

for tyranny speaks from fever,

from the tolling bell,

out of the priest’s confessionals,

from the sermon,

the church, the parliament, the torture rack:

are all its stage;

open or close your eyes,

tyranny is looking at you;

as disease,

it accompanies you, like a souvenir;

you hear it in the rattle of the train wheel:

‘prisoner, you are a prisoner’,

on the mountain and beside the sea

it is this that you inhale;

in the flash of the lightening,

it is in every unexpected

noise, light,

in the startled heart;

in rest,

in shackled boredom,

in pouring rain,

in sky high bars,

in the cell-wall-white

entrapping snowfall;

it looks at you

through the eyes of your dog,

and because it is there in every goal,

it is there in your tomorrow,

in your thought,

in your every movement;

as the river cleaves its bed,

you follow and create it;

peek out from this circle?

it is tyranny that looks back at you from the mirror,

it keeps an eye on you; no use to try to run away,

you are at once a captive and the captor;

it impregnates your tobacco’s aroma,

your clothes’ fabric;

it penetrates you

to the marrow;

you would like to think,

but only its ideas come to mind,

you would like to look, but you can only see

what it conjured up for you

and already forest fire surrounds you,

fanned into flame by the matchstick

that you threw down

but not stamp out;

and readily it also guards you,

in the factory, in the field, at home

and you no longer feel, what it is like to live,

what is meat and bread,

what it is to love, to wish,

to open your arms wide,

this is how the slave

himself forges his fetters and wears them;

if you eat it is tyranny you nourish,

you beget your child for it,

where there is tyranny,

everyone is a link in the chain;

its stench emanates and spreads from you,

you too are tyranny;

like a mole in the sunshine,

we walk in blind darkness

and we fret in our chamber

like in the Sahara;

for where there is tyranny,

all is in vain,

this ode too,

any work,

no matter how true,

for tyranny

stands at your grave in advance,

it tells you who you were

and even your dust serves it.