Daily Archives: September 24, 2012

Frye and Ferenc Juhász

I have recently returned from a successful conference in Budapest honoring Frye in his centenary year.  In a discussion with the Hungarians I mentioned that on several occasions Frye referred to Ferenc Juhász’s The Boy Changed into a Stag Cries out at the Gate of Secrets (1955), a poem much admired by Auden and by Frye as well.  Back home, I’ve tracked down the references:

From Notebook 21 in CW 13: 163

Maybe revolution-rebirth is the telos of Four, in spite of what I’ve said, its 5 reversal being resurrection.  Maybe the universe contained in the mind, the apocalypse of that wonderful Juhasz poem, is reversed by interpenetration.  It’s the same principle of everywhere is here inside out.  Similarly, resurrection is rebirth’s “Behold, I make all things new,” inside out.  The consubstantial risen Christ? (CW 13: 163)

From “The Times of the Signs,” CW 27: 353.  Frye is quoting from The Plough and the Pen, Writings from Hungary 1930-1956, edited by Ilona Duczynska and Karl Polanyi (1963).

At the same time that the Romantic movement had begun the final separation of mythology and science, the Industrial Revolution was making technology a central factor in society.  Both Marxism and the theory of progress in the democracies seized on industrial production as the central uniting force of society, and the realizing power of civilization.  Their conception of technology was much the same: they differed only on whether a capitalist or a socialist economy should control it.  The great advantage of having technology in such a role was that it seemed to develop automatically, with the minimum of reference to the nagging mythological question: is this really what man most wants and needs?  Marxist poets were urged to celebrate the glories of technology under socialism as their ancestors had celebrated gods and heroes.  A magnificent Hungarian poem by Ferenc Juhász, The Boy Changed into a Stag Cries Out at the Gate of Secrets, translated by the Canadian poet Kenneth McRobbie with Ilona Duczynska, thus describes the apotheosis of its transformed hero:

There he stood on the renewing crags of time,

stood on the ringed summit of the sublime

universe, there stood the lad at the gate of secrets,

his antler prongs were playing with the stars . . .

Mother, my mother, I cannot go back:

pure gold seethes in my hundred wounds . . .

each prong of my antlers is a dual-based pylon

each branch of my antlers a high-tension wire,

my eyes are ports for ocean-going merchantmen, my veins are tarry cables, these

teeth are iron bridges, and in my heart the surge of monster-infested seas,

each vertebra is a teeming metropolis, for a spleen I have a smoke-puffing barge

each of my cells is a factory, my atoms are solar systems

sun and moon swing in my testicles, the Milky Way is my bone marrow,

each point of space is one part of my body

my brain impulse is out in the curling galaxies.

[Quoted from The Plough and the Pen, Writings from Hungary 1930-1956, edited by Ilona Duczynska and Karl Polanyi (1963). [NF]]

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