George Szirtes: “The Flight”

The child on the dirtpath
finds the highway blocked
The dogs at the entrance
snarl that doors are locked
The great god of kindness
has his kindness mocked
 May those who travel light
 Find shelter on the flight
 May Bethlehem
 Give rest to them.

The sea is a graveyard
the beach is dry bones
the child at the station
is pelted with stones
the cop stands impassive
the ambulance drones

We sleep then awaken
we rest on the way
our sleep might be troubled
but hope is our day
we move on for ever
like children astray

We move on for ever
our feet leave no mark
you won’t hear our voices
once we’re in the dark
but here is our fire
this child is our spark

Words: George Szirtes
Music: Richard Causton

The carol was commissioned by King’s College, Cambridge and was part of the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols performed and broadcast worldwide yesterday. George Szirtes is a Hungarian-born British poet and translator from Hungarian into English. Over the years he has translated Dezső Kosztolányi, Gyula Krúdy, Sándor Márai, Ferenc Karinthy, István Vas, Ottó Orbán, László Krasznahorkai, and Magda Szabó.

King's chapel

The poem was inspired by his family’s flight in 1956 and by his compassion for the refugees of today. George Szirtes is also a regular reader of Hungarian Spectrum.

The complete program can be heard online.

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Frank Kline
Frank Kline
December 25, 2015 4:27 pm

Oh Eva, Thank you for sharing this wonderful poem!

George Szirtes
December 25, 2015 5:26 pm

If anyone is interested a YouTube presentqtion of both music and words together with graphics by a gentleman called Michael Parker. I didn’t know he had done this but am most grateful.

December 25, 2015 6:46 pm

I believe I just heard this today on CBC Radio while driving up North from Toronto. It is very heart wrenching. Thank you for this!

December 25, 2015 6:02 pm

Thank you Éva for sharing this most timely poem, and thank you for being there every day with your knowledge, insight and wisdom. Thank you George Szirtes for writing the poem and for giving the link to that moving video. Beautiful words, and stirring music.
May 2016 be a merciful year . . .

December 25, 2015 9:12 pm

(tried unsuccessfully to embed youtube)

December 25, 2015 10:05 pm

Stevan, I just copied and pasted the youtube address. Maybe it needs to be on its own separate line?

December 25, 2015 9:15 pm


December 25, 2015 10:03 pm

December 25, 2015 11:15 pm

Thans Eva for this wonderfully strong message.

December 26, 2015 2:42 pm

It is so fitting that a most august musical group enunciates the powerful words of an eminent poet of our turbulent age.

The poem linked with vocals is art driven to reject knee-jerk intolerance and replace denigration rather with compassion and understanding. Thank you Mr. Szirtes for your fine piece against a blind and mean-spirited world.

December 26, 2015 3:10 pm

Thanks a lot!
Really moving …