Sándor Petőfi: I’ll be a tree (Fa leszek, ha… – Sung in English)

Fa leszek, ha…

Fa leszek, ha fának vagy virága.
Ha harmat vagy: én virág leszek.
Harmat leszek, ha te napsugár vagy…
Csak, hogy lényink egyesüljenek.

Ha, leányka, te vagy a mennyország:
Akkor én csillaggá változom.
Ha, leányka, te vagy a pokol: (hogy
Egyesüljünk) én elkárhozom.

Sándor Petőfi

I’ll be a tree…

I’ll be a tree, if you are its flowers,
Or a flower, if you are the dew;
I’ll be the dew, if you are the sunbeam,
Only to be united with you.

My little girl, if you are the heaven
I shall be a star above on high;
My little girl, if you are hell-fire,
To unite us, damned I shall die.

English translation by:
C. F. Bowring (questionable, see notes)

Classical guitar

built by Romanek Tihamér

gold diplome master luthier

Klasszikus gitár

Classical guitar

This translation is from the volume ‘Hundred Hungarian Poems’, wherein C. F. Bowring is given as the translator of this poem written by Sándor (Alexander) Petőfi. I could find no data about C. F. Bowring, neither online nor in libraries. However, I did find a Sir John Bowring and his version of this poem included in his translations of Petőfi (see picture). He was Petőfi’s first famous contemporary translator. Would the occurrence of identical surnames be a coincidence? Or does C. F. stand for cf. (Latin: confer / conferatur), and therefore could the translator of the poem be the work of the editor of the anthology (Tamás Kabdebó) or someone else, based on Sir John Bowring’s translation? I give up.

Whoever the translator of this poem may be, I, too have made some changes in it. As for my ‘liberty of performance’ (cf. ‘poetic licence’): several poems of Petőfi’s have actually turned into folk songs and a word here or there might have changed in the folk-ed versions as well.

The tune is the composition of Árpád Balázs (1874-1941), a well known composer of his time. I present the song here following the harmonization of lute and guitar artist András L. Kecskés. In his opinion, the melody itself is of Schubertian value.