A branch I’d be, if you would be its bloom,
A bloom I’d be, if you, its dew.
I’d be the dew, if sunlight –
Would love me daily.
My heart, if vaults of darkness you would be
I’d be your morning star,
And even if you’d blaze with mouths of hell
I’d clench you tighter, closer, to my breast.
Notes on this poem
Born on 1 January, 1823, Sándor Petöfi is considered to be Hungary’s national poet. His reputation and popularity are due not only to the beauty of his lyric poems, but also to his involvement in Hungary’s revolutionary movement. As well as being directly involved in the fi ght for Hungary’s independence from the Austrian empire, Petöfi also became the spiritual father of the 1848 revolution as his poem ‘National Song’ was recited at public gatherings to rouse the Hungarian people to fight for their freedom.
Like other Romantic poets of his time, Petöfi became fascinated by the lives of rural people and idealised them in his writing. His verse was inspired by ancient forms of expression, its melodic simplicity mirroring the ballads and folk songs of rural Hungary. ‘I Would be a Branch’ uses natural imagery that recalls the unspoilt pastures of Petöfi ’s beloved country to create a plea for eternal love. Poignantly, Petöfi ’s romantic experiences were always all too brief. His first romance with Csap Etelke ended two months after their first meeting with her death, and his marriage proposal to Mednyanszky Berta was rejected. In 1846, he married Julia Szendrey, but their happiness was short-lived as he died, fighting for Hungarian independence, only three years later, at 26. Petöfi’s sacrifice of his life just as he had found romantic fulfillment calls to mind his famous lines:
Liberty and love
These two I must have.
For my love I’ll sacrifice
For liberty I’ll sacrifice