SECONDS IN A YEAR?
WHAT ARE MY earliest memories of childhood? I remember the bridges, the beautiful bridges. My hometown, Budapest, is built around a river. I have lived near the Tiber, the Thames, the Hudson, and the Rio Grande; but no river warms my memory as the Danube does: the river and its beautiful bridges.
The oldest bridge is the Chain Bridge, a nineteenth-century miracle with two stone lions guarding each end. Eighty years ago, my father told me that when the statues were installed, the city praised their sculptor for creating such beauty. Then a small boy had come along and asked about their funny mouths. In shame, the sculptor committed suicide; he had forgotten to give his yawning lions tongues.
The inconspicuous, modern Margaret Bridge has a branch leading to an island in the Danube. I played there in the ruins of the cloister where a king's daughter had lived and died. A great Hungarian poet, Endre Ady, wrote a poem about St. Margaret the year before I was born. He describes the young Princess Margaret (who was later canonized) fearfully fleeing her father's coarse and boisterous friends, but dreaming of a kindly troubadour from the West. The last lines of his poem, even in my poor translation, are poignant:
She waited long, in vain. Her knight she never met,
Whose kiss was gentle, gentle as his smile.
So to LordJesus they gave Margaret,
Who lived and died a nun on Danube's isle.1
Egy halk dalú és halk scókú legény.