Poetry at the Post: 14 Lessons From a Visit to the House of Terror Museum in Budapest with John Donne

April 3, 2015

Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward
BY JOHN DONNE

This day, when my Soules forme bends toward the East.
There I should see a Sunne, by rising set,
And by that setting endlesse day beget;
But that Christ on this Crosse, did rise and fall,
Sinne had eternally benighted all.

"Budapest Haus des Terrors" by Tbachner - Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
“Budapest Haus des Terrors” by Tbachner – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

The House of Terror is a museum in Budapest dedicated to the memory of the 50 years of totalitarian rule in Hungary.

Last July, I was in a university program on late antiquity studies and the waning years of the Roman Empire. Hungary had been the empire’s outer eastern limits, or limes. My mind was centuries away from the 20th but as the House of Terror Museum was almost on my doorsteps, I decided to make a visit. One floor is about the Nazis, another the Communists and in the basement are the actual “interrogation rooms” of the Hungarian Secret Police. It’s tough museum to visit.

Today is Good Friday, which in that funny way the mind works, I began to consider “suffering” and those two hours immersed in tales of persecution at this chilling museum.

Today’s NAPOWRIMO prompt is about the number 14 so I wrote a poem entitled “14 Lessons From a Visit to the House of Terror Museum.” Here are the first few lines:

 

14 Lessons From a Visit to the House of Terror Museum
Budapest, Hungary
July 2014

 
2. Peasants

 
anyone could be named a “kulak” —a public enemy,
 
the hunters’ prey

 

 

A portrait of Donne as a young man, c. 1595, artist unknown, in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London
A portrait of Donne as a young man, c. 1595, artist unknown, in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London

But that Christ on this Crosse, did rise and fall,
Sinne had eternally benighted all.
Yet dare I’almost be glad, I do not see
That spectacle of too much weight for mee.

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