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Mihály VÖRÖSMARTY
( 1800 - 1855 )

Biography

1800 born in Pusztanyék (Fejér County) into a family of impoverished gentry
1811-16 educated in Székesfehérvár by the Cistercian fathers
1817 begins to study Philosophy in Pest at the Piarists
1817 his father dies; he completes his education by working as a tutor
1824 receives his degree as a lawyer
1825 his epic The Flight of Zalán highly acclaimed
1827 editor at the periodicals Koszorú and Athenaeum
1830 member of the Hungarian Academy of Science
1843 marries the much younger Laura Csajághy
1848 together with János Arany and Sándor Petőfi, initiates the translation of the complete works of Shakespeare into Hungarian
1848 elected to the National Diet; becomes a judge of the Supreme Court
1849 after the defeat of Revolution, has to go into hiding
1850-53 tries to make a living as a country smallholder
1855 dies in Budapest

The Flight of Zalán
1825

Where are you, glory of old? Lost deep in the night of the shadows? Eons have passed, and beneath you, the ominous depths of the darkness loom as you wander. Above, dense clouds and Oblivion's mournful shape float by in ungarlanded sadness, the image of prowess forgotten. Where is the one who, with lips all bold, could thunder a war-song rousing the gloom of the deep and unsighty abysses, lifting to view, once more, brave Árpád, the noble commander, wearing the skin of a leopard and potent to shatter the nations? (translated by Watson Kirkconnell) Vörösmarty was only 24 when he finished this great national epic which was well-received by the public and hailed by poets, but which brought him very little financial reward. The poem is written in the classical Greco-Latin hexameter, using exceptional images, and has a rather Miltonic, broody, melancholic atmosphere of blood, death and doomed love. Vörösmarty wrote many long epical poems, and later turned to writing plays.

Csongor and Tünde
1830

Darkness and Void was all: myself alone seclusive, silent, all-forsaken Night, then light was born to me, my only child. As blazing light erupted from my womb the boundless power of the radiation perturbed the empty space, and from the Void an all-pervading thousand-headed monster, the Universe appeared. (from the "Soliloquy of the Night", translated by Peter Zolmann) Vörösmarty's most popular theatrical work, a romantic mystery, is perhaps the most melodic play in Hungarian history and sounds very beautiful in English. It was modelled on a story by the 17th century Hungarian writer Albert Gyergyai entitled The History of Prince Árgilus, but the obvious effect of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream is palpable (Vörösmarty later prepared wonderful translations of Shakespeare). The summary of the story: Csongor, the hero of the play, is looking for the meaning of life, eternal, heavenly beauty. He meets Tünde, the ethereal fairy, and falls in love with her. An old witch forces them to part from one another, and the hero heads out to find his love and Fairyland. The story includes other lively characters: Ilma and Balga, a pair of clumsy lovers, three globe-trotting travellers who meditate on the meaning of life, and three naughty little devils who help Csongor reach his aim. In the end, the hero discovers that happiness is not a thing to be found in the outside world, but as he returns to his starting point after he has met Tünde, he finally finds his peace.

Collected works,Unpublished Poems
1864,1926

Mortal life is always playing games, Shivering or bursting into flames; Strike up, play the stately and the quick, While your bow is more than just a stick. Cup and soul, so full of wine and woe Strike up, Gipsy, let your troubles go! (from "The Ancient Gipsy", translated by Peter Zollmann.) This is perhaps Vörösmarty's most popular poem, performed again and again in theatrical recitals in Hungary. Vörösmarty is considered to be one of the greatest Hungarian poets in part because of his creation of a new poetic language and a new style of patriotic lyrics. His poem, "The Call" (or in another translation: "Appeal"), is Hungary's second national anthem, set to music by Béni Egressy. Beginning: Oh, Magyar, keep immovably your native country's trust! (translated by W. Kirkconnell). "The atmosphere of this musical poetry is in the revolutionary years enthusiastic and very much involved in public affairs, but romantic melancholy and the presentiment of forthcoming tragedy is always present, just as broodings about all-presiding nothing." -Géza Hegedűs

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