Even the BBC commemorated the 100th anniversary of János Arany, famous Hungarian poet’s birth. The author of The Bards of Wales was presented honorary status posthumously in Montgomery, Foter.ro reports.

Foter.ro notes that the poem was against the despot political system which followed the Revolution of 1848 in Hungary. The poet was unwilling to praise Francis Joseph I, as the bards of Wales also refused to eulogize Edward I. conquering Wales in 1277.

In relation to the story of the poem, Montgomery Mayor Eric Fairbrother told that, while the Hungarians do learn about the poem and its message at elementary schools, people in Montgomery have hardly heard about it. He believes, Fote.ro adds, that János Arany’s poem connects the two nations. Therefore the town decided to present the honorary status of Freeman of Montgomery to the Hungarian poet posthumously.

According to Foter.ro, Karl Jenkins Welsh composer composed a symphony based on The Bards of Wales, which is also not familiar to the majority of the locals in Montgomery.

[box] Listen Karl Jenkins’s The Bards of Wales Symphony here.

Read the poem below (visegradliterature.net):

The bards of Wales

Edward the King, the English King,
Rode on a dapple grey charger
‘I wish to know the worth’, said he,
‘of my Welsh lands over the border.

Is the grass rich for sheep and ox,
Are the soil and rivers good?
And are my provinces watered well
By rebel patriots’ blood?

And what of the people, the wretched people
Do they seem a contented folk?
Are they as docile, since I subdued them,
As their oxen in their yoke?’

‘Your Majesty Wales is the fairest jewel
You have in all your crown,
River and field and valley and hill
Are the best you may come upon.

And as for the people, the wretched people,
They live so happily, Sir,
Like so many graves their hamlets stand
And none there even stir.’

Edward the King, the English King,
Rode on a dapple grey charger,
Around him silence which way he want
In his Welsh lands over the border.

Montgomery the castle’s name,
Where he that night remained,
The castle’s lord, Montgomery,
His monarch entertained.

There was fish and flesh and whatever else
To sight and taste seemed good,
A rowdy throng, a hundred strong,
Bore in the heavy load.

All kinds were there, that isle could bear
Of meat and drink, with these
was bubbling wine that sparkling shone,
Carried from distant seas.

‘Ye Lords! ye lords! will no one here
His wine glass with me clink?
Ye lords! ye lords! ye rude Welsh curs,
Will none the King’s health drink?

There is fish and flesh and whatever else
To sight and taste seem best,
– That I can see, but the devil I know
Dwells in each noble’s breast.

Ye lords! ye lords! ye vile Welsh curs,
Come greet your Edward;
Where is the man to sing my deeds
A Welshman and a bard?’

Each night upon the other looked
Of the guests assembled there;
Upon their cheeks a furious rage
Paled to a ghastly fear.

And strangled breath from lips like death
Was all that could be heard;
When, like a white defenceless dove
Arose an ancient bard.

‘Here there is one to tell thy deeds,’
Chanted the ancient seer;
‘The clash of battle, the hoarse death rattle,
The plucked strings made them hear.

The clash of battle, the hoarse death rattle,
On blood the sun setting;
The stench that drew night – prowling beasts.
You did all this, O King!

Ten thousand of our people slain,
The rest are gathering
The corpses heaped like harvest stocks –
You did all this, O King!’

‘Off to the stake! this song’s too harsh’.
Ordered King Edward.
‘Come, let us have a gentler tune’
Forth stepped a young Welsh bard.

‘Soft breezes sigh in the evening sky,
O’er Milford Haven blown;
Maids’ sobbing tears and widows’ prayers
Within those breezes moan.’

‘Don’t bear a race of slaves ye maids!
Mothers give such no more!’
The King spoke and the boy caught up
The old man sent before.

But though unasked, yet recklessly
Advanced, unmoved, a third
His lyre’s fierce song, like the Welsh bard strong,
And his word must be heard.

‘Our bravest fell on the battle field,
Listen O Edward –
To sing the praises of your name
There is not one Welsh bard!’

‘One memory sobs within my lyre,
Listen O Edward –
A curse on your brow every song you hear
From a Welshman and a bard!’

‘Enough of this! I orders give’
Answered the furious King,
‘To send to the stake all the bards of Wales
Who thus against me sing!’

His servants till their task was done
Their searching never ceased;
Thus grimly in Montgomery,
Ended that famous feast.

Edward the King, the English King,
Spurred his dapple grey charger.
On the skies around, stakes burning stand
In the Welsh lands over the border.

Five hundred went to a flaming grave,
And singing every bard.
Not one of them was found to cry
‘Long live King Edward!’

What murmur is this in the London streets?
What night song can this be?
‘I will have London’s Lord Mayor hanged
If any noise troubles me’.

Within, a fly’s wing must not move,
Outside all silence keep.
‘The man who speaks will lose his head
The monarch cannot sleep.’

‘No! Bring me the music of pipe and drum,
And the trumpet’s brazen roar,
For the curses I heard at the Welshman’s feast
Ascend to my ears once more!’

But above the music of pipe and drum
And the bugles’ strong refrain,
Loud cry those witnesses of blood,
Five hundred Welsh bards slain. (*)

(*)Although doubted by scholars, it is strongly held in the oral tradition that King Edward I of England had five hundred bards executed after his conquest of Wales in 1277, lest they incite the Welsh youth to rebellion by reminding them in their songs of their nation’s glorious past. Janos Arany.

Arany wrote this poem when the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph first visited Hungary after he defeated it in its 1848-49 War of Independence. Originally he was asked to write a poem to praise the Emperor.

Masterman, Neville


The Montgomery Castle where the massacre was suposed to hapen
The Montgomery Castle where the massacre was supposed to happen (photo: youtube.com)

János Arany was born in 1817 to a farmer family, in Nagyszalonta, in Habsburg Hungary, now being in Romania. Until finishing his studies, he worked as an associate teacher. When he left school, he worked as an actor. When his mother died and his father went blind, he left his career as an actor and worked as clerk, later as a translator, too. In 1840, he got married and became a father of two children. He was awarded for The Lost Constitution, and later for Toldi by the Kisfaludy Literary Society. Due to the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, he lost his jobs, but later, in the 1850s, he worked as a teacher. After the 1860s, his health had been declining and in 1882 he passed away.

Photos: youtube.com

ce: bm

Source: Foter.ro, visegradliterature.net

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