« PreviousContinue »
dignation at earlier atrocities. Mr. Pulszky's feelings have, however, betrayed him into no political intemperance, while they add much force and pathos to his narrative. The plot of Martinovitch would, in the hands of most novelists, have afforded a fair pretext for the regular three volumes; and the author of the Jacobins in Hungary' has, by his conciseness, set both publishers and writers an excellent example. Mr. Pulszky does not detain the reader by descriptions of fine or wet days, of sunsets or moonlight on the waters, or the furniture of halls and boudoirs, but tells his story in an earnest, rapid, and business-like fashion. The connexion, indeed, between the first and the following volumes is not very obvious; and we should have preferred a total separation of the traditions from the tale. We could also have gladly welcomed a few more rhythmical legends, like that of Yanosh the Hero,' which is so gracefully chanted in blank verse by Madame Pulszky. This story is, indeed, in our opinion, the most striking and genial of the entire series; and as some readers are inclined to skip' verses which are imbedded in prose, we will attempt, by a brief analysis, to show that Yanosh' is a new acquaintance well worth being introduced into England.
The groundwork of the mythical · Yanosh' is the obsitos, or hussar on furlough. This has always been a very popular character with the Hungarian peasantry. After ten - often after twenty – years' absence in garrison or in foreign lands, the hussar returns to the village where he was born. He is welcomed in every hut; his proper realm, however, is the public-house. There he enjoys, not merely his hour's import. ance, but a species of martial apotheosis. Enthroned in an elbow-chair, and with his pipe and wine-jug before him, he is the oracle, the geographer, and general gazetteer of the admiring villagers. Something of a Bobadil indeed he is, especially after the operation,' as Mercutio phrases it, of the third
cup. His stories are interminable, and extremely fabulous. His chorography is as exact as Gulliver's. He has been in the land of the dog-headed Tartars. His narrative would entitle him to a place in Lucian's treatise · De Verâ Historia. He took Napoleon prisoner at Leipsig : but then he was drous pitiful, and let him go again because the empress Maria Louisa wept so bitterly. By the same token, the empress gave him her own golden watch, which he would gladly have exhibited to his friends and kinsfolk, had it not passed into the hands of certain Jews. Of Italy he remembers only the intense cold and the huge rosemary bushes. Of France he has not much more to tell, beyond his having fought with the inhabi
The Hero Yanosh,
tants thereof, because they had robbed their king of his crown. But on his march to France- -and his cups are now nearer the number of the Muses than of the Graces he passed the Alps, * and saw that they reached up to the moon, so that he was * able to caress her jolly face.' " But at this point of his story apparently some sceptical person begins to cross-question the obsitos, in a dialogue, very like some of Hans Andersen's :
656 What then did the moon do when you kissed her jolly face ?" "“ Saucy lad,” interrupts the greybeard ; "she complacently purred like a cat."
• He proceeds to describe how he got farther and farther to the very last end of the world.
6* And what did you do there?” inquires a pert little girl.
6 “ Well, I sat down on the brink of the world, and swung my feet over the boundless nothing.”
5“ And have you not likewise been up to heaven, Bacsi ?” is again inquired.
** To be sure, I was there once.”
"“ Goodness me, how pleasant that must have been! Certainly, up above, there is no need to work, and food and wine are in plenty."
““ Silly boy,” retorts the old hussar; “there is work enough. The stars have to be cleaned all day long with chalk and spirits, so that in the evening when they are hung up, they may shine brilliantly, and there is little rest for the soldier, as the old saints have all double sentinels at their doors. But the temple of St. Peter! that is the largest building all over the earth, and far prettier than anything I knew in heaven.” He continues ; when we were commanded there to the church parade, we were obliged to keep two days of rest, before we could get from the gate to the chief altar.”
The cleaning the stars with chalk and spirits ’ is not a mere flight of fancy in the obsitos, but a memento typical of his greatest grievance while in active service, —that, namely, of being daily compelled to polish his regimental buttons, and keep them as bright as mirrors. The irksomeness of this duty he can never forget. It haunts his dreams and troubles his banquets.
The hero Yanosh is a mythical hussar. He rises from the peasant to the soldier, passes through a labyrinth of strange adventure, and ends his career by becoming the king of fairyland. Madame Pulszky has adopted the modern version of this story by Alexander Petöfy - a youthful poet who, in 1848, fought for his country and sang its glory: but, since the last ' unfortunate battles in Transylvania, he has disappeared: his * fate is unknown.' Petöfy's poem is written in four-lined stanzas of Alexandrians--a measure well adapted in the Hun
garian language for popular tales.' The English translation is in blank verse, which metre Madame Pulszky adopted in
order not to be diverted by the exigencies of rhyme from following the original exactly.' The following is a brief outline of the adventures of Yanosh:- Yanosh or Yantshe, that is, John or Jack, is a shepherd whose cattle graze on the village
He loves and is beloved by a fair maiden named Ilush, who is servant of all work to a cruel stepmother. Yantshe, having been making love instead of minding his business, loses the best part of his herd, and is 'pitchforked' off the premises by his wrathful master. Mr. John, after performing a doleful serenade under Ilush's window, leaves her to the novercal mercies, and becomes a wanderer over the face of the earth. A storm, which is very powerfully described, drives him for shelter to a cottage tenanted by a gang of robbers. The robbers insist that he shall either die or join the band. Yantshe adroitly eludes the alternative: drinks his churlish and dishonest hosts under the table, and burns their house about their ears.
After this good deliverance, he wanders again over hill and dale,' and at length falls in with a troop of hussars, who accept him as a recruit. They are bound for the realm of France, where they are particularly wanted, as the miscreant • Turk' has not merely laid waste the kingdom, but also carried off the king's daughter. Yet, considering the urgent need of the allied forces, their line of march is somewhat circuitous; for they first visit the dog-headed Tartars, who prove to be very worthy folk, Italy, and India! On arriving, however, Yantshe
, does yeoman's service:' he rescues the French princess and makes a hideous slaughter of the Turks. In requital the king of France proposes to abdicate in Yantshe's favour, and to give him, moreover, his fair daughter to wife. But the hero declines both proffers, telling His Most Christian Majesty, that “If the • dear Ilush cannot be mine.... I will possess no other in this
world.' Whereupon the king treats Yantshe as handsomely as Alcinous of yore treated Ulysses. He gives him store of gold out of his treasury and puts him on board a ship with orders to convey him to Hungary - Hungary, in those days, having, like Bohemia in Shakspeare's, a sea-port. The vessel sailed with a favourable wind; but one evening, when hero John, like pious Æneas, was standing on deck, watching ' a host of red-legged 6 storks above him in the clouds,' the mate predicted foul weather: and on the morning his prediction was so completely verified that Yantshe is washed ashore, but his gold and his ship and comrades disappear for ever. Fortunately, like Ulysses again, he is stranded on his own coast, and on a part not very far from the cottage where Ilush dwells. But here his luck, for the present, ends; for Ilush is in her grave, done to death
by her cruel stepmother. Yantshe plucks a rose-bud from her tomb, and sets forth again to wander to the limits of the world.'
He arrives in Giant-land, and finds its king at dinner with his fifty sons. They are far better than the giants of ancient Britain in our Jack's days, inasmuch as they eat, neither Englishmen nor other men, but-rocks. The giant monarch helps Hungary John to a slice of granite. Our hero, naturally resenting such hard fare, yet not altogether warrantably we think, knocks his Majesty on the head with his dinner, and then most unexpectedly finds he has succeeded to all the paternal rights and titles, and that the fifty youthful giants have become his vassals. Next he comes upon a witch-sabbath, and discovers among that unhallowed crew the wicked step-mother of Ilush. He steals their broomsticks; summons, by a few notes of his deceased host's whistle, his fifty giant-vassals ; and has the satisfaction of a witchbattue, and of seeing the injusta noverca’ hurled through the air into Hungary, where the villagers, next morning,
Find her dead
And no one mourned the wicked woman's fate.' After this signal service to society, hero John comes to the endless ocean, beyond which lies Fairy-land. One of his obedient giants carries him across, and after landing, and slaying in three successive days—this being the favourite number in Hungarian le end-three lions, three bears, and a dreadful dragon, he becomes free of the country, bathes in the Lake of Life, and by the same immersion, the rose-bud from the tomb becomes Ilush herself.
• The fairy maids admired her all, and soon
The happy ruler of the Fairy-land. We have dwelt more especially upon the legend of .Yanosh 'the Hero,' because it appears to us the best representative in Madame Pulszky's collection of the life of the Hungarian peasant and of the turn of his imagination. It is scarcely necessary to point out the affinity between that poem and the Arabian tales. Indeed, nearly all the elder Hungarian traditions have in them a tinge of orientalism. We have already indicated also more than one parallelism between • Yanosh' and the Odyssey — the most Asiatic in its character of the Hellenic lays. The reader who is versed in legendary lore will easily discover many other features in common with the cycle of European myths. The imaginative mind of Hungary would
seem to be eclectic in its character, and to delight less in inventing than in expanding or adorning the traditions of other nations. Its eclectic tendency may probably be ascribed, on the one hand, to the late introduction of the Magyars into Europe, and, on the other, to the variety of races which occupy the land of Hungary Proper. We have found, however, among Mr. Pulszky's traditions no traces of a story which was long supposed indigenous in Hungary,- the story of the Vampyre. Their once troublesome and terrible neighbours, the Tartars, play, of course, no unimportant part in the traditions of the Hungarians. Prior, to say nothing of other authorities, has made us all acquainted with the dread inspired by their name, and the solid and sanguinary fashion of their diet.* But, until we read Mr. Pulszky's book, we do not remember to have met with a reversal of the adage, Catching a Tartar.' • Tho Poor Tartar' might have been entitled . The Tartar Caught.' The legend is as follows:
• When in the tenth century, the Tartars, led by their chief, Batu Khan, invaded Hungary, and King Bela was forced to flee from the disastrous battle at Sajó, despair seized upon the Hungarians. Many had fallen on the field, still more were butchered by the faithless enemy; some sought escape, others apathetically awaited their fate. Amongst these was a nobleman, who lived retired on his property, distant from every high road. He possessed fine herds, stately horses, rich corn fields, and a well-stocked house, built but recently for the reception of his wife, who now for two years had been its mistress.
* The disheartening account of the general misfortune had reached this secluded shelter, and its peaceful lord was horrified. He trembled at every sound, at every step; he found his meals less savoury. His very sleep was troubled; he often sighed, and seemed quite lost and wretched. Thus anxiously anticipating the days to come, he sat at his well-closed window, when suddenly a Tartar on his steed galloped into the court. The Hungarian bounced from his seat, ran to meet his guest, and said:
«« Tartar, thou art my lord: I am thy servant: all thou seest is thine. Take what thou fanciest ; I do not oppose thy power ; command, thy servant obeys.”
• The Tartar impatiently sprang from his horse, entered the house, and cast a careless glance on all the precious objects around. His eye was fascinated by the brilliant beauty of the lady of the house, who appeared tastefully attired to greet him here, no less graciously than her consort had in the court below.
* Was ever Tartar fierce or cruel
Upon the strength of water gruel ?