Monday, December 7, 2015

MopDog Monday: Flood of blood, crying orphans, fratricide: The Hungarian national anthem

Well, as long as there is a prize for "Most Depressing National Anthem," we have totally got it.
Everybody is good at something, right?...
Well, Hungarians are world champions at self pity.
We even wrote a national anthem about it.

The creator of Prezi (who is Hungarian) made a very controversial statement this week: He claimed that it was about time for Hungary to get a new, more optimistic national anthem. Of course he immediately ended up under a dogpile of logical, cool-headed, educational Internet debate (as you do) and was not at all screamed at and called a traitor to the Motherland. 

Without weighing in on whether or not a national anthem should be changed on account of being pessimistic, I just wanted to post the lyrics of our current Hungarian anthem here, and let you decide what you think about it (and the statement above). 


("From the stormy centuries of the Hungarian nation")
Written by Kölcsey Ferenc, 1823; adopted as the official national anthem in 1844.
English lyrics based on the literal translation available on Wikipedia, tweaked by me.

O God, bless the Hungarian
With joy and with bounty
Extend over it your guarding arm
During strife with its enemies
Long torn by ill fate
Bring upon it a year of joy
This nation has suffered for all sins
Of the past and of the future!

You brought our ancestors up
Over the Carpathians' holy peaks
By You was won a beautiful homeland
For Bendeguz's blood(line)
And wherever flow the waters of
The Tisza and the Danube
The heroic offspring of Árpád
Rose up and flourished. 

For us on the plains of the Kuns
You made the ripe wheat ripple
In the vineyards of Tokaj
You dripped sweet nectar
Our flag you often planted
On the wild Turk's battlements
And under Mátyás' grave army moaned
Vienna's "proud fort."

Ah, but for our sins
Anger flared up in Your bosom
And You struck with Your lightning
From Your thundering clouds
Now the plundering Mongols' arrows
You swarmed over us
Then the Turks' slave yoke
We took upon our shoulders.

How often came from the mouths
Of Osman's barbarian nation
Over the bones of our defeated army
A victory song!
How often did your own son attack
My homeland, upon your breast,
And you became because of your own sons
Your own sons' funeral urn!

The fugitive hid, and after him
The sword reached into the cave
Looking everywhere he could not find
His home in his homeland
Climbs the mountain, descends the valley
Sadness and despair his companions
Sea of blood beneath his feet
Ocean of flame above.

Castle stood, now a heap of stones
Happiness and joy have fled,
Groans of death, weeping
Now sound in their place.
And Ah! Freedom does not bloom
From the blood of the dead,
Torturous slavery's tears fall
From the burning eyes of the orphans!

Pity, O Lord, the Hungarians
Who are tossed by waves of danger
Extend over it your guarding arm
On the sea of its misery
Long torn by ill fate
Bring upon it a joyful year
They who have suffered for all sins
Of the past and of the future!

Okay, foreigners, fess up: On a scale of ramen dinner to The Little Match Girl, how depressing do you find our anthem?
And now, listen to the music.


  1. The music is absolutely lovely. Since I as an American would have no idea what they were actually singing, I would say keep it based on the music. Our national anthem commemorates a battle in war which is one if the reasons why we have had calls to change it to 'God Bless America.'

    1. The music is awesome :) Written by Erkel Ferenc, by the way. Also, putting "God Bless America" next to "God pity Hungary" would be fun :D

  2. Yeah, that is pretty depressing, especially the "Pity, O Lord, the Hungarians". There's really nowhere to hide with a statement like that. The music is beautiful, though.

  3. Dang! This is not vague about the oppression and invaders! Those are potent visuals about the orphans and the bones. I have to give points for poetic description.

    1. That will balance out nicely the diplomacy points we lost for calling the Turkish a "barbarian nation."

  4. There is an interesting theory - don't know how much water it holds, but it certainly is intriguing - that the original tune the Hymn was composed to may actually have been a much more dynamic one, a "Swineherd Dance".
    The connotations of the swineherd (strong, stubborn, tough, aggressive, decisive - after all you have to be able to stand up to the greatest hogs), and the juxtaposition of the deepest depths of filth at the bottom of society to the elevated tone of the poem paint a very different picture. Not the whiny romantic ballad, but a very defiant, non-apologetically persistent "I want my money back" sort of message...
    Got to love literature :)

    1. A link to the Swineherd Dance, performed by kindergarten folkdancers:

      For any Hungarian speakers a link to a lighthearted presentation of this idea: