1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Balassa, Bálint
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BALASSA, BÁLINT, Baron of Kékkö and Gyarmat (1551-1594), Magyar lyric poet, was born at Kékkö, and educated by the reformer, Péter Bornemissza, and by his mother, the highly gifted Protestant zealot, Anna Sulyok. His first work was a translation of Michael Bock's Würtzgertlein für die krancken Seelen, to comfort his father while in prison (1570-1572) for some political offence. On his father's release, Bálint accompanied him to court, and was also present at the coronation diet of Pressburg in 1572. He then joined the army and led a merry life at the fortress of Eger. Here he fell violently in love with Anna Losonczi, the daughter of the hero of Temesvár, and evidently, from his verses, his love was not unrequited. But a new mistress speedily dragged the ever mercurial youth away from her, and deeply wounded, she gave her hand to Krisztóf Ungnad. Naturally Balassa only began to realize how much he loved Anna when he had lost her. He pursued her with gifts and verses, but she remained true to her pique and to her marriage vows, and he could only enshrine her memory in immortal verse. In 1574 Bálint was sent to the camp of Gáspár Békesy to assist him against Stephen Báthory; but his troops were encountered and scattered on the way thither, and he himself was severly wounded and taken prisoner. His not very rigorous captivity lasted for two years, and he then disappears from sight. We next hear of him in 1584 as the wooer and winner of Christina Dobo, the daughter of the valiant commandant of Eger. What led him to this step we know not, but it was the cause of all his subsequent misfortunes. His wife's greedy relatives nearly ruined him by legal processes, and when in 1586 he turned Catholic to escape their persecutions they declared that he and his son had become Turks. His simultaneous desertion of his wife led to his expulsion from Hungary, and from 1589 to 1594 he led a vagabond life in Poland, sweetened by innumerable amours with damsels of every degree from cithara players to princesses. The Turkish war of 1594 recalled him to Hungary, and he died of his wounds at the siege of Esztergom the same year. Balassa's poems fall into four divisions: religious hymns, patriotic and martial songs, original love poems, and adaptations from the Latin and German. They are all most original, exceedingly objective and so excellent in point of style that it is difficult even to imagine him a contemporary of Sebastian Tinodi and Peter Ilosvay. But his erotics are his best productions. They circulated in MS. for generations and were never printed till 1874, when Farkas Deák discovered a perfect copy of them in the Radvanyi library. For beauty, feeling and transporting passion there is nothing like them in Magyar literature till we come to the age of Michael Csokonai and Alexander Petöfi. Balassa was also the inventor of the strophe which goes by his name. It consists of nine lines—a a b c c b d d b, or three rhyming pairs alternating with the rhyming third, sixth and ninth lines.
- Áron Szilády, Bálint Balassa's Poems (Hung.) Budapest, 1879.
- (R. N. B.)