Page:A history of Hungarian literature.djvu/13

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centuries the great countries of Europe had not yet attained to real national unity ; Hungary, under her kings Louis the Great and Matthias Hunyadi, took the lead in that respect. Every European people has its own special gift. Greece and Italy have the gift of art ; Rome has law England political liberty and the power of planting colonies; Germany has metaphysics and scientific method ; while France is distinguished by good taste. Hungary's endowment was a strong sense of nationality, that is to say, the desire to found and to maintain a state which knitted the people into an organic whole. Simultaneously with the growth of the national spirit, and lending it strong support, arose the nation's literature. Henceforth Hungarian life and literature developed in perfect sympathy with one another, and kept pace so accurately together that, in the middle of the nineteenth century, when new aims opened before the people, and an ardent patriotism enthusiastically welcomed the new ideals of democracy, the nation's literature attained its zenith.

The principal motive of Hungarian poetry is to foster the national idea in the hearts of the people. That powerful racial element is revealed in the efforts of the Hungarians to found a strong and enduring kingdom, and in their continual struggles on behalf of their rights and unity. Their first epic poet, Sebastian Tinódi, wrote his Rhymed Chronicles after the battle of Mohács (1526), one of the greatest catastrophes known to history. What could his lays recount, save the downfall of his country, and her desperate struggles for existence? Valentine Balassa, the most noteworthy Hungarian poet of the sixteenth century, lived at the time when England saw the wrecks of the Invincible Armada floating on the