Page:A history of Hungarian literature.djvu/21

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III

THE MIDDLE AGES

It was in the tenth century that the Hungarians came from Asia, founded their state, and embraced Christianity, and were thus brought into contact with the Europe of the Middle Ages, and shared in its civilisation. Some features of that civilisation were common to every country. All the nations of Christendom possessed the two fundamental institutions of the Church and Chivalry. And community of religion in those days, when religion was the chief source of light for men, meant vastly more than it does now. The mass, the liturgy, and the majority of the legends were the same everywhere. Two stars shone in the sky during the long night of the Middle Ages : religion and the spirit of chivalry. The relics of Hungarian literature which have come down to us from that epoch reveal the influence of only one of those two great luminaries — religion. All the works inspired by the genius of chivalry have been lost. There is a whole library of legends in prose, laboriously inscribed on parchment and decorated with initials by pious monks and nuns ; but they all breathe a spirit of fervent piety, and are not concerned with chivalry.

The first brilliant figure of the later Renaissance was King Matthias Hunyadi, whose great name evoked the slumbering forces of the national poetic genius.