Page:A history of Hungarian literature.djvu/25

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The forces of nature had not to be laboriously conquered as they are to-day ; they were all expected to be at the service of morality, blessing or injuring, to enforce her precepts. A bright star descended from Heaven and shone above the tomb of St. Ladislas. The beasts of the field either became tame domestic animals or performed symbolical duties. When St. Benedict died a martyr's death near the river Vág, an eagle hovered above the water for a whole year. Over the death-bed of St. Elizabeth there fluttered a bird, singing sweetly. Among these legendary figures is St. Margaret, daughter of King Béla IV., clad in a coarse, hairy garment, her tortured body sore with self-inflicted wounds, around her waist a hempen girdle studded with sharp nails, and in her hand a scourge, while the tearful eyes are filled with a look of pain and yet of exaltation. The nun, in that age, was not less heroic than the knight.

What extremes religious fanaticism reached, and how in its exaltation it trampled under foot everything which we hold sacred in human life, is clearly reflected in the mirror of these legends. When St. Elizabeth was informed of the death of her husband, who had gone to the Holy Land in accordance with her advice, the legend tells how "she offered her fervent thanksgivings to God." As soon as her neighbours were aware that she had become a widow, alone and unprotected, they turned against her and robbed her of all her estates. "And then," says the narrative, "the noble daughter of the king was driven to live in a pig-sty where she poured out her thanks to God for all her trials and misery. When morning came she rose and went to the monks, who were named after St. Francis, and implored them to sing a Te Deum laudamus for her. As she passed along