Page:A history of Hungarian literature.djvu/28

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

man that many an outburst of violence was due. How many cruel and thoughtless deeds may be found even in the life of St. Stephen himself. He blinded his relative, the innocent Basil, in order that he might not claim the throne. Yet Stephen was one of the most pious and thoughtful monarchs of the Middle Ages. Foreign chroniclers, when describing King Kálmán the Wise, agree that he surpassed all contemporary monarchs in knowledge and wisdom, yet he, also, punished his rebellious brother Álmos and his young son by depriving them of sight. Even Louis the Great and John Hunyadi displayed some of the wild ferocity of the times in their wars.

In Hungary, the Middle Ages were less marked by religious zeal and exaltation, and also by intolerance, than in the Western countries. The character of its people has always been distinguished for sobriety and reserve. This, undoubtedly, was advantageous in so far as it aided political development, but, on the other hand, it deprived the nation of the literature of religious fervour. Nevertheless, Christianity was blended with the strong national feeling of the Hungarians, and each profoundly modified the other instead of developing along separate lines. Proof of this is furnished by many historical tales and monuments.

The Blessed Virgin is not only a religious idea, but also the patron saint of Hungary. One of the Hungarian kings, St. Ladislas (1094), was canonised, and renowned as a most pious Crusader, yet he was at the same time the most popular and chivalrous soldier of the battlefield. He is the only king whose memory has been enshrined equally in the folk-lore, in sacred legends, and in the frescoes on the walls of churches. He forms the