Hungarian National Anthem

Hungarian National Anthem

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Text: Anne Morawski
New Year’s Eve in Hungary is called Szilveszter because December 31st is the Name Day for people with that name. Last Szilveszter, just before the stroke of Midnight, the champagne corks were ready to pop. Suddenly the Hungarian National Anthem was being played on TV. Everyone stopped what they were doing. Children were summoned to stand tall and sing. There was a moment of solemnity before we went back to the festivities.

That was not the first time I was surprised to hear the National Anthem.  Some Lutheran churches here in Hungary sing it on Communion Sundays, Christmas, Easter, and other important occasions.  In the United States our Lutheran churches have been shaped by the separation of church and state, and by the history of Lutheranism in Hitler’s Germany.  Most flags have been removed from our sanctuaries and are used in parish halls.  I can’t think of a time when we sang the US National Anthem in a worship service, although many churches sing “America the Beautiful” and other patriotic songs on the Fourth of July weekend.  

Here in Hungary the flag is often hanging somewhere in the church.  National Holidays include Good Friday, Easter, Pentecost, Saint Istvan’s Day, All Saints Day, and Christmas, plus the day after most of those days.  There are three patriotic holidays: March 15th which is the Memorial Day for the Revolution of 1848 against the Austrians, August 20th which is the National Holiday remembering Saint Istvan, the first King of Hungary, and October 23rd which is the Memorial Day for the Revolution of 1956 against the Soviet Union.  People also remember the Treaty of Trianon after the First World War, which separated much of the Hungarian land and many Hungarian people from the nation.  There are statues and memorials commemorating all these things in almost every town I have visited.

The title of the anthem is “Himnusz” with the subtitle, “From the stormy centuries of the Hungarian people.”  The words are a prayer that God would bless Hungary.  The text was written by the poet Ferenc Kölcsey in 1823.  It has been sung to several tunes, but there was a national competition for a new tune won by Ferenc Erkel in 1844.  It became the official Hungarian National Anthem with the new Constitution in 1989.  

At the recent celebration of the March 15th Memorial Day for the Revolution of 1848 in Dabas there were speeches, folk dance performances, colorful decorations, poems recitations, and lots of patriotic songs.  I appreciate the love and respect with which Hungarians sing their anthem.  I am learning more about their history and the reasons someone might write a hymn with the subtitle, “From the stormy centuries of the Hungarian people.”  I am just beginning to understand the way they have experienced the relationship between the church and the government over the centuries. God Bless Hungary!



O God, bless the nation of Hungary
With your grace and bounty
Extend over it your guarding arm
During strife with its enemies
Long torn by ill fate
Bring upon it a time of relief
This nation has suffered for all sins
Of the past and of the future!

You brought our ancestors up
Over the Carpathians' holy peaks
By You was won a beautiful homeland
For Bendeguz's sons
And wherever flow the rivers of
The Tisza and the Danube
Árpád our hero's descendants
Will root and bloom.

For us on the plains of the Kuns
You ripened the wheat
In the grape fields of Tokaj
You dripped sweet nectar
Our flag you often planted
On the wild Turk's earthworks
And under Mátyás' grave army whimpered
Vienna's "proud fort."

Ah, but for our sins
Anger gathered in Your bosom
And You struck with Your lightning
From Your thundering clouds
Now the plundering Mongols' arrows
You swarmed over us
Then the Turks' slave yoke
We took upon our shoulders.

How often came from the mouths
Of Osman's barbarian nation
Over the corpses of our defeated army
A victory song!
How often did your own son aggress
My homeland, upon your breast,
And you became because of your own sons
Your own sons' funeral urn!

The fugitive hid, and towards him
The sword reached into his cave
Looking everywhere he could not find
His home in his homeland
Climbs the mountain, descends the valley
Sadness and despair his companions
Sea of blood beneath his feet
Ocean of flame above.

Castle stood, now a heap of stones
Happiness and joy fluttered,
Groans of death, weeping
Now sound in their place.
And Ah! Freedom does not bloom
From the blood of the dead,
Torturous slavery's tears fall
From the burning eyes of the orphans!

Pity, O Lord, the Hungarians
Who are tossed by waves of danger
Extend over it your guarding arm
On the sea of its misery
Long torn by ill fate
Bring upon it a time of relief
They who have suffered for all sins
Of the past and of the future!

Literal translation by Laszlo Korossy (2003) Wikipedia 

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