|A Case Study on Trianon|
In the spring of 1918 a volume of poetry entitled Fagyongyok (Mistletoes) was published in the Transylvanian city of Kolozsvar, containing the collected verse of the young lyricist Sandor Remenyik, whose poems, essays and critiques had already appeared in local newspapers and periodicals such as Ellenzek (Opposition), Kolozsvari Hirlap (Kolozsvar Gazette), Uj Idok (New Times) and others. The majority of Remenyik's poems were poignant manifestations of an especially sensitive spirit: their lyrical beauty, sincerity, strong sense of morality, and distinctly humanistic attitude attracted the attention of the reading public and earned the praise of the critics.1 One of his poems, "Imadsag" (Prayer), is particularly worthy of note, not only for its effective use of imagery and delicate lyrical quality, but because it also embodies Remenyik's views regarding the role of the poet in society.2 In this poem Remenyik clearly defines his attitude toward art-an attitude to which he faithfully adhered until the end of his poetical career. "Prayer" expresses Remenyik's ardent wish to become a spokesman of his people, to be a transmitter of their pain and suffering. He entreats God to present him with the heavenly gift of the "pure silver of resounding words," with the "hammered gold of ideas" and with the "rustling silk of images," so that each line of his poetry may serve as a symbol of his nation's sorrow. He pleads with the Lord to grant him a "fiery tongue" so that he may penetrate the very essence of his nation's heart. He feels that if God were to grant his wish, even if only for a few short years, his life's mission would be fulfilled, and he would not have lived in vain. Thus, already at the beginning of his literary career, Remenyik rejected the l'art pour l'art view of literature, and his poetic mission was clearly mapped out: he wished to put his lyrical talents in the service of his nation.
Ironically, a few months after the publication of Mistletoes, such an opportunity presented itself, for there arose the need for a poet
with a mission as immediate and practical as Remenyik's. Following the armistice of November 1918 Romanian troops invaded and occupied Transylvania which had been an eastern bastion of Hungary for a millennium. By December of that same year they demanded that the region be turned over to Romania. The shock of these developments penetrated every segment of Hungarian society. Feelings of apprehension, uncertainty and disbelief became widespread, and when the new political boundaries were finalized by the Treaty of Trianon, Hungary lost one third of her population and two thirds of her territory to the successor states. Consequently, one and a half million Transylvanian Hungarians, along with the nearly two million others whose homeland had been annexed to Austria, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, were cut off from the mainstream of Hungarian society.
The dismemberment of historic Hungary was an immense blow to every Hungarian regardless of where he happened to reside. It was naturally even more difficult for those who suddenly found themselves citizens of a foreign state, and had to adjust to the different political, economic and social milieu of those states. However, no other segment of Hungarian society was touched more than the nation's intellectuals and men of letters, who have traditionally been the "conscience of their nation." Recognizing the new role that was thrust upon them by this unexpected turn of events, most of them expressed the prevailing mood of bitterness and pain; at the same time they tried to alleviate their nation's fears and uncertainties. This was particularly true among the men of letters in the successor states, and especially evident in Transylvania which had the largest number of Hungarians.
Pre-Trianon Transylvania did not nourish a separate Hungarian literary tradition, and with the exception of the flourishing memoir literature of the period of the Turkish occupation of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it did not develop a separate literary culture.3 Transylvanian Hungarian writers and poets were part of the mainstream of Hungarian literature and their uniqueness lay only in providing local color and a certain degree of regionalism. Nor were there separate Transylvanian Hungarian literary organizations, journals or publications, and not even the reading public was in any way a homogenous entity. Consequently, given the forced separation from the motherland in 1918-1920, Transylvanian Hungarian literature had to be created from scratch, and ironically
within the borders of a foreign state. Driven by the conviction that the very survival of the Hungarian minority in Transylvania depended on the existence of a flowering literary culture, virtually everyone with some literary inclination-the talented and the dilettantes-took up the pen with a hitherto unprecedented zeal. In light of the above, literature gained a new significance in Transylvania, while its practitioners, proponents and supporters had a new goal to urge them on toward greater achievements at the expense of great personal sacrifices. Gradually, the less talented and the less hardy disappeared from the scene, while the talented and persevering assumed the additional task of establishing the institutional base for the new Transylvanian literature. Most of these were middle-class, professional people, including doctors, architects, lawyers and priests. They took it upon themselves to organize the literary and cultural life of their people, as well as to create a need for high quality literature that would serve as a unifying force among the Hungarian population. Furthermore, many of them also felt that Transylvania should eventually evolve into a model multinational region, and thus serve as an example for the entire European community. Consequently, this firm belief in the missionary goal of literature dominated the lives of such outstanding personalities as Karoly Kos, Sandor Makkai, Aladar Kuncz, Elek Benedek and numerous others without whose untiring organizing and literary activities, Transylvanian Hungarian literature would not have been able to rise to such heights.4 The 330 newspapers and journals and the approximately fifty book publication series that were established between 1919 and 1926 attest to the flourish of literary activity.5 Naturally only a relatively small percentage of these proved viable enough to survive for an extended period of time, but those that withstood the vicissitudes of the new political, social and economic environment, served to keep Hungarian literary life alive in Transylvania. The most prominent and influential of the newly established journals were the conservative Pasztortuz (Shepherd's Fire) (1920-1944), the socialist-oriented Napkelet (The Orient) (1920-1924), the progressive Erdelyi Helikon (Transylvanian Helicon) (1928-1944) and the socialist Korunk (Our Time) (1926-1940). In spite of the great variation in the basic social, political and ideological orientation of these journals, their goals were identical: aiding the survival of the Hungarian population and the maintenance of Hungarian culture in Transylvania. From among
the numerous publication series ventures, only the conservative-oriented Minerva and the more progressive Erdelyi Szepmives Ceh (Transylvanian Literary Guild) survived until the end of World War II. The literary society that had the most far-reaching influence, and included in its ranks the greatest number of outstanding men of letters, was the Erdelyi Helikon (Transylvanian Helicon) which was established in 1926 and functioned until 1944.
In the modern Hungarian tradition, poetry has always played a special role in the dissemination of ideas. Therefore in Transylvania of the post-Trianon period, it was the lyric poets who first began to express the prevailing mood of despair and uncertainty, while at the same time they also attempted to soften the blow and hold up a glimmer of hope for those who were despondent. Of the many scores of "poets" who raised their voices in the midst of this national tragedy, only about twenty succeeded in surviving the initial period. Most of the others turned to poetry only by the force of circumstances, and as such, the majority of them were unable to rise above the patriotic jingoism that reflected much pain and bitterness, but very little of the needed poetic touch. The two major exceptions to this rule were Lajos Aprily and Sandor Remenyik, both of whom came to embody the new and unique Transylvanian-Hungarian spirit in Romania during the interwar period.6 For both of these poets, as well as for the others, "Transylvania" became a mysterious and almost magical word with its own unique significance. It symbolized the tragedy that befell the Hungarian nation with the loss of its ancient land as well as over one and a half million of their fellow co-nationals. The special meaning of the word "Transylvania" is well illustrated, among others, by Aprily's well-known poem "Teton" (At the Top), which he fittingly dedicated to Karoly Kos, in honor of the latter's efforts on behalf of Hungarian culture and literature in Transylvania.7 However, during the initial period of turmoil and uncertainty, it was Sandor Remenyik who captured most effectively the mood of his compatriots and expressed it with the greatest poetic zeal. For this reason, it was Remenyik who enjoyed the widest popularity for the longest period of time. Thus, although under conditions that neither he, nor anyone else expected, Remenyik's prayerful wish to become a spokesman for his nation's agony was prophetically realized.
Remenyik's poems produced a great sensation both in Transylvania and in Hungary even before his real name became known. Following the publication of his first volume, many of his poems
began to appear under the pseudonym of "Vegvari" (Frontier Fighter) for political reasons. The enthusiastic fervor of these poems fulfilled a mission during the first period of Romanian occupation, awakening the stunned Hungarian nation on both sides of the border to political realities. The Vegvari poems were passed secretly from hand to hand and were eagerly read by all Hungarians. Some were typed, while others were handwritten on scraps of paper and smuggled into Hungary by those who were fleeing from Transylvania. By the fall of 1919 many of these poems appeared in the leading Budapest newspapers under the title Bujdoso Versek (Poems in Hiding) or independently under the name of "Vegvari."8 Soon thereafter they were collected and published in a small volume by the Hungarian Territorial Integrity League, and then in 1921 in an expanded version under the title Vegvari Versek (Vegvari Poems). Subsequently, several other editions followed. For years to come there was hardly a commemorative festival or patriotic gathering without a few Vegvari poems on the program.9
It is not the intention of this study to provide a critical analysis of the aesthetic and literary merits of Remenyik's Vegvari poems. Our purpose is to assess their impact on the Hungarian mind in the immediate post-Trianon period, and to identify the dominant themes that made this impact possible. It cannot be denied that the widespread popularity of these poems was due largely to the sentiments expressed in them. Yet, one has to admit that Remenyik's artistic and literary talent also contributed considerably to their success. Their aesthetic value is enhanced by the poet's ability to utilize the special rhythm of language and to create allegories and symbols from simple natural images. And what makes the Vegvari poems especially effective and powerful is their sincere tone and lack of affectation.
The Vegvari poems are faithful reflections of the mood of wretchedness felt by the "abandoned" Hungarians in Transylvania. Many of them express unfaltering loyalty to Hungary and the Hungarian nation, while others inspire hope for a favorable solution to the nation's predicament. Furthermore, they also encourage an attitude of fortitude and strength in the face of adverse circumstances. The poems reflect a wide range of moods, from anger to defiance, from hopelessness to resolve. But above all, they offer solace. The soft lyricism of Remenyik's Mistletoes is replaced in the Vegvari poems by a newly-found and profound tone of determination. His
resoluteness is illustrated, among others, by the concluding lines of his poem "Atok" (Curse): "Would that God curse this land, if it is taken away from us!"10 In another poem "Ne legyen tavasz!" (Let there be no more Spring!) he sadly ascertains that "God had died and that "there is no one and nothing to believe in any more!" His attitude of defiance is attested to by another poem, wherein he reminds the occupying Romanian troops that Hungarians will take note of all the atrocities committed against them, and when the time is ripe "these will be repaid."
Although there is a certain degree of bitterness in a number of Remenyik's Vegvari poems, this does not hold true for the majority of them, which are neither bitter recriminations, nor promises of revenge, but simply express a sincere concern for the future of his people in Transylvania. Because of the mass flight of the Hungarians, Remenyik feared that his narrower homeland would soon be depopulated of Hungarians and consequently lost to Hungary forever. He firmly believed that in spite of the altered political boundaries, Hungarians did have a place in Transylvania, and under no circumstances should they abandon the land that had been their home for over a thousand years. As the Hungarian exodus that began after the Romanian occupation continued unabated, Remenyik felt compelled to speak up against it repeatedly. In his "Erdely magyarjaihoz" (To the Hungarians in Transylvania) he calls on Hungarians to pull their resources, face the unknown with courage, and never to give up what is rightfully theirs. He expresses confidence in his nation's ability to surmount these calamitous circumstances and reminds them that although history has not always been kind to them, they have still been able to survive. In his words, "Life is everlasting in us." He admits that "harsh times" are still ahead of them, and he concedes that their suffering and sorrow may become so intense that only their faintly audible heartbeats will reveal the life that is still left in them. But then he consoles them by pointing out that at least "these heartbeats will be Hungarian."
Remenyik's lyrical talent and his determination to survive as a Hungarian are aptly demonstrated by another Vegvari poem in the same vein, entitled "Eredj ha tudsz!." (Leave if you can!). This poem attracted perhaps the greatest attention and attained the widest popularity among the Hungarian reading public. Besides the skillful use of the sounds and rhythm of language, Remenyik uses especially vivid and appropriate imagery as he expresses the innermost yearnings
of his soul. He begins with a satirical tone, calling on Transylvanian Hungarians to leave their homeland, "if they can," while at the same time hoping and knowing that most of them won't:
Leave, if you can ...
Leave, if you think,
That somewhere, anywhere in the world beyond
It will be easier to bear your fate.
Fly like a swallow, to the south,
Or northward, like a bird of storm,
And from high above in the wide skies
Search for the place
Where you can build a nest,
Leave, if you can.
Leave if you hope
Against hope that homelessness
Is less bitter abroad than at home.
Leave, if you think
That out in the world
Memory will not carve new crosses from
Your soul, from that sensitive
Remenyik also reminds his compatriots that "sorrow and homesickness will crucify them on the crosses of memory." He recalls the fate of Kelemen Mikes,-a scribe to the exiled Prince Ferenc Rakoczi II in the early eighteenth century,-who "was unable to live in a captive land" and therefore chose the life of an exile in Turkey on the shores of the Sea of Marmora. Yet, Mikes's heart was never at peace, for it was "torn by the frenzied hordes of memory." Then the poet, almost cynically repeats the refrain: "Go, if you can,! Toss all your old dreams into the winds,! Go through jungles, across the sea;! Offer your two working hands." He shows his own determination not to abandon his homeland as he continues:
Home I shall remain,
Darkly croaking, like a
Winter crow on a dead poplar tree.
I know not yet
Whether I shall ever find a quiet corner
But I shall stay at home.
I'll be a grinding worm in an alien wood,
I'll be the sediment in an emptied cup,
I'll be the poison in foreign blood,
Or a miasma,-fever, a lurking despicable wretch,
But I shall stay at home!
I want to be the toll of death,
Which buries men, yet sings to listening ears
And incites us: to take back what was once ours,
I want to be the fuse of fire,
Part of the wick, blazing blood,
Which secretly crawls for years
Through ashes in the midst of the night
Until finally it reaches the powdercask of sorrow,
And then ... !
Remenyik concludes his poem with a somewhat resigned, yet compelling tone:
I know not yet
Whether I shall ever find a quiet corner
But until then,
Darkly croaking, like a
Winter crow on a dead poplar tree
I shall stay at home.
The pervasive earnestness of Remenyik's tone, his lively imagination, his use of symbolism, and his ability to create moving images resulted in a number of laudatory critiques of his Vegvari poems. These included assessments by such noted poets and literary critics as Dezso Kosztolanyi, who asserted that the popularity of the Vegvari poems was due not only to their content and message, as often assumed, but also to their demonstrated aesthetic quality.11 In an article published in 1920 in the progressive Budapest literary journal Nyugat (West) Kosztolanyi pointed out the unknown poet's sincerity, his keen sense of perception, as well as his unusual ability to portray his innermost emotions and to transmit these feelings to his readers. Kosztolanyi was particularly taken by the poem
"Leave, if you can," and especially by the lines "darkly croaking, like a winter crow on a dead poplar tree. " "After I read these lines, " he wrote, "I have become aware of what it is to be one of the millions of Hungarians in Transylvania. Through this uniquely artistic interpretation I experienced fully the profound and distant sorrow that they must have experienced." Kosztolanyi referred to the Vegvari poems as a "new literary type, sadly timely and agonizing," and he extended a warm if mournful welcome to the "unknown poet" and to his "unfathomable sorrow.
Besides the conviction that Hungarians do have a future in Transylvania, and therefore should not leave their thousand-year-old homeland, many of Remenyik's poems also express his fundamental loyalty and attachment to the concept of an undivided Hungarian nation. The editors of the small volume Vegvari Poems also allude to this strong sense of fidelity to the nation as a whole: "Transylvania, with all its riches, had now become a prey. Only one of its treasures had remained untouched: its loyalty to the (Hungarian) nation."12 A poem that expresses most emphatically this idea is the "Harom szin" (Tricolor). The poet begins by stating that Hungarians are now forbidden to wear their national colors on their lapels. But this does not mean that these colors and what they represent are now lost forever. No, they have simply sunk deeper into the hearts of the people. And even if the lives of Transylvanian Hungarians is "a waste, and the landscape is dipped in blood," and the wearing of the tricolor is forbidden, their heartbeats will always be Hungarian.
For the tricolor our longing hearts
Will burn and bleed,
Let those who have torn them off,
Tear them from our hearts.
While serving as a catharsis for the poet's and his mutilated nation's pent-up emotions, the Vegvari poems raised the consciousness of the nation as a whole and offered hope and consolation to all Hungarians in Transylvania, in the successor states, as well as to those in the mother country. In the poem "Nagy magyar telben picike tuzek," (Tiny Fires in the Great Hungarian Winter), the poet calls on all Hungarians to keep their "tiny fires burning," and then to unite these fires into a giant flame. He admits that there has never before been such a need for unity as today, and if they would only
join forces, their combined flames could reach right up to the starry skies and consume everything therein, including the sorrow and misery of the Hungarians.
In another poem, "Szurony erdoben" (Forest of Bayonets), he concludes that the "dark forest (his world) is swarming with the enemy; yet,
In the depth of the forest
Faith, Idea and Dreams continue to walk about,
And they are bound to conquer death.
The poem "Nehez homalyban" (In Dark Shadows) has the same message. It also stresses the importance of joining forces: "No matter how dark the woods may be/ Let's not let go of each other's hands/ We, abandoned, motherless orphans: we Magyars." In the "Uj Szovetseg" (New Testament) Remenyik likewise bewails the fate of his nation, and does so with the "horrible screams of agony." He shouts his pain into the soundless night: "The country exists no more. ... !" Yet, he still concludes his laments with a sign of hope: "At least there are still some Hungarians left."
Another of Remenyik's concerns was that the Treaty of Trianon would inevitably give rise to a certain degree of dissent and lack of understanding among the various branches of the dismembered Hungarian nation. He feared that the physical destruction of historic Hungary would be followed by spiritual and ideological disunity. This fear is forcefully expressed in Remenyik's address to his fellow poets in rump Hungary: "Nemely pesti poetanak" (To Some Poets of Pest) where he wonders aloud whether the loss of Transylvania and the other territories of historic Hungary had really caused any pain for the Budapest writers and poets. He wishes "he could gaze into their souls" to see how they pass their time, what they are writing about, and what causes the greatest concern to them. He even explores the possibility that they may already have forgotten their fellow Hungarians in the separated parts of former Hungary, and that they are merely playing around with "colorful words," while their Transylvanian brethren are being "choked to death by the hands of the enemy." The poet wishes that Budapest writers could see the plight of their suffering kin beyond the new frontiers. He refers to Transylvania as Hungary's "dead child," and asks the mother country (impersonated by their fellow poets) to take this
child into her lap and bemoan its death like a "wailing Rachel," and to do so with "the strangled verse" of a condemned Transylvanian bard. He wishes they could see the "bloody rags" they are forced to wear "to wrap their beggar bodies," and to witness the work of those "wicked hands that are destroying homes and are tearing holy chains apart." He would also like them to witness the plight of their fleeing brethren, who have been driven from their homes like dogs. They only have time to whisper their final good-byes to the land that has nurtured them and to the trees that have watched over their lives, and henceforth will shadow only the graves of their ancestors. Remenyik ends his plea by proclaiming his powerful desire to scorch these images into the very hearts of his Budapest colleagues, so that they will always carry these images with them, and think and write only about their compatriots in Transylvania.
Further analysis of the themes and general content of the Vegvari poems would indubitably add new elements to the nature of the emotional reaction to Trianon, but it would also lead to repetitions. Each of his poems reflects a specific aspect of the emotional and intellectual bewilderment of the Hungarian mind in those fateful days; furthermore, most of them are aesthetically sensitive, generally accurate and, in their impact, very successful reflections. It is not known exactly when the identity of the author of the Vegvari poems became known to the public, but we know that as late as 1926, the Magyar Irodalmi Lexikon (Hungarian Literary Encyclopedia) lists "Remenyik's" and "Vegvari's" poetical activities under two separate headings, giving no indication whatsoever that the two were identical and that the Vegvari poems were actually composed by the former.
Sandor Remenyik continued to write poetry for the next two decades. Altogether he published fourteen volumes of verse until his death at the age of 51 in 1941. Although he was a man of frail physical constitution and deteriorating health, he was extremely active throughout the interwar years. He wrote poetry and took an active part in the shaping of the Hungarian literary and cultural life in Transylvania. He was one of the founding members of the already mentioned journal Pasztortuz (Shepherd's Fire), which he edited between 1921 and 1923, and then after 1924 was one of its chief contributors. Naturally, the passage of time, the inevitable consolidation that followed Trianon, and the altered conditions and new challenges gradually directed the poet's attention away from the
shock effect of Trianon and from the resulting emotional outbursts that he expressed so succinctly in his Vegvari poems. His basic poetic tone, however, did not change, and his popularity as a poet continued unabated. Prevailing circumstances forced him to turn inward and to become more concerned with matters of the spirit.13 His turning to the spiritual aspects of human existence also had its impact on his appreciation of the beauty of nature. Descriptions of the simple, yet magnanimous quality of the Transylvanian countryside, and the portrayal of the everyday lives of the simple folk around him began to dominate his poetry, which thereby became more profound and universal both in its content and in its form of expression. Gradually Remenyik emerged as one of the dominant literary figures and perhaps the most beloved and respected lyric poets in interwar Transylvanian Hungarian literature. Yet, the tragedy of Trianon and its after effects continued to haunt him; they remained one of the underlying forces of his literary art, as demonstrated by so many of his later poems and other writings. The diminishing number of Hungarian schools and churches, mixed marriages between Magyars and non-Magyars and the consequent decline of their numbers, and the slow deterioration of the spoken language among the younger generation are all common themes in his poetry even during the late 1930's and early 1940's.14 For example, in his poem "Az Ige" (The Word of God), he warns his compatriots not to take the Hungarian language lightly, and to speak it with reverence they would use when speaking to God. He warns them that their native tongue "is their last bastion, a fairy castle and (protective) catacomb."15 Thus, they should speak it as if they were reciting a prayer, as if they were "bringing gold, frankincense and myrrh," to the Lord of Heavens. In this poem, Remenyik also affirms his original belief in the historical mission of poetry as the upholder and promoter of humanistic, ethical, and moral values:
For he who is a poet, must also be a king,
A priest, and a prophet; never anything else.
In 1933 one of his devoted admirers asked Remenyik in a private letter why he ceased to write more Vegvari poems. Remenyik felt compelled to answer this question publicly in a poem entitled "Miert hallgatott el Vegvari?" (Why Has Vegvari Become Silent).16 He explained that when Vegvari's voice broke forth from the depth of the
earth, it may have been appropriate for those times. But times had changed. The stake had burned itself out, new challenges had come to the fore, the needs of the people had changed, and a poet's heart could not produce new songs for needs that had been passed up by time. And "to sing without a songless heart" is simply impossible. No, he did not change his views about the injustices of Trianon, for that which has eternal validity cannot be changed, altered or destroyed by earthly misdeeds and sinful human instruments. He was convinced that "what is deeply Hungarian in us" is a force that "no foreign hand can reach" or tamper with. Yet, he also knew that one cannot fight the impossible, but one has to wait for it to pass. In the meantime, however, the nation must live, struggle, procreate and survive. And it must also learn to coexist with others; with the other, and perhaps equally worthy nationalities of their small common homeland, Transylvania. By coming to these conclusions Remenyik gradually transformed himself from a rather embittered bard of Trianon's miseries, to a humane troubadour of national coexistence in the much suffered land of Hungarians, Saxons and Romanians:
It is not our duty to deliver justice.
Our only duty is to be fair and just.
It was this new view of the world and new view of his role as a poet that forced Remenyik to give up his "other self" (Vegvari) and to cease being the herald and bemoaner of his nation's sufferings. "From the wild struggle of his life, he fled to God," and entrusted the Lord with the task of dispensing justice to each according to his merits and demerits.17
This attitude was not only new with Remenyik, but it also conflicted increasingly with the general view of Hungary's political leadership. The latter continued to be intensely nationalistic, and the regime's revisionism was even strengthened by a general tilt to the Right during the 1930's. Moreover, this tilt to the Right was also accompanied by a comparable decrease in the regime's humanitarian content and by the simultaneous increase in its nationalist propaganda. This playing upon national antagonisms and ethnic differences, however, did not sit well with Remenyik's new world view. He retained much of his earlier popularity in Hungary, but that popularity continued to rest almost exclusively on his earlier Vegvari
poems. His new poetry remained either generally unknown, or if known, then largely unappreciated by the reading public that was still being nurtured by the emotional nationalism that had been generated in the immediate pre- and post-Trianon years.
By the mid 1930's Remenyik's name became closely connected with his narrower homeland. He was often referred to simply as "the Transylvanian poet," a designation that could hardly have come into being without Trianon. "The Transylvanian Poet"18 is the title that the editor of the journal Nyugat (West), Mihaly Babits, had given to his review of one of Remenyik's last volumes of poetry Magasfeszultseg (High Voltage) (1940). Babits pointed out that, in a sense, Remenyik of 1940 has returned to the world of his early years. The quiet, meditative and self-searching tone of the Mistletoes (1918) has resurfaced in the poems of his last volume. [n both collections Remenyik bares his soul and the spiritual struggles he has been waging. While it may be impossible for a superficial observer to discern similarities between these lyrical self-searchings and the emotional outbursts and fighting zeal displayed by Remenyik in his Vegvari poems, they are the products of the same mind and spirit. Babits observed that the whole of Remenyik's poetical output originated from the same "mysterious inner compulsion" that moved the poet during his entire life and career. In light of the above, Babits was convinced that Remenyik has remained true to himself, and that he expressed in his poetry only those views and emotions that were closest to him at a given time. Finally, as Babits pointed out, the entire spectrum of Remenyik's poetical output was the sincere manifestation of "a human being, a Transylvanian, and a Hungarian."
From a hospital bed in Budapest, the seriously ill Remenyik thanked Babits for the candid evaluation of his poetical works.19 Remenyik found great comfort in the critic's and fellow poet's understanding of his poetry, and called Babits's concluding statement a strong consolation to me in the future, if there is still a future for me." Ironically, within less than a year, both poets passed away, Babits being the first to go. Now, forty years later, one cannot help recognizing that, although Remenyik's entire poetic career had been shaped and in a way determined by the results of the Treaty of Trianon, at the end he still triumphed over his anger and his bitterness. For this reason it is crucial to see him in his entirety: as a true Hungarian, as a true Transylvanian, and also as a true human being. He should be viewed as a man and as a poet, who like Tennyson's
Ulysses, never ceased "to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield." And Hungarian lyric poetry is the better for it; for without having been Vegvari for a few short years, the aesthetic interpretation of Trianon's impact upon the Hungarian soul would also be poorer.
1. For a general discussion of Sandor Remenyik's poetry see the following more important studies: Elemer Jancso, Remenyik Sandor elete es kolteszete [The Life and Poetry of Sandor Remenyik] (Kolozsvar, 1942). 44 pp.; Istvan Boross, A Janus-arcu kolto, Remenyik Vegvari emlekezete [The Janus-faced Poet. Remenyik's Vegvari Poems] (Mezotur, 1943), 41 pp.; Gyorgy Kristof, Remenyik Sandor (Kolozsvar, 1944); Joseph Remenyi, "Sandor Remenyik, Transylvanian Regionalist, 1890-1942 [sic]," in: Joseph Remenyi, Hungarian Writers and Literature (New Brunswick, N. J.: Rutgers University Press, 1964), pp. 437-443; and Laszlo Imre, "Remenyik Sandor utolso korszaka. Fejezet a magyar humanista, antifasiszta kolteszet tortenetebol" [Sandor Remenyik's Last Years: A Chapter in the History of Hungarian Humanist, Anti-fascist Poetry] Irodalomtortenet Vol. 62, no.2 (1980), pp. 339-352.
2. Cf. Remenyik Sandor osszes versei [The Complete Poems of Sandor Remenyik] 2 vols. (Budapest: Revai, 1941) I, p. 43. Today the poems of Remenyik are rather difficult to come by. His poetry has not been published in Hungary since 1943, although two collections have appeared in the West: Eredj, ha tudsz! [Leave, if you can!] (Koln: Vorosmarty Irodalmi Kor, 1958), 62 pp.; Remenyik Sandor versei [Sandor Rernenyik's Poetry] (Lyndhurst, N. J.: Kalaka, 1976), 309 pp. The English translations of Remenyik's poems are my own.
3. For a discussion of Transylvanian Hungarian literature see the following: "Magyar irodalom Romaniaban," [Hungarian Literature in Romania] in Miklos Szabolcsi, ed., A magyar irodalom tortenete 1919-tol napjainkig [The History of Hungarian Literature from 1919 to the Present] (Budapest: Akademiai Kiado, 1966), pp. 924-1000; "Magyar irodalom Romaniaban," [Hungarian Literature in Romania] in: Miklos Beladi and Gyorgy Bodnar, eds., A magyar irodalom tortenete 1905-tol napjainkig [The History of Hungarian Literature from 1905 to the Present] (Budapest: Gondolat, 1967), pp. 735-766; Mihaly Czine, Magyar irodalom Romaniaban [Hungarian Literature in Romania] (Budapest, 1967) 15 pp. Reprinted from Jelenkor Vol. 10, no.12, (1967); Elemer Jancso, "Az erdelyi magyar lira tizenot eve," [Fifteen Years of Transylvanian Hungarian Lyric Poetry] in Elemer Jancso, Kortarsaim [My Contemporaries] (Bucharest: Kriterion, 1976), pp. 27-97.
4. For an authentic view of the flurry of activity that surrounded the creation of a separate Transylvanian Hungarian literature see: Elemer Jancso,
Kortarsaim and Sandor Huszar, Beszelgetesek kortars irokkal [Interviews with Contemporary Authors] (Bukarest: Irodalmi Konyvkiado, 1969).
5. "Hungarian Literature in Romania," in The History of Hungarian Literature from 1905 to the Present, p. 738.
6. Although Aprily left Transylvania in 1929 to settle in Budapest, and later in the vicinity of Visegrad, he continued to live under the spell of his beloved homeland, and often yearned to return.
7. Lajos Aprily, Megnott a csend. Osszegyujtott versek [Silence Grew. Collected Poems] (Budapest: Szepirodalmi Konyvkiado, 1972), pp. 92-93.
8. For the reception of the Vegvari poems, see "Vegvari" in Magyar Irodalmi Lexikon Hungarian Literary Encyclopedia] (Budapest: Studium, 1926), p. 840.
9. The volume Vegvari versek [Vegvari poems] contains those poems that previously appeared in a collection entitled Segitsetek [Help] and 38 other poems as well.
10. All subsequent quotations of the Vegvari poems are taken from the volume Vegvari Poems. The English translations are mine.
11. See Dezso Kosztolanyi's article "Vegvari versei," [The Poems of Vegvari] Nyugat (1920), pp. 323-324.
12. Vegvari Poems, p. 5.
13. Laszlo Nemeth believed that the aesthetic quality of Remenyik's poetry improved significantly when he abandoned the tone of the Vegvari poems. See L. Nemeth: "Remenyik Sandor," in: L. Nemeth, Ket nemzedek [Two Generations] (Budapest: Magveto es Szepirodalmi Konyvkiado. 1970), pp. 202-206.
14. Two of his well-known poems should be mentioned here: "Ha nem lesz tobbe iskolank," [When We Won't Have Any More Schools] and "Templom es iskola," [Church and School] in The Complete Poems of Sandor Remenyik, I, p. 523; II, p. 334. An especially beautiful lyrical poem about mixed marriage is "Elpartolt liliomszal," [Disloyal Lily]. ibid.. II. p. 336.
15. The Complete Poems, I, p. 427.
16. The Complete Poems, II. pp. 332-333.
17. Ibid., p.333.
18. Mihaly Babits, "Az erdelyi kolto." [The Transylvanian Poet] Nyugat (1940), pp. 388-392.
19. Remenyik's letter to Babits is reprinted in Nyugat (1940), pp. 532-533.
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