I remember from my childhood a charming school rhyme:
Maybe verdure is more luxuriant elsewhere
And the birds in the branches are singing more merrily
Perhaps, perhaps, but dearer to the heart is
A song from the Vistula River and the sands of Mazovia.
These simple words contain a universal feeling of strong emotional bond with the native land. This feeling, called nostalgia after the ancient Greeks, has many varieties and shades. Basically, it is pain due to loss, distance both in space and time. People miss their country after leaving it. This is not a permanent feeling, but usually one view, musical theme, verse of a poem, smell of a flower (or perfume) is enough to make your heart twitch.
This feeling is most beautifully expressed by poets. In Polish poetry, we can find many examples, especially in the works of those poets who were forced to live abroad. Today, after nearly two hundred years, we feel the nostalgia of our great romantic poets, who, living in beautiful France, missed their homeland or ‘little homeland’, meaning the land of childhood, the place of birth. The feeling of loss spurred idealization. Cyprian Kamil Norwid longed for "a country where a crumble of bread / was lifted from the earth by respect / for the gifts of heaven", and Chopin's music took his soul to Poland. Another giant of our literature, Juliusz Słowacki, felt nostalgia even at the sight of flying storks, which were an inseparable attribute of the native landscape.
And who among the Poles does not know the nostalgic words of Adam Mickiewicz about "home river” and native trees? Such motifs can be found in his great epic poem Pan Tadeusz.
Even today, this emotional attachment to the place of birth, landscapes of childhood and youth is deep inside us, even though the world is becoming a "global village" at an accelerated pace, that we can move quickly from country to country, from continent to continent. The most elementary feelings and emotions do not globalize easily. The great Hungarian poet Sándor Petőfi used the apt words "I admire but I don't love" in a similar context. You can admire beautiful foreign countries, their wonderful landscapes, but the greatest sentiment is one’s homeland. This is the case with me, for example.
There are cases, however, in which a special emotional bond also connects us with another country, usually when we are connected with it by the most personal feelings and memories associated with them. They extrapolate to landscapes, to sounds, images, colors and smells characteristic for this selected country. And this is also my case. And my emotional relationship with the country, which in my early youth became strongly associated with my love for the woman who also gave birth to my children. With Hungary, of course … Personal ties, the most elementary, melted the sense of alienation. What was dear to my nearest beings became equally dear to me. In such situations, a special form of dual nostalgia appears which is also experienced by my wife, a Hungarian, who misses Hungary in Poland, and Poland in Hungary.
And for me, even if "the song from the Vistula River and the sand of Mazovia", Masurian lakes, the Baltic coast, Koszalin forests or mountain landscapes of the Tatra and Karkonosze Mountains are "dearer to the heart", Hungarian landscapes have become extremely close to me. Not only do I admire, but I also love the northern shore of Lake Balaton, the picturesque Hortobágy, the majestic simplicity of the Great Hungarian Plain Alföld, the banks of the Danube and the Tisza, the lively sounds of Czardas and the longing tones of the Csángó songs, the wonderful Hungarian cities headed by the capital and unique villages surrounded by sunflower and corn fields, wine hills and bathing beaches, the charm of the landscapes of southern Hungary and the breathtaking views of the Transylvanian land shrouded in the myth of "Paradise lost."
Stanisław Vincenz, our great writer and polyhistor, who spent the years of World War II in the hospitable Hungarian land, wrote about it: "Probably distant tribes settled centuries ago, maybe somewhere near the Urals, there was news about this blessed valley, because they were breaking through one after the other through immeasurable steppes, forests and mountains."
Fascinated by the "sunny side of the Carpathians," Vincenz tried to read in Hungarian landscapes, shaping the space enriched with human works – as nature intertwines with culture in various ways – the secrets of the Magyars' soul. For the landscape, saturated with meanings and feelings, is – as the eminent poet of Transylvania, Lajos Áprily put it – "invisible writing." Read with reason and all senses …
Sándor Petőfi: Hungarian Plains (Az Alföld)
Whence the influence strange, O ye Carpathian mountains,
Wild romantic forests, where the fir trees, moving,
Bring to me the sense of beauty and of grandeur,
But no thoughts nor dreams of longing or of loving?
But the broad, flat plains, extended in the distance,
Wide in their expanse, and level as the ocean;
When on these I look, like an enfranchised eagle,
All my soul is moved with magical emotion.
Bear me upwards then – high, high above earth’s bosom,
To the realms where roll the clouds in their careering,
Let me at my feet behold the mighty Danube,
Towards the laughing Theiss with steps majestic steering.
’Neath the Delibab, see the outstretched Kumania,
Covered with its herds under the roof of heaven;
How they track their course onward in steady silence,
Towards the running stream to slack their thirsts at even.
Now I hear the rush, the galloping of the horses;
Battling of the hoofs I hear, and nostrils snorting;
Cracking of the whips, and shouting of the Csikós;
Laughs and merry song, and echoes of the sporting.
In the cottage meadows, rocked by gentle zephyrs,
Boll the golden com-waves o’er their crests ascending;
Forests tower aloft, while hang on trees prolific
Fruits like rubies red, with leaves of emerald blending.
Hither come the flocks of wild geese from the marshes,
When the dying light portends the evening’s gloaming;
Midst the reeds they hear the startled breezes rustling,
And, alarmed, take flight towards the high heaven roaming.
On the Puszta’s waste, close to a ruined cottage,
With fallen chimney, stands the Csárda – lonely dwelling.
There the Betyárs meet, from many markets gathered,
There their songs are singing, there their tales are telling.
In the Linden wood, adjacent to the Csárda,
Built upon the sands of melon tinge, is nested
The tower-falcon, screaming shrill, but never
In his deep recess by truant lads molested.
Orphan-maiden-hair in those retreats is growing,
And the thistles blue their spiky heads are waving,
Sheltered at whose foot repose the scattered acorns,
Which the dews of morn and dews of night are laving.
Far away where heaven the fettered earth has girded,
Fruit trees, with their wealth, the distant landscape cover;
While we dimly trace a-pale and misty column –
’Tis the village spire the green fields towering over.
All is charming – all – at least, to me ’tis charming;
On the flat land born and bred – I well may love it;
’Neath its sod let me repose in peace and silence,
When my corpse is wrapt in funeral shroud above it.
(Translation by Sir John Bowring – published in 1866)
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