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  Bálint Balassi (1554-1594)
  Born in the fortress of Zólyom (today Zvolen in Slovakia), the scion of a noble family,
  Bálint Balassi (who also spelled his name 'Balassa') is, by universal agreement, the first
  major Hungarian poet, comparable to Sir Philip Sidney in England and to Ronsard and
  Du Bellay in France.
  His poetry (including a verse form he invented, of which more below) signals the
  maturity of the Hungarian language as a full-fledged medium of literary expression, on a
  par with the other languages of 16th-century Europe.

Balassi was sent to Nuremberg at the age of twelve to learn German and was later

  educated by Péter Bornemisza (q.v), another writer in the vernacular, who instilled a
  deep religiosity in him. In the early 1570s, on the basis of false allegations, his father
  was accused of high treason and had to flee with his family to Poland. Bálint himself
  later took part in a campaign against Prince István Báthory of Transylvania and was
  taken prisoner. However, Báthory, who was elected king of Poland in 1576, refused to
  extradite Balassi to the Turks, freed him, and took him to Poland. The poet spoke fluent
  Turkish, Italian, German, and Polish.
  In 1577 he accompanied Báthory to Danzig [Gdan´sk in Polish] to put down the city's of
  rebellion, but upon hearing the news of his father's unexpected death he returned
  home. Then he became a professional soldier in Eger, defending the border-lands
  against the Turks. In 1578 he won the heart of Anna Losonczy, the wife of the Palatine
  Croatia. She became the eponymous heroine of Balassi's "Julia Poems."
  He declared his loyalty to the King of Hungary, but because of his Polish connections and
  family relations with the Transylvanian Prince, he remained under suspicion. In 1585 he
  married his cousin, Krisztina Dobó, the daughter of a famous military commander. He
  was tied up in a lot of fruitless litigation about his various possessions, some of them
  large fortresses. Both he and his wife became Roman Catholics. Despite this, he was
  granted a divorce when it became known that his wife had been unfaithful to him. He
  started courting the wealthy Anna Losonczy again, who had been widowed in the
  meantime, but she scorned him and married someone else. After this point his life
  became one calamity after another.
  In 1594 he fought in the battle of Esztergom and was mortally wounded on May 19th;
  he died of blood poisoning a few days later. His orphaned son was cared for by his
  sister, who later sent the boy to Transylvania where he died at age sixteen

This tormented, adventurous, and typically Renaissance character, whose fate

  resembles that of the Italian Benvenuto Cellini, wrote some of the most sublime poetry,
  frequently sung to lute accompaniment. Although his religious poems were published in
  1632, it was not until two hundred years later that his martial and erotic poetry reached
  print. His work is a deeply focused mirror of his own troubled life and contains elements
  of contemporary Turkish, Polish, and Hungarian folk poetry. He was also influenced by
  the Psalms and by neo-Latin Western European poets such as Michele Marullus (1453-
  1500) and Hieronymus Angerianus (ca. 1520).
  Balassi was the first Hungarian poet who wrote entire cycles of poems dedicated to he
  given subjects, such as his cycle of poems dedicated to "Julia" and another cycle which
  dedicated to "Célia."
  Additionally, Balassi wrote a five-act play entitled Szép magyar komédia [A Beautiful
  Hungarian Comedy] in 1589, patterned on the Italian Castelletti's pastoral play
  Amarilli, dealing with the love of 'Credulus' and 'Júlia.' This play is prefaced by a
  statement in which Balassi indicates that he intends to create love poetry in the
  Hungarian language. He points out that love poetry is respectable all over the world and
  should therefore be accepted in Hungary also.
  Balassi made a unique contribution to Hungarian poetry: he invented the 'Balassi
  stanza.' Its basic structure, which he occasionally varies, is 6-6-7 syllables with an
  [aab/ccb/ddb/eeb] rhyming scheme. The most typical Balassi stanza can be seen in the
  first poem featured herein, 'Soldiers' Song.' In the original it goes as follows:
Vitézek, mi lehet Soldiers, what finer worth
ez széles föld felett is there upon this earth
szebb dolog az végeknél? than the borderlands can show?
Holott kikeletkor Where in the time of Spring
az sok szép madár szól beautiful birds all sing
kivel ember ugyan él; setting our hearts all aglow-
Mező jó illatot, the fields have a fresh smell
az ég szép harmatot where dew from heaven fell,
ád, ki kedves mindennél. delighting us through and through.
  Some English translators, e.g., Bosley and Sherwood, do not strictly observe this rhyme
  scheme. We present this poem in both formats, the original Balassi stanza, and the
  modified rhythm. Balassi performed numerous variations on this pattern both in his
  religious poetry and in his martial and erotic poems, using far better and more original
  rhymes in Hungarian than any other poet before him. This verse form became highly
  popular and was imitated for a long time by lesser poets as well as by unknown writers.
  Echoes of Balassi's lyrics return in the work of Hungary's greatest Rococo poet, Mihály
  Csokonai Vitéz (q.v.), and that of some 20th-century poets.
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