We've got three extra boys at our house this week, and life is a little bit overwhelming. But I am determined to keep my TMFW streak intact. So we've got an entry today, but it is a straightforward one. It's the story of Hungary's crazy national anthem. The song is called "Himnusz," meaning "anthem," and its subtitle was initially "A magyar nép zivataros századaiból," which means "from the stormy centuries of the Hungarian people." You can hear it here (with lyrics to the first verse).
What makes the song today's TMFW is that, contrary to the idea of a national anthem being a celebration of a country's virtues, Hungary's is basically a recital of all the terrible things that have happened to the country through the ages. The first verse previews the sorrow, with the lines: "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!"
And it only gets worse from there. The song laments that "for our sins / Anger gathered in Your bosom / And You struck with Your lightning / From Your thundering clouds." It talks about "the plundering Mongols' arrows," and then "the Turks' slave yoke," and then references how the Ottoman Empire's soldiers sang a victory song "over the corpses of our defeated army."
Then it tells the story of a lone fugitive who hides from the violence and roams the land, with a "sea of blood beneath his feet, [and an] ocean of flame above." It references a castle that is "now a heap of stones," with "groans of death, [and] weeping" replacing the sounds of happiness and joy. And for the big happy ending, the song's last stanzas assure the listener that life is still no better: "freedom does not bloom from the blood of the dead," but instead "tortuous slavery's tears fall from the burning eyes of the orphans." The song's final plea is for God to "pity...the Hungarians," and to protect it "on the sea of its misery." Good times, Hungary.
So this summer, if you are watching the Olympics and a Hungarian takes gold (as they did 8 times in London in 2012, including golds for kayaking and for pommel horse), know that as they stand on the podium and their flag is raised, their victory song is a somber reminder of centuries of their countrymen's misfortune and sorrow.
BONUS FACT: On the flipside of today's fact, Russia's national anthem is the freaking greatest: here it is with a choir and here it is with an even bigger choir.
BONUS FACT 2: Today's entry was indirectly inspired by the death last week of Tony Burton, who played Apollo Creed's trainer Duke (and the first guy to see the potential in Rocky Balboa) in the Rocky movies. I was the exact right age for the over-the-top montages and over-the-over-the-top jingoism of Rocky IV to make an imprint on me, and I loved Duke's role as trainer/mentor/father to Rocky. RIP Tony Burton.
BONUS FACT 2.5: As a combo of points 1 and 2, here's the Soviet National Anthem from Rocky IV, just before the big Christmas Day fight in Moscow. It's the best.