Wales' Place in Hungarian History; 'MASSACRE OF BARDS' POEM IS TAUGHT AT SCHOOLS

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), April 13, 2011 | Go to article overview

Wales' Place in Hungarian History; 'MASSACRE OF BARDS' POEM IS TAUGHT AT SCHOOLS


Byline: SION MORGAN

A POEM to a legendary massacre of Welsh bards has long formed an unlikely classroom staple for generations of schoolchildren - in Hungary.

Janos Arany's 19th century ballad The Bards of Wales has, for 150 years, told of the slaughter of 500 Welsh poets at the hands of Edward I. And now, fittingly, one of Wales' leading cultural figures is to transform the work for a modern Hungarian audience.

Karl Jenkins' symphony, based on the poem, will receive its world premiere in Budapest's Palace of Arts this summer with the MAV Symphony Orchestra.

The composer, who will be conducting his own work, said: "I knew nothing about this poem 12 months ago. It's written in Hungarian and all children in Hungary have to learn it at school.

"It's very political, and is about King Edward's invasion of Wales, crushing the Welsh rebels. They see it as analogous with their own suffering as part of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires.

"Apparently it's very popular in Hungary."

According to the legend, King Edward I of England executed the bards for failing to sing his praises at a banquet in Montgomery Castle in 1277.

Parallels were drawn with an incident in 1857 when Emperor of Austria Franz Joseph toured Hungary and it was suggested that his visit should be commemorated by a verse.

Mr Jenkins added: "I've been commissioned to set this in three languages - it is an English piece but there will be Welsh and Hungarian versions.

"The idea is to do a double premiere - one in Budapest and one probably in the Llangollen Eisteddfod this year.

"It came as a great surprise to me because I, like many people in Wales, never knew that this poem existed."

Arany was a well-liked poet who had translated Shakespeare but together with his fellow writers he refused to compose verses in praise of the head of a hated regime. …

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