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Songs to Celebrate Spring


For an agricultural people, the coming of spring is an important time, marking the beginning of plowing and sowing.  It is also the time to look for a sweetheart. 

The first folksong, ”Esik eső, szép csendesen esik” (It’s raining, raining quietly) was collected by Bartók Béla in 1906, and written down in two variations.  The first version that he recorded in Békés-Gyula, County Békés, mentions the Viennese barracks, while the version he recorded several months later in Vesztő, also County Békés, mentions the Budapest barracks. Here is the text:

Esik eső, szép csendesen esik,
tavasz akar lenni.
De szeretnék kis kertedbe’ rózsabimbó lenni.
Nem lehetek én rózsa,
elhervaszt Ferenc Jóska,
a nagy bécsi/budapesti három emeletes
magas kaszárnyába’.
The rain is falling, it’s raining nice and quiet,
spring is on the way (lit. it wants to be spring).
How I would like, in your little garden,
to be a rosebud.
I cannot be a rose,
Francis Joe (the popular name for the emperor Francis Joseph) will wither me
in the large Viennese three-story
high barracks.

It is in the style of the ”flower songs” sung during the Middle Ages, when the clergy frowned on love songs as immoral.  To circumvent that, people started singing about flowers, so there could be no objection.

As for ”withering away”, military duty could last three to 8 years, depending on the era.  One historian (Baráthosi-Balogh Benedek) maintained that, as part of the long-term Habsburg policy to take over Hungary, they lengthened military service to remove young men in their prime from their wives, in order to prevent them from begetting young Hungarians, and thus reduce the Hungarian population.

A comic folksong – in dialect – collected by Kodály Zoltán in Vágfarkasd, Upper Hungary, in 1906 refers to the need to plow, but all the necessary implements are scattered in different towns and areas. Toward the end of the song we find out why, when the singer asks his wife what happened to the price of his plough oxen. She retorts that he had eaten and drunk it, and given it to pretty girls, and suggests that he use his father’s donkey to do the plowing!

Szántani kék, tavasz vagyon,
A szerszámom széjjel vagyon.
Ekém szarva Szarvason van,
Göröndölőm Gödöllőn van.

Szántóvasam Vasadon van,
Az alfaja Albáron van,
A bifaja Békésen van,
Csoroszlám a kovácsnál van.

A béresem a Bánátba’,
A baltája a Bácskába’,
Szép hat ökröm a vásárba’. 
Mondd meg, asszony, hol az ára?

Kit megettél, kit megittál,
Kit a szép lányoknak adtál,
Kit a szép lányoknak adtál.
Szántogass apád szamarán. 

Another song about spring was collected by Kodály in Istensegíts (lit. God help us), Bukovina.  It was one of the Hungarian villages east of the Carpathians, where their ancestors had fled following the Austrian massacre of Madéfalva in 1764 (see separate article elsewhere in this issue).  The song laments that spring renews everything, bringing bloom to the trees, but bringing the singer only sorrow.  Kodály wrote down two versions, in the local dialect:

Tavasz, tavasz, gyenge tavasz
                       /or szép ződ tavasz/
Aki mindent megújítasz.
                       /or: Ki mindenöket/
Fákot virágba borítasz,
Csak ingemet szomorítasz.

Perhaps the best known spring song is ”Tavaszi szél vízet áraszt”. It comes from the Csángós of Moldova, and was collected by Veress Sándor in 1930, in Bogdánfalva.  Spring winds bring flood waters, and every bird chooses a mate.  Whom should I choose, my flower?  I choose you, you choose me. Ribbons (referring to what unmarried girls wear) are light, because the wind blows them; but the veil (of the married woman) is heavy, because sorrow tears it down.

Tavaszi szél vízet áraszt,
virágom, virágom.
Minden madár társat választ,
virágom, virágom.
Hát én immár kit válasszak,
virágom, virágom?
Te engemet, én tégedet,
virágom, virágom.
Zöld pántlika, könnyű gúnya,
virágom, virágom,
mert azt a szél könnyen fújja,
virágom, virágom.
De a fátyol nehéz ruha,
virágom, virágom,
mert azt a bú leszaggatja,
virágom, virágom.

Another song, ”Szép a tavasz, de szebb a nyár” expresses a similar sentiment, asking whom the singer should choose as a mate so as not to remain alone.  It has a beautiful ancient melody.  It was collected in Csík, Transylvania, by Domokos Pál Péter, a 20th century folksong researcher, music historian and strong proponent of Hungarian ethnic awareness among Hungarians and Csángós in Transylvania.

Szép a tavasz, de szebb a nyár.
De szép, aki párjával jár.
Jaj, de szép a párosulás,
Aki eltalálja egymást.
Tavaszi szél utat száraszt.
Minden madár társat választ.
Jaj, Istenem, kit válasszak,
Hogy egyedül ne maradjak?

Wishing you a pleasant spring, and if you haven’t found your mate yet, may you find the right one now! 


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