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The Loss of Buda and Captivity of Bálint Török | Buda veszéséröl és Terek Bálint fogságárol

Introduction to the Text

Sebastian Tinódi (1505–1556) was an excellent lutanist, a prolific poet and a popular performer of secular “event songs”. In 1554, he printed his poems with accompanying melodies in the first songbook ever published in Hungarian, Cronica. Its success fulfilled his stated goal to celebrate and commemorate the heroic deeds of Hungarians for both his contemporaries and for posterity. His songs are comparable to the narrative songs that memorialized and commented on epoch-making events, and which were common throughout Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries.

“The Loss of Buda and Captivity of Bálint Török” deals with very recent events in Hungarian history, namely the loss of the city of Buda following the death of King Janos I of Hungary. Initially the hero, Török, allies his forces with the Turks to defeat the Habsburg besiegers. Even though Török and his allies are victorious, the Ottoman sultan, Suleiman I, takes control of the city and imprisons Török, sending the queen and the infant king—Janos’s son, Janos II—to Transylvania to set up a Hungarian court as vassals of the Ottoman Empire. Few lines are devoted to recounting the action; instead the hero is repeatedly praised for his loyalty. In this way, the narrative forms the frame for a lament: a lament for the loss of the capitol city, for the loss of the king, and for the poet’s loss of his patron.

Previously, scholars studied Tinódi primarily for what they assumed to be a historically accurate depiction of events. Recognizing the tendentious nature of the genre of event poetry, the emphasis has more recently shifted to assessing his literary impact and the possible influences of other European literatures on his work. In this song, Tinódi imitates oral compositional style, which can be seen in the redundancy, repetititon and formulaic phrases—all typical features of oral style in Hungarian. Indeed, his repetitions are often reminiscent of a refrain (some of these repetitious phrases have been omitted from the translation so that the text will not be tedious for the modern reader). Another notable stylistic feature is the direct address to the audience. Tinódi’s compositions were all intended for performance, and he himself sang them to various audiences. Direct address would have helped to enliven his performance and establish a closer rapport with his listeners.

Introduction to the Source

Cronica, Sebastian Tinódi’s songbook of 1544, contains this song and twenty-one others together with his own musical compositions. It was printed in Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca, Romania). A few original copies are extant as facsimile editions. The source for this translation is the standardized transcription accessible on the Hungarian Electronic Library website, Tinódi Sebestyén összes költeménye

About this Edition

The goal has been to render the Hungarian in clear and smooth English prose. The original is composed of 50 mono-rhyming quatrains of morphemic rhymes using the popular 12 syllable line. This translation conforms to the quatrain structure while avoiding rhyme and meter. Each stanza expresses a complete thought or idea. This parallel stanza format facilitates comparison of translation to original. Punctuation follows the needs of modern English. Sometimes sentences have been split to accommodate English syntax and others have been connected. Names of well known, high-ranking persons have been anglicized; others have been modernized. All Hungarian names are given surname second. Places and persons named are capitalized and identified in the notes. Specific historical details mentioned are also explained in footnotes. Sections containing direct address are marked by syntax as the singer’s voice, and seldom lend themselves to setting off with quotation marks. Quotation marks are used only to indicate the speech of a character within the text.

Further Reading

Czigány, Lóránt, Oxford History of Hungarian Literature from the Earliest Times to the Mid-1970s. Oxford, Clarendon, 1984. pp. 40–43.

  • Short, reliable introduction to Tinódi. Available electronically.

Dobozy, Maria. “Two Cultural Perspectives on the Battle of Lippa, Transylvania, 1551.” Fifteenth Century Studies, vol. 38, 2013, pp. 21–39.

  • Discusses the influence of German event poetry on Tinódi and the historical accuracy of the two poems.

Dobozy, Maria. “Sebestyén Tinódi Lantos.” Christian-Muslim Relations 1500 - 1900, edited by David Thomas. Brill, 2015. 10.1163/2451-9537_cmrii_COM_26618

Seláf, Levente. “Between Lyric and Epic: The Great Turkish War in German, Italian and Hungarian Ereignisliedern.” Controversial Poetry, 1400–1635, edited by Judith Keßler, Ursula Kundert, and Johan Oosterman. Brill, 2020, pp. 61–86.

  • Analyses genre and function of Italian, German, and Hungarian poetry that deals with religious, political and military conflicts.


Transcription by Translation by Maria DobozyEncoded in TEI P5 XML by Danny Smith

Suggested citation: Sebastian Tinódi. "The Loss of Buda and Captivity of Bálint Török." Trans. Maria Dobozy. Global Medieval Sourcebook. Retrieved on January 20, 2022.