Friday, June 18, 2010

John the Valiant

Or, If You’re Going to Be on Hold It Could Be a Lot Worse. 
Yesterday morning while waiting on the results of my query about the availability of rhubarb at my local market, instead of Muzak, I was treated to the romantic, late 70s hit, Crazy Love by Poco. Because I am a romance junkie and because the produce manager was so quick in answering my question, I tried to find the song on YouTube so I could listen to it in its entirety.  This is what I found.
The accompanying animation was of a certain style and time, but the strange and grander-than-ordinary love story it presented was enough to pique my interest. I was delighted to find that the person who posted the video did so that she could find out more about the animation, and further, that she was successful.  The animation, from Hanna-Barbera, was based upon an old Hungarian folk epic poem, John the Hero.
In researching the poem, I found this announcement from last Friday! 
Poet John Ridland, who translated the 1480 line epic poem written by Sandor Petofi and originally published in 1844, recently received a prestigious, literary sword award for his translation of Janos Vitez (John the Valiant) from the Hungarian Consul-General.  There is a terrific interview with Ridland as part of the announcement, in which he not only explains the structure of the poem,

It’s 1480 lines of narrative, divided into 27 chapters, and it’s all rhymed in quatrains. It had been translated in iambic pentameter English couplets back in the 1920s, but that meter is all wrong for a folk epic. I took it back into four beat lines, basically anapestic, so that it rolls along the way it should.

and the intrigue of the story which prompted his study,

The girlfriend is held against her will by an evil stepmother, and the hero fights in several wars with the Turks and the Tartars. He wanders around in this weird geographical confusion that somehow puts him in India, and then India appears to be next to France. He acquires a companion, a silly old man, and then, due to his military prowess, he is offered the hand of the French princess. This gives Johnny an excuse to tell his life story as a way to explain that he must remain faithful and can’t marry the princess.


Janos goes beyond the seven seas, kills some big animals such as lions, and finally enters into a fairyland paradise of lovers. He can hardly stand it because he is alone, and he goes to a pond in the paradise to drown himself. He has a rose from his sweetheart’s garden that he throws into the pond, and it becomes her. He pulls her out of the pond and they become the king and queen of fairyland.

but also explores the similarities between the original poet and other contemporary, romantic poets,

The author, Petofi, had a sufficient education. I understand that he read the Odes of Horace. He’s later than Byron, but I don’t know for sure that he read him. It’s a similar kind of thing, insofar as Byron both wrote about these affairs and also became involved in the war of Greek liberation himself.

His first role in the national theater was the Fool in King Lear, but he was such a poor actor that he switched to writing poetry. He was prolific for someone who died at 26. He was a Romantic poet in the true sense, even dying young, like Keats.
Here is a sample of the original alongside of Ridland's translation. As of this morning, I could find Ridland’s entire translation only through uk.  Getting it might be worth the extra shipping costs and it gives me that final incentive to finish my collection of English Harry Potter books.

Rhubarb-locating and blackberrying: in one brief call, I achieved both!


Doug Reich said...

I love this! Thanks so much for researching and posting.

That animation style is my favorite. I don't know when this was done, but it resembles that early 1970's animation style that was popular (schoolhouse rockish). I can't watch modern animation.

Jenn Casey said...

SUCH a cool post. :o)

Lynne said...

When I watch it, I think of Yellow Submarine. (It's the bell-bottoms.)