1. The Finnish Language and Literature: Poetry; the Kalevala; Loennrot; Korhonen.—2. The Hungarian Language and Literature: the Age of Stephen I.; Influence of the House of Anjou; of the Reformation; of the House of Austria; Kossuth; Josika; Eoetvoes; Kuthy; Szigligeti; Petoefi.
1. THE FINNISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE.—On passing northward from the Iranian plateaux through Turan to the Uralian mountains, which separate Europe and Asia, we arrive at the primitive seat of the Finnish race. Driven westward by other invading tribes, it scattered through northern Europe, and established itself more particularly in Finland, where, at the present time, we find its principal stock. From the earliest period of the history of the Finns, until the middle of the twelfth century, they lived under their own independent kings. They were then subjected by the Swedes, who established colonies upon their coasts, and introduced Christianity among them. After having been for many centuries the theatre of Russian and Swedish wars, in the beginning of the present century Finland passed under the dominion of Russia; yet, through these ages of foreign domination, its inhabitants preserved their national character, and maintained the use of their native tongue.
The Finnish language is a branch of the Turanian family; it is written with the Roman alphabet, but it has fewer sounds; it is complicated in its declension and conjugation, but it has great capacity of expressing compound ideas in one word; it is harmonious in sound, and free, yet clear, in its construction.
The Finns at an early period had attained a high degree of civilization, and they have always been distinguished for their love of poetry, especially for the melancholy strains of the elegy. They possess a vast number of popular songs or ballads, which are either lyrical or mythological; they are sung by the song-men, to the kantele, a kind of harp with five wire strings, a favorite national instrument. They have also legends, tales, and proverbs, some of which have recently been collected and published at Helsingfors, the capital of Finland.
The great monument of Finnish literature is the “Kalevala,” a kind of epic poem, which was arranged in a systematic collection, and given to the world in 1833, by Elias Loennrot (d. 1884). He wandered from place to place in the remote districts of Finland, living with the peasants, and taking down from their lips the popular songs as he heard them chanted. The importance of this indigenous epic was at once recognized, and translations were made in various languages. The poem, which strongly resembles “Hiawatha,” takes its name from the heroes of Kaleva, the land of happiness and plenty, who struggle with three others from the cold north and the land of death. It begins with the creation, and ends in the triumph of the heroes of Kaleva. Max Mueller says of this poem that it possesses merits not dissimilar to those of the Iliad, and that it will claim its place as the fifth national epic of the world, beside that of the “Mahabharata,” “Shah Nameh,” and “Nibelungen.” It is doubtless the product of different minds at different periods, having evidently received additions from time to time.
During the present century there has been considerable literary activity in Finland, and we meet with many names of poets and dramatists. The periodical literature is specially rich and voluminous, and valuable works on Finnish history and geography have recently appeared. Of recent poets the most popular is Korrhoinen, a peasant, whose productions are characterized by their sharp and biting sarcasm. The prose of Finland has a religious and moral character, and is especially enriched by translations from Swedish literature.
2. HUNGARIAN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE.—The language of the Magyars belongs to the Turanian family, and more particularly to the Finnish branch. The Hungarian differs from most European languages in its internal structure and external form. It is distinguished by harmony and energy of sound, richness and vigor of form, regularity of inflexion, and power of expression.
Towards the close of the seventh century, the Magyars emigrated from Asia into Europe, and for two hundred years they occupied the country between the Don and Dneiper. Being at length pressed forward by other emigrant tribes, they entered and established themselves in Hungary, after subjugating its former inhabitants.
In the year 1000, Stephen I. founded the kingdom of Hungary. He had introduced Christianity into the country, and with it a knowledge of the Latin language, which was now taught in the schools and made use of in public documents, while the native idiom was spoken by the people, and in part in the assemblies of the Diet. On the accession of the House of Anjou to the throne of Hungary, in the fourteenth century, a new impulse was given to the Hungarian tongue. The Bible was translated into it, and it became the language of the court; although the Latin was still the organ of the church and state, and from the fourteenth to the close of the fifteenth century remained the literary language of the country. This Latin literature boasted of many distinguished writers, but so little influence had they on the nation at large, that during this period it appears that many of the high officers of the kingdom could neither read nor write.
The sixteenth century was more favorable to Hungarian literature, and the political and religious movements which took place in the reign of Ferdinand I. and Maximilian II. (1527-1576) proved to be most beneficial to the intellectual development of the people. The Reformation, which was introduced into Hungary through Bohemia, the example of this neighboring country, and the close alliance which existed between the two people, exercised great influence on the public mind. The Hungarian language was introduced into the church, the schools, and the religious controversies, and became the vehicle of sacred and popular poetry. It was thus enriched and polished, and acquired a degree of perfection which it retained until the latter part of the eighteenth century. Translations of the Bible were multiplied; chronicles, histories, grammars, and dictionaries were published, and the number of schools, particularly among the Protestants, was greatly increased.
But these brilliant prospects were soon blighted when the country came under the absolute dominion of Austria. In order to crush the national tendencies of the Magyars, the government now restored the Latin and German languages; and newspapers, calendars, and publications of all kinds, including many valuable works, appeared in Latin. Indeed, the interval from 1702 to 1780 was the golden age of this literature in Hungary. Maria Theresa and Joseph II., however, by prescribing the use of the German language in the schools, official acts, and public transactions, produced a reaction in favor of the national tongue, which was soon after taught in the schools, heard in the lecture-room, the theatre, and popular assemblies, and became the organ of the public press. These measures, however, the good effects of which were mainly confined to the higher classes, were gradually pursued with less zeal. It is only of late that the literature of Hungary has assumed a popular character, and become a powerful engine for the advancement of political objects.
Kossuth may be considered as the founder of a national party which is at the head of the contemporary literature of the Magyars. Through the action of this party and of its leader, the Hungarian Diet passed, in 1840, the celebrated “Law of the Language,” by which the supremacy of the Hungarian tongue was established, and its use prescribed in the administration and in the institutions of learning. From 1841 to 1844, Kossuth published a paper, in which the most serious and important questions of politics and economy were discussed in a style characterized by great elegance and simplicity, and by a fervid eloquence, which awakened in all classes the liveliest emotions of patriotism and independence. His writings greatly enriched the national language, and excited the emulation even of those who did not accept his political views. His memoirs, lately published, have been extensively translated.
The novels of Josika (1865), modeled after those of Walter Scott, the works of Eoetvoes and Kemeny after the writers of Germany, and those of Kuthy and others who have followed the French school, have greatly contributed to enrich the literature of Hungary. The comedies and the dramas of Eoetvoes and Gal, and particularly those of Szigligeti, show great progress in the Hungarian theatre, while in the poems of Petoefi and others is heard the harmonious yet sorrowful voice of the national muse.
After 1849, the genius of Hungary seemed for a while buried under the ruins of the nation. Many of the most eminent writers either fell in the national struggle, or, being driven into exile, threw aside their pens in despair. But the intellectual condition of the people has of late been greatly improved. Public education has been promoted, scholastic institutions have been established, and at the present time there are eloquent voices heard which testify to the presence of a vigorous life latent in the very heart of the country.
Among many other writers of the present day, are Jokai (b. 1825), the author of various historical romances which have been extensively translated, Varga, a lyric poet, and Arany, perhaps the greatest poet Hungary has produced, some of whose works are worthy of the literature of any age.
3. THE TURKISH LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE.—The Turks, or Osmanlis, are descendants of the Tartars, and their language, which is a branch of the Turanian family, is at the present day the commercial and political tongue throughout the Levant. This language is divided into two principal dialects, the eastern and the western. The eastern, though rough and harsh, has been the vehicle of certain literary productions, of which the most important are the biographies of more than three hundred ancient poets, written by Mir-Ali-Schir, who flourished in the middle of the fifteenth century, and who was the Maecenas of several Persian poets, particularly of Jami; several historical memoirs, and a number of ballads, founded on the traditions of the ancient Turkish tribes, belong also to the literature of this dialect. The western idiom constitutes what is more properly called the Turkish language. It is euphonious in sound and regular in its grammatical forms, though poor in its vocabulary. To supply its deficiencies, the Osmanlis have introduced many elements of the Arabic and Persian. They have also adopted the Arabic alphabet, with some alterations; and, like the Arabians, they write from right to left.
The literature of Turkey, although it is extremely rich, contains little that is original or national, but is a successful imitation of Persian or Arabic. Even before the capture of Constantinople works had been produced which the nation has not let perish. The most flourishing period was during the reign of Solyman the Magnificent and his son Selim in the sixteenth century. Fasli (d. 1563) was an erotic poet, who attained a high reputation; and Baki (d. 1600), a lyric poet, is ranked by the Orientals with the Persian Hafiz. In the seventeenth century a new period of literature arose, though inferior to the last. Nebi was the most admired poet, Nefi a distinguished satirist, and Hadji Khalfa a historian of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish literature, who is the chief authority upon this subject for the East and West. The annals of Saad-El-Din (d. 1599) are important for the student of the history of the Ottoman Empire. The style of these writers, however, is for the most part bombastic, consisting of a mixture of poetry and prose overladen with figures. Novels and tales abound in this literature, and it affords many specimens of geographical works, many important collections of juridical decisions, and valuable researches on the Persian and Arabian languages.
The press was introduced into Constantinople early in the eighteenth century, and has been actively engaged in publishing translations of the most important works in Persian and Arabic, as well as in the native tongue. Societies are established for the promotion of various branches of science, and many scientific and literary journals are published. There are numerous primary free schools and high scholastic institutions in Constantinople, and some public libraries.
4. THE ARMENIAN LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE.—The language of Armenia belongs to the Indo-European family, and particularly to the Iranian variety; but it has been greatly modified by contact with other languages, especially the Turkish. At present the modern dialect is spoken in southern Russia around the sea of Azof, in Turkey, Galicia, and Hungary. The ancient Armenian, which was spoken down to the twelfth century, is preserved in its purity in the ancient books of the people, and is still used in their best works. This tongue, owing to an abundance of consonants, is lacking in euphony; it is deficient in distinction of gender, though it is redundant in cases and inflexions. Its alphabet is modeled after the Greek.
The Armenians, from the earliest period of their existence, through all the political disasters which have signalized their history, have exhibited a strong love for a national literature, and maintained themselves as a cultivated people amidst all the revolutions which barbarism, despotism, and war have occasioned. During so many ages they have faithfully preserved not only their historical traditions, reaching back to the period of the ancient Hebrew histories, but also their national character. Their first abode—the vicinity of Mount Ararat—is even at the present day the centre of their religious and political union. Commerce has scattered them, like the Israelites, among all nations, but without debasing their character; on the contrary, they are distinguished by superior cultivation, manners, and honesty from the barbarians under whose yoke they live. The cause is to be found in their creed and in their religious union.
Until the beginning of the fourth century A.D. the Armenians were Parsees; the literature of the country up to this period was contained in a few songs or ballads, and its civilization was only that which could be wrought out by the philosophy of Zoroaster. In 319, when Christianity was introduced into Armenia, the language and learning of the Greeks were exciting the profound admiration of the most eminent fathers of the church, and this attention to Greek literature was immediately manifest in the literary history of Armenia. A multitude of Grecian works was translated, commented upon, and their philosophy adopted, and the literature was thus established upon a Grecian basis.
About the same period, the alphabet at present in use in the Armenian language was invented, or the old alphabet perfected by Mesrob, in connection with which the language underwent many modifications. Mesrob, with his three sons, especially educated for the task, commenced the translation of the Bible 411 A.D., and its completion nearly half a century later gave a powerful impulse to Armenian learning, and at the same time stamped upon it a religious character which it has never lost. The period from the sixth to the tenth century is the golden age of this literature. Its temporary decline after this period was owing to the invasion of the Arabians, when many of the inhabitants were converted to the Mohammedan faith and many more compelled to suffer persecution for their refusal to abjure Christianity. After the subjection of Armenia to the Greek empire, literature again revived, and until the fourteenth century was in a flourishing condition. In 1375, when the Turks took possession of the country, the inhabitants were again driven from their homes, and from that time their literature has steadily declined. After their emigration, the Armenians established themselves in various countries of Europe and Asia, and amidst all the disadvantages of their position they still preserve not only the unity of their religious faith, but the same unwearied desire to sustain a national literature. Wherever they have settled, in Amsterdam, Leghorn, Venice, Constantinople, and Calcutta, they have established printing presses and published valuable books. Of their colonies or monasteries, the most interesting and fruitful in literary works is that of Venice, which was founded in the eighteenth century by Mechitar, an Armenian, and from him its monks are called Mechitarists. From the time of their establishment they have constantly issued translations of important religious works. They now publish a semi- monthly paper in the Armenian language, which is circulated and read among the scattered families of the Armenian faith over the world. They also translate and publish standard works of modern literature.
About the year 1840, through the influence of American missionaries, the Bible was translated into Armenian, freed as far as possible from foreign elements; school-books were also translated, newspapers established, and the language awoke to new life. Within the last twenty years the intellectual progress in Armenia has been very great. In 1863 Christopher Robert, an American gentleman, established and endowed a college at Constantinople for the education of pupils of all races, religions, and languages found in the empire. This institution, not sectarian, though Christian, has met with great success. It has two hundred and fifty students from fifteen nationalities, though chiefly Armenian, Bulgarian, and Greek.