A bilingual (Croatian-Hungarian) traditional folk-song on Janus Pannonius

Croation lyrics

Što to radiš biskupe naš s Medvedgrada,
zar urotu protiv našeg Matijaša?
Kolo pravde zaustavit’ ne možeš,
tamnica če bit’ tvoj stanak dok ne m’reš.

Kad bi pozv’o na prijestolje tog Poljaka,
klade bi nam bila sudba oko vrata.
Hungarije grb će nosit’ tudi svat,
opomena nek nam bude prošlost sva.

Čuj nam molbe gospon Janoš iz Čezmice,
nije krinka urote za tvoje lice,
Nit’ je bodež za čovjeka pravedna,
oružje je pero tvoje – k’o nekada!

Original Hungarian version published by Hugó Borenich

Medvedgrádi püspök urunk, mit csinyáltál,
Amikoron Mátyás ellen áskálódtál?
Ne állítsd meg az igazság kerekit,
Sötét tömlöc lesz itt lakod holtodig.

Mér is hoznál egy polyákot a trónunkra,
Kalodasors szorul akkor a nyakunkra.
Magyar címert ne hordozza idegen,
A múlt rossza legyen néked intelem.

Csezmiczei János arra kérünk téged,
Ármányszövés sose legyen mesterséged.
A gyiloktőr ne gyalázza kezedet,
Penna legyen mindvégig a fegyvered!

Verbatim, non-literary English translation

Our bishop of Medvedgrad, what have you done
Turning against our king Mathias
The rolling of the wheel of truth cannot be stopped
You will dwell in a dark dungeon until you die

Why bring a Pole unto our throne
A pillory-fate would be on our necks then
The Hungarian coat of arms should not go to strangers
Let our sad past be the warning

John of Čezmice, we ask you
Never to indulge in conspiracies
Let not your hand be shamed by the dagger
Let the quill be your only arm until the end

8 chorus renaissance lute

copy built by Tihamer Romanek in 1998. The original instrument: Hans Frei, 1530 (Wien, KHM C34).

Nyolc kórusos Reneszánsz lant




8 chorus renaissance lute

A bilingual (Croatian-Hungarian) traditional folk-song on Janus Pannonius

Lute artist András L. Kecskés heard many years ago a historic song sung in Croatian about Janus Pannonius performed by the Croatian folk singer and guzla player Mile Krajina. He had put the melody onto paper right then and there. Later on, he acquired the sheet music of Hugó Borenich as well, a teacher and church organist from Rétfalu (today part of Osijek, Croatia). He summarized it all in his recent letter to me:
“Here I send you the sheet music with chords by Hugó Borenich. I personally prefere the version of Mile Karijena (~as more authentic perhaps?). My story goes back to the 1980-ies when I was invited to give a concert in Szigetvár. There, to my surprise, I performed on the same stage as the fantastic guzlar, the Croatian folk singer, Mile Krajina. Practically, it was a song-dual with the two of us me and Mile Krajina the guzlar his roots of style anchored deep in antiquity. No need to say this “dual” ended with the total failure on my side. Mile sang a harsh and shrill sound resembling the sound of a trumpet (the way it was still heard in the 1950-ies by historic singers in country fairs in Hungary…) Otherwise, Mile considered himself a folk poet, he was introduced like that every occasion on stage. He varied the pieces he performed every time, he even changed the melody at times. We – musicians playing from sheet music – are the victims of this practice going back to antiquity, hence the uncertainty about giving the “correct” tune. The lute accompaniment worked out by me is already imaginable by the turn of the 15th and 16th century… Apart from his songs about the Zrinyi-s and the Hunyadi-s, Mile also performed a historic piece known in Osijek about Janus Pannonius to which H. Borenich attached a few “church organist style” chords* as well in his sheet music. The tune of the historic song on J.P. performed by Mile differs a bit from the one published by H. Borenich…”

In the literature** available by me in Hungary, I found no traces of either the lyrics or the melody, however, the later shows resemblance to the melodies of Sebestyén Tinódi Lantos. After tedious search on net and correspondence with the Croatian Academy of Sciences I could gather the followings about the provenance of the song:


“…for example the recently deceased Hugó Borenich, teacher and reformed church organist of Rétfalu, used to perform his folk-song repertoire accompanying it on organ (even he himself had collected the work-song tradition of Slavonia), … the frequent slurring of the borderline between non-professional and professional opposition is depicted by the typical local figure of Marci Istye who at different occasions such as baptisms, weddings and funeral parties played the role of the professional artist as singer and zither player and apart from his folklore repertoire readily sang popular songs such as the legend of Jelengrad including the love story of the countess and the peasant boy, the Hungarian folk-song on Janus Pannonius, the Zrinyi ballad and the epic about Márkó Sztancsics the captain of Szigetvár…”

Hugó Borenich wrote about his collecting songs in 1933-34 in:


“… I found the fragment of the folk-song about Janus Pannonius in Budakovác … this is where I became acquainted with Marci Istye (1866-1940), “the man of songs of Szarvasvár”, the legendary figure and keeper of the folk heritage of the Drava river region. It was him who called my attention to the old folks-ong that mentions a bishop. At that time I didn’t know who the song was about even though I could get the tune down form Marci Ištye’s singing. The song fragment found in Budakovác had the same subject-matter. The real final form comes from Kálmán Rumpf teacher of Vörösmart who had the whole text of the folk-song about Janus Pannonius. Combining all these, came to light a so far unknown historic folk-song about the great humanist of the 15th century. It was published together with the short biography of Marci Istye in 1973 in the Review of the academy of Sciences and Arts of Yugoslavia.”

And here is the English abstract of the said review kindly sent to me in PDF by the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Croatia:



It is awe-inspiring that – contrary to endless wars and centuries of Turkish occupation – the folk memory could keep alive an artistic relic of both the Croatian and Hungarian nations for 5-600 years in which our poet is warned against taking part in the plot against King Mathias.
The video recording of the song where I sang the song with introductory and ending lines in Croatian (apologies for my pronunciation where appropriate – my native speaker helper who said it was OK might have been too polite) and the rest with a bit updated Hungarian text can be heard at:


On this site here, I have the sound recording of the full song with alternating Croatian and Hungarian stanzas plus the first 4 lines repeated in Hungarian at the end, all in the original folk version published by Hugó Borenich.


* These chords are acually the chords played by Marci Istye, the source from who this song was collected, on his horse headed tambure.

** Yugoslav Folk Music, Serbo-Croatian Folk Songs and Instrumental Pieces from the Milman Parry Collection by Béla Bartók and Albert B. Lord, Vol. I-IV.

Publications of the Milman Parry Collection, Serbo-Croatian Heroic Songs, General Editor: Albert B. Lord, Vol. III & XIV.

Bodor Anikó: Vajdasági magyar népdalok, Vol. I-III.

Paksa Katalin – Németh István: Muravidéki magyar népzene