Endre Ady Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Endre Ady was a journalist who wrote numerous articles, reports, reviews, criticisms, essays, and short stories for the press. These were collected after his death under the titles Az új Hellász (1920; new Hellas), Levelek Párizsból (1924; letters from Paris), Párizsi noteszkönyve (1924; Paris notebook), and Ha hív az aczélhegyű ördög (1927; if the steel-tipped devil calls). In his lifetime, Ady published Vallomások és tanúlmányok (1911; confessions and studies), containing his important prose writings, both political and literary. Some of these writings are available in English translation in The Explosive Country: A Selection of Articles and Studies, 1898-1916 (1977). His collections of short stories combine subjective, personal confession with a depiction of early twentieth century Hungary. They are Sápadt emberek és történetek (1907; pale men and stories), Így is történhetik (1910; it can happen thus also), A tízmilliós Kleopátra és egyébb történetek (1910; Cleopatra of the ten millions and other stories), Új csapáson (1913; on a new track), and Muskétás tanár úr (1913; Professor Muskétás). His letters have been published in Ady Endre válogatott levelei (1956; selected letters of Endre Ady), with an introduction by Béla György.


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Endre Ady is one of Hungary’s greatest lyric poets. Inspired by Western European models, primarily French, he created a new lyrical style that both shocked and inspired his contemporaries. At the same time, he revitalized indigenous Hungarian literary traditions, looking back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries rather than to the example of his immediate predecessors. His topics, too, were considered revolutionary: physical passion and erotic love, political and social reform. He remained, however, within the tradition of the great nineteenth century Hungarian poets who expressed the spirit of the nation in their works.

Leda Poems

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Ady’s poems can be organized thematically into four large groups, though there is considerable overlapping; also, some important minor themes are eventually subsumed into one or another of the major ones reflecting Ady’s intellectual development. One of Ady’s most enduring themes was romantic love. The Leda cycles, with their portrayal of destructive yet irresistible passion, reveal the influence of Baudelaire. These poems represented a break with Hungarian tradition in their emphasis on the physical aspects of love. Ady’s poems to his wife, on the other hand, are more in the tradition of Petőfi, in which the emotional-spiritual content is on a par with the physical. It would be misleading, however, to dismiss the Leda poems as purely physical: Adél Brüll offered Ady much more than physical excitement, and these poems reflect a world of shared ideas. They are more significant and generally more successful than the poems on fleeting alliances with insignificant partners.

“Félig csókolt csók” (“Half-Kissed Kiss”), from New Verses, and “Léda a kertben” (“Leda in the Garden”), from Blood and Gold, emphasize the intense desire that cannot be satisfied even in physical union. The “half-kissed kiss” is a metaphor for an erotic relationship that leaves the lovers still restless for fulfillment: “tomorrow, then perhaps tomorrow.” Nature sympathizes with them in their eternal hunger, as an image from “Leda...

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Love Poems

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

The poems of 1912 to 1914 show a man in search of love. In the final volumes, this love is found. “A Kalota partján” (“On the Banks of the Kalota”) records the “security, summer, beauty and peace” brought to his life by Berta Boncza. The poem’s two long free-verse stanzas depict a summer Sunday in which the peace and joy of the service and of the feast (Pentecost) mingle to overwhelm the poet, and the eyes of his beloved draw him into a magic circle.


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Ady saw life and death not as opposing forces but as two components of the same force. “Párizsban járt az ősz” (“Autumn Passed Through Paris”) is a beautiful evocation, through the breath of autumn on a summer day, of the presence of death. Although death comes for all men, it need not be accepted passively, as Ady suggests in the melodic “A halál lovai” (“Death’s Horsemen”). The riderless horse with the unclaimed saddle is always in the troop of death’s horses, but “He before whom they stop/ Turns pale and sits into the saddle.” The act is presented as voluntary. In “Hulla a búza-földön” (“Corpse on the Wheat-Field”), a corpse, forgotten on the snowy plain, will not have carnations, artemisia, and basil blooming on its grave, but “the victorious wheat-kernel” will win through; life will triumph.

Religious Poems

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

To some extent, Ady’s God-fearing poems continue the life-death theme. They chronicle the same doubts and seek answers to the same questions. In time, Ady found the answers and the refuge, but as with John Donne, the struggle was a fierce one; indeed, Ady’s love poems, much as in Donne’s case, have a close and direct relationship to his religious verse. While many of Ady’s religious poems describe his struggle to achieve union with God, others reflect the peace of childlike faith. Ady seeks rest and forgiveness and creates powerful symbols to concretize these feelings.

In “A Sion-hegy alatt” (“Under Mount Sion”), he creates an image of God as a man in a huge bell coat inscribed with red letters, ringing for the dawn Mass. The figure is kindly yet sad; he cannot answer the poet’s plea for simple, unquestioning faith. The poem is a poignant expression of the dilemma of modern man. In “Hiszek hitetlenül Istenben” (“I Believe, Unbelieving, in God”), Ady longs for belief in the great mystery of God, convinced that such faith will bring peace to his tormented soul.

The poems from the cycle “Esaias könyvének margójára” (“To the Margins of the Book of Isaiah”), often prefaced by biblical quotations that emphasize their prophetic intentions, transcend the personal religious quest and become pleas for the nation and for humanity. “Volt egy Jézus” (“There Was a Jesus”) not only testifies to a personal acceptance of Jesus Christ but also proclaims the need for all humankind to heed his teachings on peace and brotherhood. “A szétszóródás elött” (“Before the Diaspora”), another poem with a biblical inspiration, scourges the nation for its sins, concluding with the powerful line: “And we were lost, for we lost ourselves.”

Patriotic Poems

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Many of Ady’s poems can be classified as patriotic. This group, however, unites several different themes that were significant at different points in his career. Two important early threads are the “I” poems and the “money” poems. The I poems are more than personal lyrics; they present the speaker (the poet) as a representative of the nation. As such, they evolve into the patriotic poems in a fairly direct line. The money poems startled readers with their “nonpoetic” theme: Ady went beyond complaints against poverty to question the role of money in society at large.

The Kuruc Theme

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

An important thread in Ady’s patriotic-revolutionary poetry is the use of the kuruc theme. Kuruc was the name applied to the supporters of Ferenc Rákóczi II, who had led a popular uprising against the Habsburgs in the eighteenth century. In Ady’s vocabulary, the kuruc is the true but disenfranchised Hungarian, a fighter for national goals betrayed by his self-serving masters to Austrian interests. In the war years, Ady identified the kuruc with the common man everywhere, oppressed by political power plays.

“Man in Inhumanity”

Ady’s last poem, “Ember az embertelenségben” (“Man in Inhumanity”), was an appeal to humanity addressed to the victors of the war. He appealed, fruitlessly, to the Allies “not to tread too harshly” on Hungarian hearts. The nation sought reform, but suffered instead “War, the Horror.” Defeated in a war fought against Hungarian sentiments and interests, Hungary paid for its all-too-recent union with Austria with the loss of much of its territory and millions of its citizens. Foreseeing this tragedy even before the war, Ady offered a poignant comment on its aftermath.

While Ady was a very subjective poet, one of the first purely personal lyric voices in Hungarian poetry, he did not break with the national tradition of committed literature. Deeply influenced by Western European models, he transformed what he took by the force of his genius, exploiting the rich resources of the Hungarian tradition in the service of a powerfully modern vision. Thus, it is not surprising that Ady continues to inspire poets in Hungary today.


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Bóka, Lazlo. “Endre Ady the Poet.” The New Hungarian Quarterly 3, no. 5 (January-March, 1962): 83-108. A biographical and critical study of Ady’s life and work.

Cushing, G. F. Introduction to The Explosive Country: A Selection of Articles and Studies, 1898-1916, by Endre Ady. Budapest, Hungary: Corvina Press, 1977. Cushing offers some biographical insight into Ady’s life.

Frigyesi, Judit. Béla Bartók and Turn-of-the-Century Budapest. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. A broad perspective on Bartók’s art grounded in the social and cultural life of turn-of-the-century Hungary. Includes a discussion of Endre Ady and his influence on Bartók.

Hanák, Péter. The Start of Endre Ady’s Literary Career (1903-1905). Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1980. A brief study of Ady’s early work, with bibliography.

Nyerges, Anton N. Introduction to Poems of Endre Ady. Buffalo, N.Y.: Hungarian Cultural Foundation, 1969. Nyerges gives some biographic details of Ady’s life.

Reményi, Joseph. Hungarian Writers and Literature. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1964. A history and critical analysis of Hungarian literature including the works of Ady.