Balint Balassi Memorial Sword Award

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Balint Balassi Memorial Sword Award 2010 logo
Statue of Bálint Balassi in park, Esztergom castle, Esztergom

The Balint Balassi Memorial Sword Award is a European award for literature presented in Budapest since 1997. The native form of this name is Balassi Bálint-emlékkard (Balassi Bálint-emlékkard). This award commemorates the 16th century Hungarian poet Bálint Balassi. The memorial sword is presented annually to an outstanding Hungarian poet, and to a foreign poet for excellence in translation of Hungarian literature, including the works of Balassi. The sword itself is a replica of those sabres that the 16th century Hungarian cavalry wore during the sieges of fortresses. They are the work of a contemporary swordsmith. This award is presented each year on Bálint's (Valentine's) Day, February 14, in the city of Buda. The celebration venue is traditionally the Hotel Gellért.[1]

The advisory board[edit]

The president of the Balassi-board is none other than Mr Imre Makovecz,[2] an architect of European fame. The founder of the new award is Mr Pal Molnar journalist,[3] his fellows are Ms Gabriella Lőcsei journalist, Mr József Zelnik writer[4] and Mr András Rubovszky hotelier. In addition, all past award winners automatically become board members, so the literary profession makes up the majority.

Global focus[edit]

In the beginning only Hungarian poets received the Balassi sword, but since 2002, each year, a foreign literary translator has also been recognized. Since then the board has viewed Balassi’s sword as a literary prize of European scope. But since then it has been received by Asian and American poets as well, making it an award of global scope.

Balassi Mass[edit]

Since 2008, the Balint Balassi Memorial Swords have been blessed during a Balassi Mass[5] held a few days before the award ceremony. On January 25, 2013, in the presence of some three hundred Hungarians, Bishop Laszlo Kiss-Rigo blessed the two swords during a Mass celebrated in Saint Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna.

The prize itself[edit]

In addition to the sharp, dangerous weapon - which is made by Mr József Fazekas armourer[6] - the winners receive a diploma, a limited-edition porcelain statue from the famous Herend manufacture[7] and a bottle of wine. The particular wine is selected at a national tasting competition in the preceding year, and as a result this champion wine is entitled to don the “Balassi’s sword” label.

Past recipients[edit]

A translation from John Ridland and Peter Czipott[edit]

IN LAUDEM VERNI TEMPORIS: BORIVÓKNAK VALÓ

IN PRAISE OF SPRINGTIME: FOR WINE-DRINKERS

To the tune of “I’ve Lost my Head”

Blessedly glorious weather at Whitsuntide,

Its sky making everyone healthier, all those who ride,

Eased by its balmy breeze, traveling roads far and wide!


You open the roses to help them spreading their scent,

And the nightingale’s silent throat to sing with content,

And clothe the trees all in their rainbow-hued raiment.


The bushes bloom brightly for you, violets, far and near,

Flowing waters and wells, thanks to you, will begin to run clear,

And the best of the fastest of horses will prick up their ears,


Because after they’ve tired their legs racing, you make them strong,

On lovely, lush, pasture grasses, all dewy and long,

You strengthen their sinews anew for the next hectic furlong.


Indeed the bold soldier-knights who have been holding the last

Of the fortresses, even they smell the sweet meadow grass,

And they too rejoice and are glad that the winter has passed!


One soldier-knight, thanks to the grass, can attend to his horse,

One who camps with his friends hears them talking, both cheerful and coarse,

One’s weapon is wiped clean of blood by the maker of swords.


Now the earth is renewed thanks to all of the gifts that you bring,

The sky’s chilly haze, thanks to you, now no longer can cling,

You make every creature cavort in the rapture of Spring.


God in His mercy has granted these glorious days.

Let us each with good heart give His holy name its proper praise,

Let us drink, in good fellowship living henceforth and always.

Sources[edit]

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