János Balassa’s Song about His Falconet
Institute of Literary Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest
Keywords: early modern Hungarian poetry, erotic poetry, Renaissance painting, picto-language.
Abstract. Certain researchers think that the poem Balassa János éneke sólymocskájárul (Song of János Balassa on His Falconet) was written in the 16th century, while others – including the author of this paper – reckon it was penned down in the first half of the 17th century. The mood and style of the poem differ greatly from its surviving contemporaries; it uses a picto-language imbued with unique sexual allusions. Also, it cannot be categorized as popular (rogue) or aristocratic in register – such notions are of no use here. It is something completely different: this picto-language was used by the lexicon of the Old Testament (cf. motto), that of sexual mysticism, commedia dell’arte and the reversed world of carnivals (including numerous illustrations as marginalias in mediaeval codices), constituting a special supranational system of images and picto-language – however, in different, language-specific forms that survived in each folklore. Moreover, this code system is also used by prolific Renaissance painters, authors of high literature and a good many examples can be found in 15th-16th century Italian painting and literature as well. Thus, the author of the analysed poem – almost surely not Gáspár Madách – chose a road often travelled: the eyes, fluids (eggs), the falcon (birds in general), the aperture, the hare: all sexual references, a grotesque piece of art paraphrasing a biblical text in the Marcolphusian way. It covers János Balassa with ridicule and its poem-language is the usual allusion system of the 16th and 17th centuries, based on mediaeval prefigurations. These are not the clouded reveries of an old man but the frolicsome wishes of a man in his prime – and their mockery.