Songs of the Jászság
Collected by Mike Gordon and the Kárpátok Ensemble

I learned these songs, among others, as a musician with the Kárpátok Ensemble of Los Angeles during a month-long tour of Hungary in 1985, during which we spent a week with the Jászsági Ensemble in Jászberény. The lyrics reflect both the martial traditions of the Jászság and the lachrymose self-pity that seems to characterize so many Hungarian songs. Hey, life is tough all over. But the songs also display a healthy streak of contempt for the cops and the Russians, neither of which was a risk-free attitude in the 1980s.

The Hungarian language is not Indo-European and so has little in common with other European languages, though it is a distant cousin of Finnish. It's spelled phonetically and so is pronounced exactly as written, once you know what sounds the letters represent. If you don't and are interested, see my Hungarian pronunciation guide.

One interesting aspect of Hungarian is that it doesn't have separate words for "he" and "she," so most lyrics can apply to either sex. This may be politically correct today, but it reflects a traditional culture in which men's and women's roles were so sharply delineated that there was no need to distinguish between "he" or "she," "him" or "hers" -- the context of a conversation normally left no doubt as to gender.

Lyrics within double slashes ( // ) are repeated.

UGRÓS (Jumping dance)

Esik az esö, ázik a heveder
Gyenge lábamat, szoritja a kengyel
// Bársony lekötés szoritja lovamat
Nehéz karabély nyomja a vállamat //

    It's raining, the saddle girth is getting wet
    My tired leg aches from being in the stirrup
    The girth padding is squeezing my horse
    The heavy rifle hurts my shoulder

Megjött a levél fekete pecséttel
Megjött a muszka százezer emberrel
// Négyszáz ágyuvál áll a harc mezején
Igy hát, jo anyám, elmasírozok én //

    I got a draft notice with a black seal on it
    The Russians are coming with 100,000 men
    They're standing on the plain with 4,000 cannons
    So that's why I've got to march off to war, good mother

VERBUNK or LASSÚ CSÁRDÁS (men's recruiting dance or slow couple dance)

Gödöllöi sorozoház fel van virágozva
Közepében nemzetiszín zászlo van kirakva
// Onnan jönnek azok az urak
Akik engem már besoroztak
Besoroztak háromévre el kell masirozni

    The recruiting center in Gödöllö is decorated with flowers
    In the middle stands the national flag
    That's where those gentlemen come from,
    The ones who enlisted me
    I signed up for three years and I've got to march away

LASSÚ CSÁRDÁS (slow couple dance)

Jászkunsági gyerek vagyok, Jászberényben születtem
Kiskoromtol a nagykoromig, benne felnevelödtem

    I'm a kid from the Jászkunság, I was born in Jászberény
    From my childhood to my later years, that's where I grew up

Kilenc zsandár kisért engem a jászberényi föutcán
Még akkor is bekacsintok, a kisangyalom ablakán

    Nine cops escorted me down Jászberény's main street
    Even so, I'll wink at my sweetheart's window

Még akkor is azt kiáltja, betyár gyerek, gyere be
Adj egy csókot és nyomd meg a gombot, kacsintsál a szemembe

    Even so, my sweetheart will call out to me: You bandit's child, come on in
    Give me a kiss and push the "button," wink at me

Ez a tábla kukorica de sárga, talán bizony esöbe lett kapálva
Esö se volt mégis megnött magasra, most vagyok a szeretömmel haragba

    This cornfield is yellow, maybe it was hoed while it was raining
    There wasn't any rain, but still it grew tall, now I'm angry at my sweetheart

Harmatos a kukorica levele, talán bizony a szeretöm járt benne
Jaj Istenem, bus szívemnek de nehéz, erre járt el a szeretöm rám se néz

    There's dew on the corn leaves, maybe my lover walked through them
    Oh my God, my heart is so heavy, my lover walked by and didn't even look at me

FRISS CSÁRDÁS (fast couple dance)

Szentandrási birónak jó négy lovat mondanak
Ellopnam egy sötet éjszaka, hogyha rám nem virradna

    The judge in Szentandrás has four good horses, so they say
    I'd steal them one dark night if the sun wouldn't come up

Kezd a hajnal hasadni, jön két zsandár vasalni
Vasalják a gyenge kezemet, úgy visznek az egyesbe

    The dawn is breaking, two cops are putting me in handcuffs
    They put handcuffs on my delicate hands, they're taking me to solitary confinement

Egyesböl a kettesbe, kettesböl a négyesbe
Gyere, babám, váltsál ki, ne hagyjál elhervadni
Eladom a selyem keszkenöm, kiváltom a szeretöm

    From solitary to a cell with two people, from a cell with two to a cell with four
    Come, darling, bail me out, don't let me wilt in here
    I'll sell my silk scarf, I'll bail out my lover

Translations by the Kárpátok Ensemble.
Orthographic note: Hungarian has two forms of umlauts, short (ö, u) and long. The long umlaut makes the same sound as the short, but is stressed or lengthened slightly. The long umlaut can't be shown using the standard ASCII character set, or if it can I don't know how, so I've used standard umlauts here. Instead of two dots over the vowel, the long umlaut looks like two accute accents over the character. For those who like things done just right, here are the words where the long umlaut should be inserted:

Ugros verse 1, line 1, ö in esö. Verbunk line 1, third ö in Gödöllöi. Lassu csárdás verse 2, line 1, ö in föutcán; verse 3, line 1, ö in esöbe; line 2, ö in esö, ö in szeretömmel; verse 5, lines 1 and 2, ö in szeretöm. Friss csárdás verse 3, line 1, ö in egyesböl and kettesböl.