589 years ago today, Janus Pannonius, the most significant poet of the Renaissance in the Kingdom of Hungary, was born. He was one of the better-known figures of humanist poetry in Europe, the first significant representative of Hungarian secular lyric poetry.
Janus Pannonius, born as János Csezmiczei (meaning János of Csezmice, his birthtown, called Čazma in Croatian, a town and municipality in Belovar-Bilogora County, Croatia) was born on August 29, 1434. He was brought up by his mother, Borbála Vitéz. In 1447, his uncle sent him to Italy for humanist schooling. He attended the School of Guarino da Verona at Ferrara, where the pupils were educated in Latin and Greek, under the guidance of a noted teacher of the Italian Renaissance. The boy was considered the brightest pupil of his generation by both his teachers and fellow-students.
He wrote poetry according to the rules of classical prosody; he was around thirteen when he wrote his first epigrams.
An epigram is a short and witty statement, usually written in verse, that conveys a single thought or observation, typically ending with a punchline or a satirical twist.
Prosody is the study of all the elements of language that contribute toward acoustic and rhythmic effects, chiefly in poetry but also in prose.
His higher education was completed at the University of Padua in canon law. After making an educational tour of Rome, he returned to Hungary in 1458, the year of King Matthias’s accession to the throne.
For a time, he worked at the Royal Chancery, and soon was
appointed as the Bishop of Pécs and later Vice-Chancellor of the country.
Bust of Janus Pannonius made by Oláh Éva in Padova, Italy. Photo by Mária László, via Kozterkep.hu
Pannonius was an influential intellectual in the kingdom; he kept his connections with some of the leading philosophers of his time. He also collected a significant library of humanist works.
He became known throughout Europe. The material, language, and mood of his poetry grew out of the soil of Italian humanism.
The worldview of his poems was shaped by the spirit of humanism.
In his poetry, instead of religious ideals, the Renaissance way of thinking, and feeling of life appears in Hungary, and immediately in Europe. His oeuvre appreciates life on earth, peace, culture, nature ,and poetic immortality.
The beauty of the Hungarian landscape first appeared in his poem Búcsú Váradtól (Farewell to Várad). In his Padua years, he composed fewer but longer poems. After his return home, he reached the peak of his career, becoming the father of the uniquely Hungarian lyric in his own voice. In his Latin poems he wrote for the first time about physical suffering and the will to live in De se aegrotante in castris (When He Fell Ill in Camp). From the 15th century onward, his volumes were published both in Hungary and abroad.
Featured image: Wikipedia