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Mar 15, 2019

“Shall we be slaves or men set free, That is the question, answer me!”

March 15 is the symbol of Hungary’s sovereignty and independence.

As a national holiday, March 15th commemorates the day in 1848 when Hungarians began a revolution and freedom fight that was part of a series of uprisings in Europe. On March 15th, citizens of Pest gathered in front of the National Museum and demanded independence from Habsburg rule.

The Youth of March was originally made up of small groups of friends under 30, who then organized a historic camp and participated in the direct preparation of the 1848-49 Revolution and War of Independence, and the events of March 15th, 1848.

The most famous members were writers and poets, such as Sándor Petőfi, Mór Jókai, József Irinyi and Pál Vasvári. Petőfi is still one of the best-known poets of Hungarian literature who wrote one of his most remarkable poems, the National Song (Nemzeti dal) for remembering the revolution.

Below you can read the poem which gave inspiration for Hungarians to stand up against the oppressors of the Austrian Empire and which still remains relevant today.

National Song

On your feet now, Hungary calls you!
Now is the moment, nothing stalls you,
Shall we be slaves or men set free
That is the question, answer me!
By all the gods of Hungary
We hereby swear,
That we the yoke of slavery
No more shall wear.

Slaves we have been to this hour,
Our forefathers who fell from power
Fell free and lived as free men will,
On land that was their own to till,
By all the gods of Hungary
We hereby swear,
That we the yoke of slavery
No more shall wear.

Whoever now his life begrudges
Deserves his death with thieves and drudges,
For setting his own worthless hide
Above his country’s need and pride.
By all the gods of Hungary
We hereby swear,
That we the yoke of slavery
No more shall wear. 

The sword shines brighter than the fetters
It is the finery of our betters,
Of slaves and fetters we grow bored.
Leap to my side, ancestral sword.
By all the gods of Hungary
We hereby swear,
That we the yoke of slavery
No more shall wear. 

Magyars, once more our name and story
Shall match our ancestors’ in glory
The centuries of shame and hurt
Can now be washed away like dirt.
By all the gods of Hungary
We hereby swear,
That we the yoke of slavery
No more shall wear.

And wheresoever we may perish
Grandchildren those graves shall cherish
Singing our praises in their prayers
To thank us that our names are theirs.
By all the gods of Hungary
We hereby swear,
That we the yoke of slavery
No more shall wear.

(Translation by George Szirtes)