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Friday, 18 November 2016

Schwechat (1848) - and some Hungarian war poetry

My Hungarian military historian friend Csaba once told me Hungary's best defence is not its army but its language. I think he meant because it is so unique and difficult to learn, but it could equally be because it is so staccato and guttural and good for arguing.

Before our refight of the battle of Schwechat, the Hungarian attempt to relieve revolutionary Vienna in 1848, I followed Keith Flint's example in breaking out a bottle of Hungarian Tokay, and then subjected my fellow gamers to some Hungarian poetry. According to John Bowring in "Poetry of the Magyars" (1830):

No eight monosyllables in any language could convey a more 
complete image of the horrors of war than does Kisfaludy's verse:  

Mars mord dühe a' mit ér, vág, 
Bont, dört, tör, ront, dul, sujt, öl.

("The murderous rage of Mars, which, whatever it reaches, cuts,
Wastes, shakes, breaks, destroys, uprends, scatters, and slays.")

Formalities over, we got stuck into the game. Historically, the Hungarians managed to storm one Croat outpost, but then ran into a wall of Austrian artillery. This not only repelled their effort to attack the Imperials' defensive line along the river, it sowed such confusion in Hungarian ranks, especially among their untrained, scythe-armed militia, that it began an infectious rout and ended the battle.