The Nemzeti dal (“National Song”) is a poem that was essentially at the heart of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

170 years ago today, on March 15, medical students, philosophers, and writers like Mór Jókai, joined the famed poet Sándor Petőfi in a local café near Budapest as he raised his voice and recited his fiery poem. He also declared a list of 12 demands for freedom and independence—demands that were mostly granted within days by the king, thanks to a youth-sparked non-violent protest that marched across the city.

As a result, a new Hungarian Parliament, with Lajos Batthyány as its first Prime Minister was established and the government passed a sweeping package of reforms called the “April laws”, creating the basis for a liberal democracy. March 15 has since become a national holiday in Hungary. (Read more about the protest from GNN)

The translation below is literal, attempting to convey the precise meaning of the original text. (Magyar refers to a Hungarian)

Nemzeti dal

Talpra magyar, hí a haza!
Itt az idő, most vagy soha!
Rabok legyünk vagy szabadok?
Ez a kérdés, válasszatok! –
A magyarok istenére
Esküszünk,
Esküszünk, hogy rabok tovább
Nem leszünk!

Rabok voltunk mostanáig,
Kárhozottak ősapáink,
Kik szabadon éltek-haltak,
Szolgaföldben nem nyughatnak.
A magyarok istenére
Esküszünk,
Esküszünk, hogy rabok tovább
Nem leszünk!

Sehonnai bitang ember,
Ki most, ha kell, halni nem mer,
Kinek drágább rongy élete,
Mint a haza becsülete.
A magyarok istenére
Esküszünk,
Esküszünk, hogy rabok tovább
Nem leszünk!

Fényesebb a láncnál a kard,
Jobban ékesíti a kart,
És mi mégis láncot hordtunk!
Ide veled, régi kardunk!
A magyarok istenére
Esküszünk,
Esküszünk, hogy rabok tovább
Nem leszünk!

A magyar név megint szép lesz,
Méltó régi nagy hiréhez;
Mit rákentek a századok,
Lemossuk a gyalázatot!
A magyarok istenére
Esküszünk,
Esküszünk, hogy rabok tovább
Nem leszünk!

Hol sírjaink domborulnak,
Unokáink leborulnak,
És áldó imádság mellett
Mondják el szent neveinket.
A magyarok istenére
Esküszünk,
Esküszünk, hogy rabok tovább
Nem leszünk!

The National Poem

On your feet, Magyar, the homeland calls!
The time is here, now or never!
Shall we be slaves or free?
This is the question, choose your answer! –
By the God of the Hungarians
We vow,
We vow, that we will be slaves
No longer!

We were slaves up til now,
Damned are our ancestors,
Who lived and died free,
Cannot rest in a slave land.
By the God of the Hungarians
We vow,
We vow, that we will be slaves
No longer!

Useless villain of a man,
Who now, if need be, doesn’t dare to die,
Who values his pathetic life greater
Than the honor of his homeland.
By the God of the Hungarians
We vow,
We vow, that we will be slaves
No longer!

The sword shines brighter than the chain,
Decorates better the arm,
And we still wore chains!
Return now, our old sword!
By the God of the Hungarians
We vow,
We vow, that we will be slaves
No longer!

The Magyar name will be great again,
Worthy of its old, great honor;
Which the centuries smeared on it,
We will wash away the shame!
By the God of the Hungarians
We vow,
We vow, that we will be slaves
No longer!

Where our grave mounds lie,
Our grandchildren will kneel,
And with blessing prayer,
Recite our sainted names.
By the God of the Hungarians
We vow,
We vow, that we will be slaves
No longer!

PETŐFI SÁNDOR (1848) —Translated by KŐRÖSSY LÁSZLÓ (2004)