A popular poet’s life

In memory of János Karikó

 

Erzsébet Karikó, the granddaughter of the poet, put together a biography for the naming ceremony of the Library.

 

“Today when we are getting acquainted with the life and work of János Karikó, we might get a better understanding of what is being said if we look back upon Bia village as it was 140-150 years ago.

The Library building used to be the school of the Roman Catholic church. Passing by the line of houses in Lakatos street (present-day Deák Ferenc street), and the Luczky house (present-day belonging to the Boros family), the opposite side was the end of the village. Beyond these there extended the corn-fields of the Metternich estate. Present-day Szabadság street was a public road, leading from Buda to Vienna. This road was also used for carrying goods from Bia to Pest, either by cart or on foot.

The parish hall stood opposite the domainal residence (present-day Agricultural School). The third house from the parish hall (in present-day Kálvin square) was the birthplace of János Karikó. In the square, next to the present-day bus stop, there was a shadoof, ‘the well of the village’ (it is still there, but covered over). The drinking-fountain was outside the village, left from the Etyek branching. Drinking water was carried from there by cart, on shoulder, or by hand.

 

At that time, more generations would live together. This was also the case with the Karikó’s.

János Karikó, the grandfather, working as a smithy in 1777, bought the house with the ¼ land after the 1811 fire. Dániel Karikó, the father, who had been deaf-mute since the age of 5, learnt smithy from his father there. Little János was born in this house on 19 May, 1851.

Grandpa was guiding and teaching the clever little boy. He taught him the knowledge of letters at the age of 4. He made a thin board, glued on paper, and wrote the alphabet with red letters on it. Little János was quick to learn, and later on he taught the little András Hegedűs living next door.

The grandparents die. The mother sends the naughty child to school at the age of 5, to Rector Károly Szászvári, saying: “Let the Rector trouble with you!”

He writes and draws a good hand. He likes reading. After finishing school he is preparing to continue his studies together with the son of Rector József Boczor. They are studious to learn the ‘scholar language’, but the death of Károly’s mother, and the poverty of János’s parents, block their way.

The 13-year-old child helps his parents in the cropping and daily work. To learn something he goes into service as a bookbinder apprentice in Buda, but he is so homesick that he can take it for only 11 days. His mother brings him home. For that he is flouted. So he goes back, but he can bear it for just another two weeks. He gets sick. Comes home, and works by day. The next year, 1866, is penurious all over the country. There is not even daily work. He is apprenticed to a blind man but it does not last more than 5 weeks.

Then he thinks to himself: we have a house, a vineyard, and a land, so I would rather work here. I would heartily work by day, just to stay here in my village.

He writes poems, and composes 120 songs to the tune of well-known psalms. If there is no other work, he binds books for sixpence in rainy weather. Once, he is given a false note for his work. He tries to spend it. When it is finally taken, he cannot get the thought out of his mind: what if he also makes an attempt? He did, but was caught on the very first day! It was something unforgivable, even for a child. The administrator of the village said to him, “you should have stolen 4 bullocks instead” – then he realized that what he had done was a much greater sin. He thought that if the false note was not accepted, it would be given back to him, and that is all. His punishment was prison for six months. He was very distressed by his deed. The great agony is recorded in his diary.

The following year he hires himself out to an Etyek farmer. He also decides to cultivate their own land themselves, without being hired. He works out his hard time.

The next year, he also works 'by the day' in the village, to buy farm implements. He also works at the Bia stone-quarry, where he earns a lot of money. Sometimes his father went with him. He would like to buy a horse and cart.

In April, 1870 a falling rock hit his father’s leg (he did not hear the caution, as the poor man was deaf), and after one week of suffering dies. This leaves his 19-year-old son as the householder, with his widowed mother and little brothers, aged 12 and 9. He is totally aware of his prospects regarding his future.

On 4 March, 1873 he is married to Erzsébet Lázár from Kuldó, a suitable girl for him. Later on, a diligent and gentle wife and mother. On 25 December of that year, their first child János is born.

Now he has a cart and a horse. He farms and carts, deals with bookbinding, and poetry.

In 1877 his daughter Lídia is born, whom he loves very much, but she only lives for 11 years. Karikó mourns her all his life.

In the same year the Book Club is founded, and he is an active member keeping records until his death.

In 1881 he becomes a representative of the village, and is also elected as a juror. It was a great honour for a man of 30. He takes place in the delegate election. His electors are singing his songs in the division.

By that time he is farming his own land, and hired land, with two horses.

His younger brother stays with his mother in the old house while János begins to build a house of his own in Kis street (present-day Rákóczi street) at the end of their land. He encloses the plot, quarries and takes the rocks home. With some help, he builds the house with his own hands. The railway is being built in the same year.

Meanwhile he does all his duties, and composes many poems. In 1884 his ‘Bridesman’s Address’ is published. In 1886 he organizes a sing. In 1887 his book of verses ‘The Flowers of the Wide’ is published. In 1889 it is followed by his ‘Groomsman’s Address’.

In 1890 he is elected as the magistrate of the village. Although he is young and poor, and worked 'by the day' some years ago, it is the people’s will that predominates over the jealous rich.

In his magistrate’s diary he records all the work done during the three years. In the following three years he occupies the legislator post. In 1896 he is elected the book-keeper of the established Mutual Credit Society, which he administers until his death.

He also puts down, among other things, the events of the millenarian memorial in Bia. There were festal services in the churches during the day, and in the evening the members of the Book Club organized a torchlight procession with music and singing patriotic songs in the Trinity Square. Here he declaimed his historical poem, the ‘Memory of the Millenarian’.

In 1897 he is elected instead of the resigned magistrate.

In 1898 he writes about the 50th anniversary of the fight for freedom, and in 1899 about the Arad martyrs.

His mandate as a magistrate is exhausted, he has many opponents, but the other candidate gets only 7 more votes in the next election. Karikó does not regard it as a defeat – he was overpassed by those who envy him.

Because of the hostility and faction, the old unity is broken up. Not only the communal elections divide the people, but also the clerical election of the Calvinistic church.

In 1904 he publishes his ‘Collected Poems’. He becomes well-known, and he is invited to many places. He writes and declaims his occasional poems at functions, e. g. in Nagyigmánd, Nagydorog, Szigetszentmiklós, Apostag, Kiskunlacháza, Ráckeve, Kunszentmiklós, Páty, Tök, etc. It gives him much gratification that he is known in various parts of the country, but he is distressed by the home situation.

In 1906 he participates as a delegation member in the solemn ceremony of the bringing home of the ashes of Prince Ferenc Rákóczi II. He composes a beautiful poem for the occasion.

Meanwhile his financial condition reaches the point that he can be nominated as a member of the county council, and out of the three nominees he gets the most votes. The other two nominees are the scrivener of Törökbálint and the domanial bailiff.

He is not confined to politics, he is not sitting on his oars, but works hard and writes poetry.

In 1908 he takes the first steps in the interest of the extension of Bia. He writes a letter to the ministerial councillor Béla Darányi, then has a personal audience. Later, also with Duchess Metternich to negotiate. Because the little village was so small, there was much striving for the extensions.

In the years of 1908 and 1909 he sorts his poems, goes over them, and selects 5 volumes according to the themes. Besides he does all his farming and other work. He has also time for memorials at funerals and being the best man at weddings if called upon.

At the end of 1908 he already complains of a headache, but he attributes it to his overworking. This condition continues in the first month of 1908, but he is still working as before.

On 19 April he becomes unwell while book keeping in the Mutual Credit Society, but does not stop working. It is an intense attack. He is taken home, and the doctor is called. He is getting a little better by the 30th and is already book keeping. On 21 April he composes his poem ‘To My Headstone’ that can be seen on his grave in the Bia Calvinistic Cemetery.

In May he takes a delegacy to Béla Darányi.

In January 1910 he resigns from his 9-year administratorship of the church. He continues to write poems. In January and February he still keeps a diary, but in March no new entry is found. He was still making memorandums, and accomplished the balance-sheet of the first trimester.

On 2 April he had another attack in the Mutual Credit Society, and on the very same day he was gathered to his Creator.

It was the end of the life of someone so laboursome and valiant. The flame that was giving light that far, was extinguished. If we look back today, we can give thanks to God for his life!”

 

Erzsébet Karikó

 
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    Wekerle Sándor III. könyvtári állománygyarapítási pályázat