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IMRE MADACH (1829—1864)

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Originally appearing in Volume V17, Page 270 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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IMRE MADACH (1829—1864), Hungarian dramatist, was born at Also-Sztregova. He took part in the great revolution of 1848—49 and was imprisoned; on his return to his small estate in the county of NSgrad, he found that his family life had meanwhile been completely wrecked. This only increased his natural tendency to melancholy, and he withdrew from public life till 1861, devoting his time mainly to the composition of his chief work, Az ember tragoediaja (" The Tragedy of Man "). John Arany, then at the height of his fame as a poet, at once recognized the great merits of that peculiar drama, and Madach enjoyed a short spell of fame before his untimely death of heart-disease in 1864. In The Tragedy of Man Madach takes us from the hour when Adam and Eve were innocently walking in the Garden of Eden to the times of the Pharaohs; then to the Athens of Miltiades; to declining Rome; to the period of the crusades; into the study of the astronomer Kepler; thence into the horrors of the French Revolution; into greed-eaten and commerce-ridden modern London; nay, into the ultra-Socialist state of the future, when all the former ideals of man will by scientific formulae be shown up in their hollowness; still further, the poet shows the future of ice-clad earth, when man will be reduced to a degraded brute dragging on the misery of his existence in a cave. In all these scenes, or rising from land little above the sea-level, is well seen far out to sea. In the elevated region of Madagascar are many fertile plains and valleys, the former being the dried-up beds of ancient lakes. Among these are Betsimitatatra in Imerina, and Tsienimparihy in Betsileo, supplying a large proportion of the rice required for the capitals of these two provinces. Still more spacious valleys are the Antsihanaka country and the Ankay district, between the two eastern lines of forest. The extensive coast plains on the western side of the island are chiefly in Iboina (N.W.) and inMenabe (S. of the Tsiribihina River) ; those on the east are widest in the Taifasy country (S.E.). The water-parting for six-sevenths of the whole length of the island is much nearer the eastern than the western side, averaging from 8o to 90 M. from the sea. There are no arid districts, except in the extreme south-west and towards the southern point of the island. The general surface of the interior highland consists of bare rolling moor-like country, with a great amount of red clay-like soil, while the valleys have a rich humus of bluish-black alluvium. The chief rivers flow to the west and north-west sides of the island. The eastern streams are all less in size, except the Mangoro, which flows parallel with the coast. Few of them therefore are of much service for navigation, except for the light-draught native canoes; and all of them are more or less closed at their outlets by sand-bars. Beginning at the south-eastern point and going northwards, the principal rivers are the Mananara, Manampatrana, Matitanana, Mananjary, Mangoro, with its great affluent Onive, Vohitra, Maningory, and the Antanambalana at the head of Antongil Bay. On the N.W. coast, going southwards, are the Sofia and Mahajamba, falling into Mahajamba Bay, the Betsiboka with the Ikopa—the great drains of the northern central provinces, forming unitedly the second largest river of the island and falling into Bembatoka Bay—the Mahavary, Manambolo, Tsiribihina or Onimainty, the third largest river, with its tributaries the Kitsamby, Mahajilo and Mania, the Morondava, Mangoky, probably the largest river in the country, with its important tributaries the Matsiatra, Manantanana and Ranomaitso, the Fiherenana and Onilahy. On the south coast are four considerable streams, the largest of which is the Menarandra. Of the western rivers the Betsiboka can be ascended by small steamers for about loo m., and the Tsiribihina is also navigable for a considerable distance. The former is about 300 M. long; the latter somewhat less, but by its affluents spreads over a greater extent of country, as also does the Mangoky. The rivers are all crossed frequently by rocky bars, which often form grand waterfalls. The eastern rivers cut their way through the ramparts of the high land by magnificent gorges amidst dense forest, and descend by a succession of rapids and cataracts. The Matitanana, whose falls were first seen by the writer in 1876, descends at one plunge some 400 ft.; and on the Vohitra River, whose valley is followed by the railway, there are also many fine waterfalls. On the eastern side of Madagascar the contest between the fresh water of the rivers and the sea has caused the formation of a chain of lagoons for nearly 300 M. In many places these look like a river following the coast-line, but frequently they spread out into extensive sheets of water. By cutting about 3o m. of canal to connect them, a continuous waterway could be formed for 270 M. along the coast. This has already been done for about 55 M. between Ivondrona and Andovoranto, a service of small steamers forming part of the communication between the coast and the capital. Besides these lagoons, there are few lakes of any size in Madagascar, although there were some very extensive lakes in a recent geological epoch. Of the largest of these, the Alaotra Lake in the Antsihanaka plain is the relic; it is about 25 m. long. Next comes Kinkony, new Maroambitsy Bay (N.W. coast), about 16 m. long, and then Itasy, in western Imerina, about half as large. There is also a salt lake, Tsimanampetsotsa (S.W. coast), about as large as Alaotra. There is now no active volcano in Madagascar, but a large number of extinct cones are found, some apparently of very recent formation. Some miles south of Diego-Suarez is a huge volcanic mountain, Ambohitra, with scores of subsidiary cones on its slopes and around its base. About 40 M. south-west of Antananarivo there is a still larger extinct volcano, Ankaratra, with an extensive lava field surrounding it; while near Lake Itasy are some 200 volcanic cones. Another group of extinct volcanoes is in the Vakinankaratra district, S.W. of Ankaratra. Many others exist in other parts of the island (see § Geology). Slight shocks of earthquake are felt every year, and hot springs occur at many places. Several of these are sulphurous and medicinal, and have been found efficacious in skin diseases and in internal complaints. rather anticipatory dreams, Adam, Eve and the arch-fiend Lucifer are the chief and constantly recurring personae dramatis. In the end, Adam, despairing of his race, wants to commit suicide, when at the critical moment Eve tells him that she is going to be a mother. Adam then prostrates himself before God, who encourages him to hope and trust. The diction of the drama is elevated and pure, and although not meant for the stage, it has proved very effective at several public performances. Concerning Madach there is an ample literature, consisting mostly of elaborate articles by Charles Szasz (1862), Augustus Greguss (1872), B. Alexander (1871), M. Palagyi (189o), and others.
End of Article: IMRE MADACH (1829—1864)
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