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SCLAVONIC TRAVITIONAL POETRY,
In a Letter to **** *****
ably verbal ; but then I could not have In the conversation I was happy to warranted for its fidelity, as I do now. enjoy with you on literary subjects,
The tenor of the translated tale, as you inquired once, whether we had you will see, is Ossianish ; and if your any traditional poetry. I replied in the Macpherson has been true, and Ossian affirmative,- for really we have, and ever existed, we want only a Macit is very extensive; but to charac- pherson to boast of a Sclavonic Ossian. terise it, all I recollect having then There have been with us many bards, said, might be comprehended in these who were ' beloved by gods, whose lines
praises they sung, from whom they
received their song, and who were adMore mournful far than many a tear
mired and held in veneration amongst Voice most gentle, sad, and slow, men, whose deeds and feelings they Whose happiest tones still breathe of woe hallowed for immortality. Some of As in your ancient Scottish airs,
the names of those bards memory has Even joy the sound of sorrow wears. preserved, and brought them, along
with their songs, to posterity. Here Now, I send you a specimen of this you will read Žaboy and Lumir, elsepoetry. Supported by the advice of a where were celebrated Ratybor and friend, I endeavoured to translate it as Bojan ; the last was even held to be well as I could into English. The ori- the son of God Wieles. He sung in ginal is in the old Bohemo-Sclavonic Great Nowgorod, and, after his name, dialect, and had been discovered by ac- a street in that town was called Bocident in the year 1817. The manu- jan's Street. The hero of his song script from which it has been publish- was Mseislan, Waldimer's son. Of ed, judging by its hand-writing, as many other bards, there are but the Dubrowski, one of the first Bohemian poems extant, and the names forgotliterati, supposes, is to be referred be- ten; of a greater number, nothing is tween the years 1290-1310. It con• known, like those anterior to Homer. tained several historical ballads. I give All that we know, upon the whole, you the oldest: you will see from its about those bards, called in our lansubject, that it is anterior to the con- guage pieu'cy, (singers) is, that they version of the Sclavonians to Chris- were held in great esteem, their pera tianity.
sons were sacred and inviolable, they The tale belongs to the heroic kind. performed religious rites, went in emThe place of action, as I suppose, is bassies to their own princes and foreign Bohemia or Moravia. The woods men, kings,-and two such Sclavonic bards, tioned in it is the famous Silva Heru- from the shores of the Baltic, history nia, stretching through Germany, and mentions, as having been on that duty ending in Bohemia. The blue moun- at the Byzantine court. Besides, they tains, probably one range of the Carpa- celebrated the heroes of their country, thian mountains, or perhaps the Giant and sung and sat at the tables of their Mountains, where lived once a people, princes. In the west of Europe, there who, from the growth and strength of has been a Round Table ; and you see their bodies, were called Cbry Giants. the east had also its own ;-it was in Of the two holy rivers, one might Kior, at Prince Waldimer's court. be Elba or Danube. The foes against You know its poetry, from the Gerwhom they had to fight were perhaps man translation I had the pleasure to the tribes of Avari and Francs, or, communicate to you. what is more likely, Charles the Great, The Sclavonic bards appear someor one of his successors, Ludovic, who times in the attendance of foreign Inight be brought forward into the princes, sought for for their skill and poem under the name of Ludick, the amenity in song. Attila, King of the hostile chief.
Huns, after having won a victory, callPray excuse the roughness of the ed two bards. They sung in a foreign translation ; it could have been easier language,-it was the Sclavonic. They to render it more elegant than tolere sung feats of war, and praises of hea roes of their own country. Whilst the dreary anathemas of the church, hearing them, the other chiefs melted joy broke often the bondage of fear, in tears,-nor was Attila’s iron heart emboldened the neophytes to give freeuntouched :—with sadness in his look, dom to their hearts, and then the exhe took his son on his knees, and istence of human being was often one with his callous hand passed over the ecstacy of song. Where, therefore, the tender cheeks of the infant, designed political and spiritual power has been heir to his glory and power.
less heavy in oppression, you might, Those bards did not remain in one even now-a-days, find the holy rites of particular place or country, but went olden times performed, and the heafrom tribe to tribe as judges, media- then song pure and free, or mixed and tors, priests, and instructors. They encumbered with Christian ideas, ring wandered with their songs and their amid our peasantry. gests-- a sort of musical harp-from The occasions at which this happens one land to another. Their sonorous are different; they seem, however, to lay rung often in the scattered villages, be such as were predominant in the over the extensive plains, sometimes days of the former existence of that re-echoed amid the Carpathian moun- nation ; in like manner, as there are tains, sometimes along the banks of moments in the human life, which are Vistula, Elba, Wolga, and Danube. pre-eminent above all others, the reThe waters of this last river, in pre- membrance of which is lasting, and ference, were praised by them as holy, almost indissoluble from its duration. Toland, your countryman, if his autho- Thus, on St John's night, at the rity is to be trusted, asserts even, that summer tropic of the sun, you would the Celtic bards had borrowed their see, in all the Sclavonian countries, in harp from their Scythian fellow-bards; some more, in others less frequent, and the Scythians, according to the his- burning fires on the fields, or on the torical researches, are the same as the banks of rivers ; the manly youth, with Sclavonians.
arms, rubbing pieces of dry wood Time changing the form of things, on each other, and eliciting what they brought also change into our poetry. call the pure and holy fire; hereafter The abolishment of the democratical, dancing around, and jumping over its or rather patriarchal government, pre- high blazing flames. At the same time vailing at that time over all Sclavonian you would see unmarried daughters of countries-troubles ensued between villages, kindle at this fire their waxthe numerous petty princcs—the in- candles, and with the wreaths twined crease of their unlimited power over of wild flowers, send them down with the people—these, and such other cir- the current of the streams. From their cumstances, influencing the exterior slowness or rapidity in floating along, state of society, acted likewise injuri- they predict for themselves the sooner ously on poetry; for having reduced or later fulfilment of their vows and man and all his welfare to a fluctua- wishes. During this act, they used to ting form, and subjected to a caprici- sing old songs, some of them so old, ous disposal of an arbitrary will, they that their meaning in the progress of oppressed also his mind, his feeling, ages has been lost, but the more mys and imagination ; and thus bringing terious is the riddle of their words, the into the human existence a dismay and more are they relished and dear to servility, brought at the same time a their anxious hearts. mental incapacity and darkness. An You would see before the sun-set of interruption, or rather a total blank of a fine autumn day, approach towards mental exertions ensued, and reigned the White Hall, (dwelling of a land for many centuries in the literary his- lord,) a crowd of both sexes, old and tory of that extensive nation.
young, with solemn song and rural The zeal of Christian convertors fi- music. They are the reapers--they nished what slavery had begun, and come to celebrate the festival of harwith all its heaviness, would not have vest, and to be joyous. At the head accomplished. Their eagerness could of this crowd proceed two virgins, not suffer any other song besides their beauties of the village---their heals liturgy. They endeavoured to check crowned with wreaths, one of the ears and silence the free and natural effu- of wheat, the other of rye, both intersions of the human heart as impure for woven with manifold flowers. When the lips of a Christian. But in spite of they are before the White Hall, they
offer to their landlord and landlady is twofold, either amorous or heroic, those symbols of plenty and wealth of its subject being love or power ; but the fruitful soil, and, in doing so, pro- love and power of times that are no nounce a blessing. Next this act fole more, and over whose tombs a mournlows a national circle dance, the land- ing spirit strikes his charming string, at lord leads the first pair, with one of times bold, at times tender, but almost the rustic Floras, his guests and peac always in a slow, mournful, and mesants behind him; and thus, in mirth lancholy strain. This grief with joy and joviality, they drink, sing, and is common to all people, whose deeds, dance the whole night away, the star- as well as existence, are of yore ;, whose ry blue heavens over their heads, the glory is a pleasing past dream, and green turf under their feet. Some of whose true and real life we do but see the more ingenious in this Saturna- on the dead pages of history. lian company, display a wit in making Several collections of the remains of extempore stanzas, which they sing, these old songs have been made with adapted to their known melodies, and us, but in many respects they are far some of those productions are truly behind your Border Minstrelsy. The humorous, and burlesque, ridiculing richest and finest harvest of them has the peasants, the landlord, and often been gathered among the Sclavonian the monarch himself.
tribes under the Turkish Government. You would perceive in the midnight Their easy, and rather pastoral than darkness, the virgins steal to the hal, agricultural life, under a soft and molowed fountains. You would hear derate climate, fits well for the poetical there the music of an old song, like a pastimes, and raises them high in poebreeze, " that breathes upon a bank of try and music, above all their northviolets," chaunted in a low and languid ern brethren ; whose habitations, the voice, but too loud to be unheard in nearer they approach to the frozen rethe dewy night. You would see them gions, the closer seem to be wrapt in holding converse with the murmuring silence. The South-Sclavonians kept waters, and sighing to them the secrets constantly in political isolation from of their heart--ask counsel and return the rest of Europe, or far from being consoled -and ween that thus they had influenced by the foreign and refined removed the veil from their future des literature; their mind, therefore, un. tinies.
folds itself independently, and pours Some old customs and usages, even forth treasures of ideas and feelings of the eagerness of religion itself was not its own. Some pieces of their poetry, able to extinguish ; and the clergy, se- which must needs be as original as its vere at first, were at last forced to yield sources are unalloyed, are of an exquito their intrusion, and let them mix site beauty, and were appreciated, and with the ceremonies of the Christian thought even worth translating, by Faith. Thus you would see the wed- men of such a repute as Ferder Goethe, ded pair go and return from the church and Bradrinski. Of the tender king, with music and song. The songs are the Wife of Assan-Agi is undoubtedly addressed to Leda, Goddess of Love, the finest
specimen of elegiac traditional to the moon, to the stars. The bride poetry. It is in the Morlæo-Sclavonic wears on her head a wreath of ever, dialect, and has been translated
into difa green wasilok and ruba, and is praised ferent European languages. The Ser. in songs as Queen. Amid shouts of vians excel principally in celebrating joy, and waving of banners, she pro- deeds of arms. There exist with them ceeds with her bridegroom to the White numerous warlike songs in praise of Hall, to bow there before the patri- their old kings and heroes, down to the archal landlord, and receive from him famous George Ozermy; and praises presents.
await now the victorious prince Ypsal. On those, and such-like occasions, anty. He fights in the sacred cause of you would hear the songs of olden freedom, as the former did; and the detimes revived; and hence you may con- fenders of freedom among the Sclavoclude that a great deal of traditional nians never were left unsung. poetry is circulating amidst our peo- Thus many remains of old minstrela ple, and it represents the image of sy are scattered over all the Sclavonian the social and religious life of the old countries, in songs and oral traditions Sclavonians. Its spirit upon the whole of the people ; which, if gathered to VOL. X.
gether, combined with the annals of its greatness and glory-A sigh, which their history, interwoven with the ten- heard by a wanderer of Vistula, on the dency of the real character and exist- banks of Thames, or along the Forth, ence of Sclavonians, would furnish ma- recalls to his mind all his home-bred terials, if not for the general, at least sympathies.” He consoles himself in for the local, national poetry. Its the Pleasures of Hope, reads Lochiel, sources, although they are not so rich and sheds tears over the immortal as in Scotland, are nevertheless more pages, as the generous bard did at the extensive than those of any European injured shrine of Humanity. people. And where are the limits to I know that you like to consider man them? From the sources of the ri- under different aspects, and trace his ver Elbe and the Baltic, till the Black moral being through the history of the Sea, from the Adriatic Sea till the re- manifold exertions of his mind, and motest boundaries of Northern Asia, social relations. I know that you take what an immensity of lands! And of him the highest and most exteneverywhere dwell the Sclavonian inha- sive view, from which you easily mark bitants; and in how countless tribes! the mysteries of his divine origin and And each individual among them has destination; therefore, I hope, it will his five senses, through which he re- not be unpleasing to you that colouring, ceives externalimpressions has a brain however little it be, of the great image that vibrates with thought-has an of my kindred nation, a nation that heart that overflows with
joy and woe occupies more place on the globe than -has passions that carry his being to pages in the history—that contains in actions worthy of an angel or a demon. itself an embryo to the fulfilment of Besides, what riches of ideas must pour its great moral and political designs ; forth from their different social rela. a nation that, in its various and almost tions to each other, and to Deity! Tru- innumerable tribes of which it is comly a richness of sources that is amazing posed, under different climes and gofor a systematical observer, and rather vernments, in spite of disdain and fomore fit for the irregular ecstacy of an reign oppression, did not lose the proenthusiast, or a high-minded poet.- totype of its original character,--had There should be born Sir Walter Scotts, followed for many centuries, and folto recal from beneath the mountain- lows till now-a-days, its own class of tombs, (Kurhany) overgrown with ideas, and is particular in its social moss and weeds, the bold spirit of the virtues--whose principles of morality old Sclavonian chivalry. There should consist in paternal sayings planted from be born Burnses and Ettrick Shepherds fathers down to their grand-children to give us an ideal of agricultural and whose poetry is chiefly in songs adornpastoral life; and born should be those ed with images and shades of pastoral also, for whom
and agricultural life, -whose music is « The meanest flower that blows can give like a uniform wailing of orphan-childThoughts that do often lie too deep for ren, who even in their revelry seem not tears."
to forget that they revel on the tombs Many should be born who would fol- of their venerable sires ; a nation that low Lord Byron; who, by choosing almost alone, or on its numerous flocks,
lives on the produce of its fruitful soil our Mazeppa for his poem, has not in and disdains all commercial traffic as the least disgraced his pen, nor wrong- sordid ; that is poor in its stores, but ed his wild imagination. Its wildness rich in’kindness, and warm in hospitahas been rather gratified on the wild lity,--whose scattered tribes look with places of Ukraine. And many who bitter hatred on a foreign yoke, and are would follow your Campbell, who did stubborn to acknowledge over themnot also disgrace his Pleasures of Hope selves any other law imposed, except by a heart-rending sigh :
their ancient usages and customs, which Hope, for a season, bade the world fare. they revere; whose leading character well,
is mildness, submission, and fidelity to And Freedom shriek'd as. Kosciusko their legitimate superiors-cordiality fell !”
between the remotest relations of one A sigh, worthy to be placed as an family-high respect to the grey paepitaph to the whole nation, which has triarchal hair-particular love to their thus been laid into the grave with all country, and valour in defending its
rights. Of this many instances are ex. laws. This similarity of character can tant, worthy to be noticed as high ex. be accounted for but by their common amples in the history of patriotism. origin alone, and consanguinity; ac
Some defended gloriously their li- cording to which, should it ever be berties, and, prodigal of blood and possible to unite all the family memlives, took vengeance on those who bers into one whole, they would, at dared encroach upon them. Some, the cirele of their home, and at the who could not restore freedom to their same tutelary hearth, reassume their country, exiled themselves for ever, national character in all its purity, and and in other parts of the world sought by its saluary influence, rise in mildhospitality and tombs. Some enrolled ness and strength to the splendour of themselvesunder foreign banners, bled, moral dignity and greatness. guided by glimpses of a deceitful hope, These are the short and desultory crowned with laurels, if not their va- considerations concerning the Sclavó.. lorous temples, their glorious tombs. nians, which the translation here enDeath itself seemed to them a victory, closed did suggest to me, and my little who could not endure to see the land skill in English permitted to write of their forefathers groaning in slavery, down;should they, nevertheless, please and to whom a life without freedom your leisure hour, for they do not de was worse than death.
serve any other time, I would be happy Such is the spirit and tendency of to remember having done any thing. mind common to each people of Scla- to your satisfaction. I remain, vonian race; to those who boast to Sir, have their own free government, or
Your most obedient are grown up to great political power,
Servant, as to those who dispersed in various
C. L. S. elimates, led a precarious existence, as Edinburgh, 28th July, 1821, gubjeet to foreign governments and
ZABOY, SLAWOY, AND LUDECK.
A Sclavonian Tale, (Translated from the Bohemo-Sclavonian Dialect.) AMIDST a dark wood appears a rock. from the bottom of my heart, where On the rock appears the valiant Zaboy. is the seat of bitterness He looks around on all the lands bé. “ The father is gone to his fathers. neath-looking, sighs and weeps, with He left behind in his paternal hall his dove-like tears. Long there he sits, children and beloved wives. Dying, and long is sad.
he told his will to none, (save to his At once up he starts, and like a stag eldest brother :) Dear brother ! thou springs down the rock. He runs mayest say to all with a father's voice : through the wood, through the wood's “ A stranger will here force his long solitary wild. He speeds then way, and overrun our native land. In from man to man, from warrior to foreign tongue he will command, as warrior, through all the country. Few be in other parts hath done. He will words, and in secret, he speaks to compel you to work for him-you, each : and having bowed in thanks to your children, and your wives, from God, he swift returned to his friends. the rising till the setting sun. And
Thus passed the first day, thus the no more than one friend (wife) shall second ; but, as the moon arose on the you have, all the onward way from third night, the warriors gathered to the spring of your life till the grave. the dark wood. To greet them, Zaboy All the hawks of your woods they will descends into the glen-into the deep- scare away, and to such gods as in est glen of the thickest wood.
other countries are, will force you to In his hand a sweet-sounding lute bow and sacrifice. Ah, brethren! he took, and sung:
neither to strike our foreheads before “Ye warriors of kindred hearts and our gods will we dare, nor reach them sparkling eyes! I sing from beneath a food, where our father wont to bring song to you; it comes from my heart them offerings, where he raised his