Russian Legend – Slovo, the Tale – Part One


Slovo, the Tale

The Story of Igor is a long Russian ballad from the 12th century, therefore I’ve decided to break it into parts. The Legend is simply called  Slovo, the Tale (from its Russian title Slovo o pol’ku Igoreve). In the 12th century Russia was a small feuding group of city states, they didn’t have any central authority nor was there any cohesion between them. It would be another Fifty years before the Mongolians would invade Russian lands and rule over them with an iron fist for two centuries. Before this happened the most persistent enemies of the Russians were the fierce Polovtsi nomads. They roamed the wide grassy plains of the Don and Dnepr down to the inland seas, to the south of Russian territory. The immortalization of this poem would occur in 1185 during a minor skirmish between the Polovtsi and Igor Svyatoslavich, a noble of Chernigov, a city that today is in Ukraine. It is my hope to share with you the beauty of  this Russian poem. There was a time when historians and philologists questioned the authenticity of the text for multiple reasons, linguists on the other hand excepted them as being authentic. Today scholarly consensus accepts Slovo’s authenticity.

Slovo o pol’ku Igoreve

Might it not become us, brothers,
to begin in the diction of yore
the stern tale
of the campaign of Igor,
Igor son of Svyatoslav?

Let us, however,
begin this song
in keeping with the happenings
of these times
and not with the contriving of Boyan

For he, vatic Boyan
if he wished to make a laud for one,
ranged in thought
[like the nightingale] over the tree;
like the gray wolf
across land;
like the smoky eagle
up to the clouds.

For as he recalled, said he,
the feuds of initial times,
“He set ten falcons
upon a flock of swans,
and the one first overtaken,
sang a song first” –
to Yaroslav of yore,
and to brave Mstislav
who slew Rededya
before the Kasog troops,
and to fair Roman
son of Svyatoslav.

To be sure, brothers,
Boyan did not [really]
set ten falcons
upon a flock of swans:
his own vatic fingers
he laid on the live strings,
which then twanged out by themselves
a paean to princes.

So let us begin, brothers,
this tale –
from Vladimir of yore
to nowadays Igor,
who girded his mind
with fortitude,
and sharpened his heart
with manliness;

[thus] imbued with the spirit of arms,
he led his brave troops
against the Kuman land
in the name of the Russian land.

Then Igor glanced up at the bright sun
and saw that from it with darkness
his warriors were covered.

And Igor says to his Guards:

“Brothers and Guards!
It is better indeed to be slain
than to be enslaved;

To be continued………..


5 thoughts on “Russian Legend – Slovo, the Tale – Part One

      1. Giving the answer away so easy without allowing you to ponder on it. No! It’s better that you search my blog and read between the lines you will begin to understand. A lot of what I do is planned, then some is not. Some of the things I post are like white space between words. But I suspect you will see it fairly quick. When you do understand don’t post it. E-mail me and we can chat there. I’ve been waiting to share more for those who get it.

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