Russian Legend – Slovo the Tale – Part Two


igor-the-brave

In the first part of of this tale we are introduced to the characters of this poem. Here we see the braveness and manliness of Igor who begins his campaign showing his strength and courage, were he recounts Yaroslav of yore, and to brave Mstislav who slew Rededya, we can see he’s preparing his troops for battle by associating himself to Vladimir of yore before he openly embarks the cry the to his troops to fight the Kuman enemies. He looks to the sky and sees it’s to his advantage then cries,

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

What is interesting is that this was not a strategic battle: Igor along with his brothers were out to pick a fight, they were acting on a grudge, after seeing the enemy the entire encounter was purely impromptu. Nor was the engagement a victory: During the battle Igor was wounded and captured, in a later scene we see him escaping and walking back to Chernigov. What came from this incident, however, was one of the first treasures of Russian literature. The poem itself captures vivid natural metaphors, the evoking of Slavic pagan deities, and a electrifying account of the combat. Igor appeal’s to the Russian warriors for tribal unity, as the poet appeals to different factions to support Igor in his darkest hour. What is even more unusual is that we know next to nothing about the author of the Slovo, other than that he was a more than likely a witness of the events that he wrote about. So thus begins part two.

so let us mount, brothers,
upon our swift steeds,
and take a look at the blue Don.”

A longing consumed the prince’s mind,
and the omen was screened from him
by the urge to taste
of the Great Don:

“For I wish,” he said,
“to break a lance
on the limit of the Kuman field;
with you, sons of Rus, I wish
either to lay down my head
or drink a helmetful of the Don.”

O Boyan, nightingale
of the times of old!
If you were to trill [your praise of]
these troops,
while hopping, nightingale,
over the tree of thought;
[if you were] flying in mind
up to the clouds;
[if] weaving paeans around these times,
[you were] roving the Troyan Trail,
across fields onto hills;

then the song to be sung of Igor,
that grandson of Oleg [, would be]:

“No storm has swept falcons across
wide fields;
flocks of daws flee toward the Great
Don”;

or you might intone thus,
vatic Boyan, grandson of Veles:

“Steeds neigh beyond the Sula;
glory rings in Kiev;
trumpets blare in Novgorod[-Seversk];
banners are raised in Putivl.”

Igor waits for his dear brother Vsevolod.

And Wild Bull Vsevolod [arrives and]
says to him:

“My one brother, one bright brightness,
you Igor!
We both are Svyatoslav’s sons.

Saddle, brother, your swift steeds.

As to mine, they are ready,
saddled ahead, near Kursk;

as to me Kurskers, they are famous
knights–
swaddled under war-horns,
nursed under helmets,
fed from the point of the lance;

to them the trails are familiar,
to them the ravines are known,
the bows they have are strung tight,
the quivers, unclosed,
the sabers, sharpened;

themselves, like gray wolves,
they lope in the field,
seeking for themselves honor,
and for their prince glory.”

Then Igor set foot
in the golden stirrup
and rode out in the champaign.

The sun blocks his way with darkness.

Night, moaning ominously unto him,
awakens the birds;
the whistling of beasts [arises?];

[stirring?] the daeva calls
on the top of a tree,
bids hearken the land unknown –
the Volga,
and the [Azov] Seaboard,
and the Sula country,
and Surozh,
and Korsun,
and you, idol of Tmutorokan!

Meanwhile by untrodden roads
the Kumans make for the Great Don;
[their] wagons screak in the middle of
night;
one might say – dispersed swans.

Igor leads Donward his warriors.

His misfortunes already
are forefelt by the birds in the
oakscrub.
The wolves, in the ravines,
conjure the storm.
The erns with their squalling
summon the beasts to the bones.
The foxes yelp
at the vermilion shields.

O Russian land,
you are already behind the culmen!

Long does the night keep darkling.

Dawn sheds its light.
Mist has covered the fields.

Stilled is the trilling of nightingales;
the jargon of jackdaws has woken.

With their vermilion shields
the sons of Rus have barred the great prairie,
seeking for themselves honor,
and for their prince glory.

Early on Friday
they trampled the pagan Kuman troops
and fanned out like arrows
over the field;
they bore off fair Kuman maidens
and, with them, gold,
and brocades,and precious samites.

By means of caparisons,
and mantlets,
and furred cloaks of leather
they started making plankings
to plank marshes
and miry spots
with all kinds of Kuman weaves.

A vermilion standard,
a white gonfalon,
a vermilion penant of [dyed] horsehair
and a silver hilt
[went] to [Igor] son of Svyatoslav.

In the field slumbers
Oleg’s brave aerie:
far has it flown!

Not born was it to be wronged
either by falcon or hawk,
or by you, black raven,
pagan Kuman!

Gzak runs like a gray wolf;
Konchak lays out a track for him
to the Great Don.

On the next day very early
bloody effulgences
herald the light.

Black clouds come from the sea:
They want to cover
the four suns,
and in them throb blue lightnings.

There is to be great thunder,
there is to come rain in [the guise of] arrows
from the Great Don.

Here lances shall break,
here sabers shall blunt
against Kuman helmets
on the river Kayala by the Great Don.

O Russian land,
you are already behind the culmen!

Now the winds, Stribog’s grandsons,
in [the guise of] arrows waft
from the sea against the brave troops of Igor!

The earth rumbles,
the rivers run sludgily,
dust covers the fields.

The banners speak:
“The Kumans are coming
from the Don and from the sea

and from all sides!”
The Russian troops retreat.

The Fiend’s children bar the field
with their war cries;
the brave sons of Rus bar it
with their vermilion shields.

Fierce Bull Vsevolod!
You stand your ground,
you spurt arrows at warriors,
you clang on helmets
with swords of steel.

To be continued………..

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