1. The Russian names normally do not have any accents; in this book they appear to represent the emphasized syllable. The use of accents has been standardized, with exception of Alexander vs. Alexander.
2. Corrected the division into stanzas for a poem "God" (O Thou eternal One! whose presence bright) on page 94. The translator used nine lines where ten lines were used in the original Russian poem.
3. Several misprints and punctuation errors corrected. A list of corrections can be found at the end of the text.
4. Footnotes moved to chapter-ends.
A SURVEY OF RUSSIAN LITERATURE, WITH SELECTIONS
ISABEL F. HAPGOOD
Author of "Russian Rambles," and "The Epic Songs of Russia"
New York Chautauqua Springfield Chicago The Chautauqua Press MCMII Copyright, 1902, by The Chautauqua Press
The Lakeside Press, Chicago, Ill., U. S. A. R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company
I. THE ANCIENT PERIOD, FROM THE EARLIEST TIMES TO THE INTRODUCTION OF CHRISTIANITY IN 988 1
II. THE ANCIENT PERIOD, FROM THE INTRODUCTION OF CHRISTIANITY TO THE TATAR DOMINION, 988-1224 39
III. SECOND PERIOD, FROM THE TATAR DOMINION TO THE TIME OF IVAN THE TERRIBLE, 1224-1330 47
IV. THIRD PERIOD, FROM THE TIME OF IVAN THE TERRIBLE, 1530, TO THE MIDDLE OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY 50
V. FOURTH PERIOD, FROM THE MIDDLE OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY TO THE EPOCH OF REFORM UNDER PETER THE GREAT 61
VI. FIFTH PERIOD, THE REIGN OF PETER THE GREAT, 1689-1723 66
VII. SIXTH PERIOD, THE REIGN OF KATHERINE II. 1762-1796 80
VIII. SEVENTH PERIOD, FROM PUSHKIN TO THE WRITERS OF THE FORTIES 123
IX. SEVENTH PERIOD: GONTCHAROFF, GRIGOROVITCH, TURGENEFF 161
X. SEVENTH PERIOD: OSTROVSKY, A. K. TOLSTOY, POLONSKY, NEKRASOFF, SHEVTCHENKO, AND OTHERS 181
XI. DOSTOEVSKY 212
XII. SEVENTH PERIOD: DANILEVSKY, SALTYKOFF, L. N. TOLSTOY, GORKY, AND OTHERS 229
In this volume I have given exclusively the views of Russian critics upon their literature, and hereby acknowledge my entire indebtedness to them.
The limits of the work, and the lack of general knowledge on the subject, rendered it impossible for me to attempt any comparisons with foreign literatures.
ISABEL F. HAPGOOD.
NEW YORK, June 6, 1902.
THE ANCIENT PERIOD, FROM THE EARLIEST TIMES TO THE INTRODUCTION OF CHRISTIANITY IN 988.
Whether Russia had any literature, or even a distinctive alphabet, previous to the end of the tenth century, is not known.
In the year 988, Vladimir, Grand Prince of Kieff, accepted Christianity for himself and his nation, from Byzantium, and baptized Russia wholesale. Hence his characteristic title in history, "Prince-Saint-equal-to-the-Apostles." His grandmother, Olga, had already been converted to the Greek Church late in life, and had established churches and priests in Kieff, it is said. Prince Vladimir could have been baptized at home, but he preferred to make the Greek form of Christianity his state religion in a more decided manner; to adopt the gospel of peace to an accompaniment of martial deeds. Accordingly he compelled the Emperors of Byzantium, by force, to send the Patriarch of Constantinople to baptize him, and their sister to become his wife. He then ordered his subjects to present themselves forthwith for baptism. Finding that their idols did not punish Vladimir for destroying them, and that even great Perun the Thunderer did not resent being flung into the Dniepr, the people quietly and promptly obeyed. As their old religion had no temples for them to cling to, and nothing approaching a priestly class (except the volkhvye, or wizards) to encourage them in opposition, the nation became Christian in a day, to all appearances. We shall see, however, that in many cases, as in other lands converted from heathendom, the old gods were merely baptized with new names, in company with their worshipers.
Together with the religion which he imported from Byzantium, "Prince-Saint" Vladimir naturally imported, also, priests, architects, artists for the holy pictures (ikoni), as well as the traditional style of painting them, ecclesiastical vestments and vessels, and—most precious of all—the Slavonic translation of the holy Scriptures and of the Church Service books. These books, however, were not written in Greek, but in the tongue of a cognate Slavonic race, which was comprehensible to the Russians. Thus were the first firm foundations of Christianity, education, and literature simultaneously laid in the cradle of the present vast Russian empire, appropriately called "Little Russia," of which Kieff was the capital; although even then they were not confined to that section of the country, but were promptly extended, by identical methods, to old Novgorod—"Lord Novgorod the Great," the cradle of the dynasty of Rurik, founder of the line of sovereign Russian princes.
Whence came these Slavonic translations of the Scriptures, the Church Services, and other books, and the preachers in the vernacular for the infant Russian nation? The books had been translated about one hundred and twenty-five years previously, for the benefit of a small Slavonic tribe, the Moravians. This tribe had been baptized by German ecclesiastics, whose books and speech, in the Latin tongue, were wholly incomprehensible to their converts. For fifty years Latin had been used, and naturally Christianity had made but little progress. Then the Moravian Prince Rostislaff appealed to Michael, emperor of Byzantium, to send him preachers capable of making themselves understood. The emperor had in his dominions many Slavonians; hence the application, on the assumption that there must be, among the Greek priests, many who were acquainted with the languages of the Slavonic tribes. In answer to this appeal, the Emperor Michael dispatched to Moravia two learned monks, Kyrill and Methody, together with several other ecclesiastics, in the year 863.
Kyrill and Methody were the sons of a grandee, who resided in the chief town of Macedonia, which was surrounded by Slavonic colonies. The elder brother, Methody, had been a military man, and the governor of a province containing Slavonians. The younger, Kyrill, had received a brilliant education at the imperial court, in company with the Emperor Michael, and had been a pupil of the celebrated Photius (afterwards Patriarch), and librarian of St. Sophia, after becoming a monk. Later on, the brothers had led the life of itinerant missionaries, and had devoted themselves to preaching the Gospel to Jews and Mohammedans. Thus they were in every way eminently qualified for their new task.
The Slavonians in the Byzantine empire, and the cognate tribes who dwelt nearer the Danube, like the Moravians, had long been in sore need of a Slavonic translation of the Scriptures and the Church books, since they understood neither Greek nor Latin; and for the lack of such a translation many relapsed into heathendom. Kyrill first busied himself with inventing an alphabet which should accurately reproduce all the varied sounds of the Slavonic tongues. Tradition asserts that he accomplished this task in the year 855, founding it upon the Greek alphabet, appropriating from the Hebrew, Armenian, and Coptic characters for the sounds which the Greek characters did not represent, and devising new ones for the nasal sounds. The characters in this alphabet were thirty-eight in number. Kyrill, with the aid of his brother Methody, then proceeded to make his translations of the Church Service books. The Bulgarians became Christians in the year 861, and these books were adopted by them. But the greatest activity of the brothers was during the four and a half years beginning with the year 862, when they translated the holy Scriptures, taught the Slavonians their new system of reading and writing, and struggled with heathendom and with the German priests of the Roman Church. These German ecclesiastics are said to have sent petition after petition to Rome, to Pope Nicholas I., demonstrating that the Word of God ought to be preached in three tongues only—Hebrew, Greek, and Latin—"because the inscription on the Cross had been written by Pilate in those tongues only." Pope Nicholas summoned the brothers to Rome; but Pope Adrian II., who was reigning in his stead when they arrived there, received them cordially, granted them permission to continue their preaching and divine services in the Slavonic language, and even consecrated Methody bishop of Pannonia; after which Methody returned to Moravia, but Kyrill, exhausted by his labors, withdrew to a monastery near Rome, and died there in 869.
The language into which Kyrill and Methody translated was probably the vernacular of the Slavonian tribes dwelling between the Balkans and the Danube. But as the system invented by Kyrill took deepest root in Bulgaria (whither, in 886, a year after Methody's death, his disciples were banished from Moravia), the language preserved in the ancient transcripts of the holy Scriptures came in time to be called "Ancient Bulgarian." In this connection, it must be noted that this does not indicate the language of the Bulgarians, but merely the language of the Slavonians who lived in Bulgaria. The Bulgarians themselves did not belong to the Slavonic, nor even to the Indo-European race, but were of Ural-Altaic extraction; that is to say, they belonged to the family now represented in Europe by the Finns, Turks, Hungarians, Tatars, and Samoyeds. In the seventh century, this people, which had inhabited the country lying between the Volga and the Don, in southeastern Russia, became divided: one section moved northward, and settled on the Kama River, a tributary of the Volga; the other section moved westward, and made their appearance on the Danube, at the close of the seventh century. There they subdued a considerable portion of the Slavonic inhabitants, being a warlike race; but the Slavonians, who were more advanced in agriculture and more industrious than the Bulgarians, effected a peaceful conquest over the latter in the course of the two succeeding centuries, so that the Bulgarians abandoned their own language and customs, and became completely merged with the Slavonians, to whom they had given their name.
When the Slavonic translations of the Scriptures and the Church Service books were brought to Russia from Bulgaria and Byzantium, the language in which they were written received the name of "Church Slavonic," because it differed materially from the Russian vernacular, and was used exclusively for the church services. Moreover, as in the early days of Russian literature the majority of writers belonged to the ecclesiastical class, the literary or book language was gradually evolved from a mixture of Church Slavonic and ancient Russian; and in this language all literature was written until the "civil," or secular, alphabet and language were introduced by Peter the Great, at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Books were written in "Kyrillian" characters until the sixteenth century, and the first printed books (which date from that century) were in the same characters. The most ancient manuscripts, written previous to the fourteenth century, are very beautiful, each letter being set separately, and the capital letters often assuming the form of fantastic beasts and birds, or of flowers, or gilded. The oldest manuscript of Russian work preserved dates from the middle of the eleventh century—a magnificent parchment copy of the Gospels, made by Deacon Grigory for Ostromir, the burgomaster of Novgorod (1056-1057), and hence known as "the Ostromir Gospels."
But before we deal with the written and strictly speaking literary works of Russia, we must make acquaintance with the oral products of the people's genius, which antedate it, or at all events, contain traces of such hoary antiquity that history knows nothing definite concerning them, although they deserve precedence for their originality. Such are the skazki, or tales, the poetical folk-lore, the epic songs, the religious ballads. The fairy tales, while possessing analogies with those of other lands, have their characteristic national features. While less striking and original than, for example, the exquisite Esthonian legends, they are of great interest in the study of comparative folk-lore. More important is the poetical folk-lore of Russia, concerning which neither tradition nor history can give us any clue in the matter of derivation or date. One thing seems reasonably certain: it largely consists of the relics of an extensive system of sorcery, in the form of fragmentary spells, exorcisms, incantations, and epic lays, or byliny.
Song accompanies every action of the Russian peasant, from the cradle to the grave: the choral dances of spring, summer, and autumn, the games of the young people in their winter assemblies, marriages, funerals, and every phase of life, the sowing and the harvest, and so forth. The kazak songs, robber songs, soldiers' songs, and historical songs are all descendants or imitators of the ancient poetry of Russia. They are the remains of the third—the Moscow or imperial—cycle of the epic songs, which deals with really historical characters and events. The Moscow cycle is preceded by the cycles of Vladimir, or Kieff, and of Novgorod. Still more ancient must be the foundations of the marriage songs, rooted in the customs of the ancient Slavonians.
The Slavonians do not remember the date of their arrival in Europe. Tradition says that they first dwelt, after this arrival, along the Danube, whence a hostile force compelled them to emigrate to the northeast. At last Novgorod and Kieff were built; and the Russians, the descendants of these eastern Slavonians, naturally inherited the religion which must at one time, like the language, have been common to all the Slavonic races. This religion, like that of all Aryan races, was founded on reverence paid to the forces of nature and to the spirits of the dead. Their gods and goddesses represented the forces of nature. Thus Lado and Lada, who are frequently mentioned in these ancient songs, are probably the sun-god, and the goddess of spring and of love, respectively. Lado, also, is mentioned as the god of marriage, mirth, pleasure, and general happiness, to whom those about to marry offered sacrifices; and much the same is said of the goddess Lada. Moreover, in the Russian folk-songs, lado and lada are used, respectively, for lover, bridegroom, husband, and for mistress, bride, wife; and lad, in Russian, signifies peace, union, harmony. Nestor, the famous old Russian chronicler (he died in 1114), states that in ancient heathen times, marriage customs varied somewhat among the various Slavonian tribes in the vicinity of the Dniester; but brides were always seized or purchased. This purchase of the bride is supposed to be represented in the game and choral song (khorovod), called "The Sowing of the Millet." The singers form two choirs, which face each other and exchange remarks. The song belongs to the vernal rites, hence the reference to Lado, which is repeated after every line—Did-Lado, meaning (in Lithuanian) Great Lado:
First Chorus: We have sown, we have sown millet, Oi, Did-Lado, we have sown! Second Chorus: But we will trample it, Oi, Did-Lado, we will trample it. First Chorus: But wherewith will ye trample it? Second Chorus: Horses will we turn into it. First Chorus: But we will catch the horses. Second Chorus: Wherewith will ye catch them? First Chorus: With a silken rein. Second Chorus: But we will ransom the horses. First Chorus: Wherewith will ye ransom them? Second Chorus: We will give a hundred rubles. First Chorus: A thousand is not what we want. Second Chorus: What is it then, that ye want? First Chorus: What we want is a maiden.
Thereupon, one of the girls of the second choir goes over to the first, both sides singing together: "Our band has lost," and "Our band has gained." The game ends when all the girls have gone over to one side.
The funeral wails are also very ancient. While at the present day a very talented wailer improvises a new plaint, which her associates take up and perpetuate, the ancient forms are generally used.
From the side of the East, The wild winds have arisen, With the roaring thunders And the lightnings fiery. On my father's grave A star hath fallen, Hath fallen from heaven. Split open, O dart of the thunder! Damp Mother Earth, Fall thou apart, O Mother Earth! On all four sides, Split open, O coffin planks, Unfold, O white shroud, Fall away, O white hands From over the bold heart, And become parted, O ye sweet lips. Turn thyself, O mine own father Into a bright, swift-winged falcon; Fly away to the blue sea, to the Caspian Sea, Wash off, O mine own father, From thy white face the mold. Come flying, O my father To thine own home, to the lofty terem. Listen, O my father, To our songs of sadness!
The Christmas and New-Year carols offer additional illustrations of the ancient heathen customs, and mythic or ritual poetry. The festival which was almost universally celebrated at Christmas-tide, in ancient heathen times, seems to have referred to the renewed life attributed to the sun after the winter solstice. The Christian church turned this festival, so far as possible, into a celebration of the birth of Christ. Among the Slavonians this festival was called Kolyada; and the sun—a female deity—was supposed to array herself in holiday robes and head-dress, when the gloom of the long nights began to yield to the cheerful lights of the lengthening days, to seat herself in her chariot, and drive her steeds briskly towards summer. She, like the festival, was called Kolyada; and in some places the people used to dress up a maiden in white and carry her about in a sledge from house to house, while the kolyadki, or carols, were sung by the train of young people who attended her, and received presents in return. One of the kolyadki runs as follows:
Kolyada! Kolyada! Kolyada has arrived! On the Eve of the Nativity, We went about, we sought Holy Kolyada; Through all the courts, in all the alleys. We found Kolyada in Peter's Court. Round Peter's Court there is an iron fence, In the midst of the Court there are three rooms; In the first room is the bright Moon; In the second room is the red Sun; And in the third room are the many Stars.
A Christian turn is given to many of them, just as the Mermen bear a special Biblical name in some places, and are called "Pharaohs"; for like the seals on the coast of Iceland, they are supposed to be the remnants of Pharaoh's host, which was drowned in the Red Sea. One of the most prominent and interesting of these Christianized carols is the Slava, or Glory Song. Extracts from it have been decoratively and most appropriately used on the artistic programmes connected with the coronation of the Emperor Nicholas II. This Glory Song is used in the following manner: The young people assemble together to deduce omens from the words that are sung, while trinkets belonging to each person present are drawn at random from a cloth-covered bowl, in which they have been deposited. This is the first song of the series:
Glory to God in Heaven, Glory! To our Lord on this earth, Glory! May our Lord never grow old, Glory! May his bright robes never be spoiled, Glory! May his good steeds never be worn out, Glory! May his trusty servants never falter, Glory! May the right throughout Russia, Glory! Be fairer than the bright sun, Glory! May the Tzar's golden treasury, Glory! Be forever full to the brim, Glory! May the great rivers, Glory! Bear their renown to the sea, Glory! The little streams to the mill, Glory! But this song we sing to the Grain, Glory! To the Grain we sing, the Grain we honor, Glory! For the old folks to enjoy, Glory! For the young folks to hear, Glory!
Another curious old song, connected with the grain, is sung at the New-Year. Boys go about from house to house, scattering grain of different sorts, chiefly oats, and singing:
In the forest, in the pine forest, There stood a pine-tree, Green and shaggy. O, Ovsen! O, Ovsen! The Boyars came, Cut down the pine, Sawed it into planks, Built a bridge, Covered it with cloth, Fastened it with nails, O, Ovsen! O, Ovsen! Who, who will go Along that bridge? Ovsen will go there, And the New-Year, O, Ovsen! O, Ovsen!
Ovsen, whose name is derived from Oves (oats, pronounced avyos), like the Teutonic Sun-god, is supposed to ride a pig or a boar. Hence sacrifices of pigs' trotters, and other pork products, were offered to the gods at the New-Year, and such dishes are still preferred in Russia at that season. It must be remembered that the New-Year fell on March 1st in Russia until 1348; then the civil New-Year was transferred to September 1st, and January 1st was instituted as the New-Year by Peter the Great only in the year 1700.
The highest stage of development reached by popular song is the heroic epos—the rhythmic story of the deeds of national heroes, either historical or mythical. In many countries these epics were committed to writing at a very early date. In western Europe this took place in the Middle Ages, and they are known to the modern world in that form only, their memory having completely died out among the people. But Russia presents the striking phenomenon of a country where epic song, handed down wholly by oral tradition for nearly a thousand years, is not only flourishing at the present day in certain districts, but even extending into fresh fields.
It is only within the last sixty years that the Russians have become generally aware that their country possesses this wonderfully rich treasure of epic, religious, and ceremonial songs. In some cases, the epic lay and the religious ballad are curiously combined, as in "The One and Forty Pilgrims," which is generally classed with the epic songs, however. But while the singing of the epic songs is not a profession, the singing of the religious ballads is of a professional character, and is used as a means of livelihood by the kalyeki perekhozhie, literally, wandering cripples, otherwise known as wandering psalm-singers. These stikhi, or religious ballads, are even more remarkable than the epic songs in some respects, and practically nothing concerning them is accessible in English.
In all countries where the Roman Church reigned supreme in early times, it did its best to consign all popular religious poetry to oblivion. But about the seventeenth century it determined to turn such fragments as had survived this procedure to its own profit. Accordingly they were written over in conformity with its particular tenets, for the purpose of inculcating its doctrines. Both courses were equally fatal to the preservation of anything truly national. Incongruousness was the inevitable result.
The Greek, or rather the Russo-Greek, Church adopted precisely the opposite course: it never interfered, in the slightest degree, with popular poetry, either secular or religious. Christianity, therefore, merely enlarged the field of subjects. The result is, that the Slavonic peoples (including even, to some extent, the Roman Catholic Poles) possess a mass of religious poetry, the like of which, either in kind or in quantity, is not to be found in all western Europe.
It is well to note, at this point, that the word stikh (derived from an ancient Greek word) is incorporated into the modern Russian word for poetry, stikhotvorenie—verse-making, literally rendered—and it has now become plain that Lomonosoff, the father of Russian Literature, who was the first secular Russian poet, and polished the ancient tongue into the beginning of the modern literary language, about the middle of the eighteenth century, did not originate his verse-measures, but derived them from the common people, the peasants, whence he himself sprang. Modern Russian verse, therefore, is thus traced back directly, in its most national traits, to these religious ballads. It is impossible to give any adequate account of them here, and it is especially difficult to convey an adequate idea of the genuine poetry and happy phrasing which are often interwoven with absurdities approaching the grotesque.
The ballads to which we shall briefly refer are full of illustrations of the manner in which old pagan gods became Christian deities, so to speak, of the newly baptized nation. For example: Perun the Thunder-god became, in popular superstition, "St. Ilya" (or Elijah), and the day dedicated to him, July 20th (old style), is called "Ilya the Thunder-bringer." Elijah's fiery chariot, the lightning, rumbling across the sky, brings a thunder-storm on or very near that date; and although Perun's name is forgotten in Russia proper, he still remains, under his new title, the patron of the husbandman, as he was in heathen times. In the epic songs of the Vladimir cycle, as well as in the semi-religious and religious ballads, he figures as the strongest and most popular hero, under the name of "Ilya Murometz (Ilya of Murom), the Old Kazak," and his characteristic feats, as well as those attributed to his "heroic steed, Cloud-fall," are supposed, by the school of Russian writers who regard all these poems as cosmic myths, rather than as historical poems, to preserve the hero's mythological significance as the Thunder-god Perun.
He plays a similar part in the very numerous religious ballads on the Last Judgment. St. Michael acts as the judge. Some "sinful souls" commit the gross error of attempting to bribe him: whereupon, Michael shouts, "Ilya the Prophet! Anakh! Take ye guns with great thunder! Move ye the Pharaoh mountains of stone! Let me not hear from these sinners, neither a whine nor a whimper!"
In Lithuania the Thunder-god's ancient name is still extant in its original form of Perkun; the Virgin Mary is called, "Lady Mary Perkunatele" (or "The Mother of Thunder"), according to a Polish tradition; and in the Russian government of Vilna, the 2d of February is dedicated to "All-Holy Mary the Thunderer." It is evidently in this character that she plays a part similar to that of St. Michael and Ilya the Prophet combined, as above mentioned, in another ballad of the Last Judgment. She appears in this ballad to be the sole inhabitant of heaven, judge and executioner. With her "thundering voice" she condemns to outer darkness all who have not paid her proper respect, promising to bury them under "damp mother earth and burning stones." To the just, that is, to those who have paid her due homage, she says: "Come, take the thrones, the golden crowns, the imperishable robes which I have prepared for you; and if this seem little to you, ye shall work your will in heaven."
St. Yegory the Brave—our St. George—possesses many of the attributes of Perun. He is, however, a purely mythical character, and the extremely ancient religious poems relating to him present the most amusing mixture of Christianity and Greek mythology, as in the following example:
In the year 8008 (the old Russian reckoning, like the Jewish, began with the creation of the world), the kingdoms of Sodom, Komor (Gomorrah), and Arabia met their doom. Sodom dropped through the earth, Komor was destroyed by fire, and Arabia was afflicted by a sea-monster which demanded a human victim every day. This victim was selected by lot; and one day the lot fell upon the king; but at the suggestion of the queen, who hated her daughter, Elizabeth the Fair, the girl was sent in his place, under the pretext that she was going to meet her bridegroom. Yegory the Brave comes to her assistance, as Perseus did to the assistance of Andromeda, but lies down for a nap while awaiting the arrival of the dragon. The beast approaches; Elizabeth dares not awaken Yegory, but a "burning tear" from her right eye arouses him. He attacks the dragon with his spear, and his "heroic steed" (which is sometimes a white mule) tramples on it, after the fashion with which we are familiar in art. Then he binds Elizabeth's sash, which is "five and forty ells in length," about the dragon's jaws, and bids the maiden have three churches built in honor of her deliverance: one to St. Nicholas and the Holy Trinity, one to the All-Holy Birth-giver of God, and one to Yegory the Brave. Elizabeth the Fair then returns to town, leading the tamed dragon by her sash, to the terror of the inhabitants and to the disgust of her mother. The three churches are duly built, and Christianity is promptly adopted as the state religion of Arabia. In another ballad, Yegory is imprisoned for thirty years in a pit under the ground, because he will not accept the "Latin-Mussulman faith."
Among the most ancient religious ballads, properly speaking, are: "The Dove Book," "The Merciful Woman of Compassion" (or "The Alleluia Woman"), "The Wanderings of the All-Holy Birth-giver of God," in addition to the songs about Yegory the Brave, already mentioned. The groundwork of "The Dove Book" is of very ancient heathen origin, and almost identical with the oldest religious songs of the Greeks. The book itself is somewhat suggestive of the "little book" in Revelation. "The Dove Book" falls from Alatyr, the "burning white stone on the Island of Buyan," the heathen Paradise, which corresponds to our Fortunate Isles of the Blest, in the Western Sea, but lies far towards sunrise, in the "Ocean Sea." The heathen significance of this stone is not known, but it is cleverly explained in "The Dove Book" as the stone whereon Christ stood when he preached to his disciples. This "little book," "forty fathoms long and twenty wide," was written by St. John the Evangelist, and no man can read it. The prophet Isaiah deciphered only three pages of it in as many years. But the "Most Wise Tzar David" undertakes to give, from memory, the book's answers to various questions put to him by Tzar Vladimir, as spokesman of a throng of emperors and princes. A great deal of curious information is conveyed—all very poetically expressed—including some odd facts in natural history, such as: that the ostrich is the mother of birds, and that she lives, feeds, and rears her young on the blue sea, drowning mariners and sinking ships. Whenever she (or the whale on which the earth rests) moves, an earthquake ensues. There are several versions of this ballad. The following abridged extracts, from one version, will show its style. Among the questions put to "the Most Wise Tzar David" by Prince Vladimir are some touching "the works of God, and our life; our life of holy Russia, our life in the free world; how the free light came to us; why our sun is red; why our stars are thickly sown; why our nights are dark; what causes our red dawns; why we have fine, drizzling rains; whence cometh our intellect; why our bones are strong"; and so forth.
Tzar David replies: "Our free white light began at God's decree; the sun is red from the reflection of God's face, of the face of Christ, the King of Heaven; the younger light, the moon, from his bosom cometh; the myriad stars are from his vesture; the dark nights are the Lord's thoughts; the red dawns come from the Lord's eyes; the stormy winds from the Holy Spirit; our intellects from Christ himself, the King of Heaven; our thoughts from the clouds of heaven; our world of people from Adam; our strong bones from the stones; our bodies from the damp earth; our blood from the Black Sea." In answer to other questions, Tzar David explains that "the Jordan is the mother of all rivers, because Jesus Christ was baptized in it; the cypress is the mother of all trees, because Christ was crucified on it; the ocean is the mother of all seas, because in the middle of the ocean-sea rose up a cathedral church, the goal of all pilgrimages, the cathedral of St. Clement, the pope of Rome; from this cathedral the Queen of Heaven came forth, bathed herself in the ocean-sea, prayed to God in the cathedral," which is a very unusual touch of Romanism.
The ancient religious ballads have no rhyme; and, unlike the epic songs, no fixed rhythm. The presence of either rhyme or rhythm is an indication of comparatively recent origin or of reconstruction in the sixteenth century.
"The Merciful Woman of Compassion," or "The Alleluia Woman," dates from the most ancient Christian tradition, and is a model of simplicity and beauty. It is allied to the English ballad of "The Flight into Egypt" (which also occurs among the Christmas carols of the Slavonians of the Carpathian Mountains), in which the Virgin Mary works a miracle with the peasant's grain, in order to save Christ from the Jews in pursuit. The Virgin comes to the "Alleluia Woman," with the infant Christ in her arms, saying: "Cast thy child into the oven, and take Christ the Lord in thy lap. His enemies, the Jews, are hastening hither; they seek to kill Christ the Lord with sharp spears." The Alleluia Woman obeys, without an instant's hesitation. When the Jews arrive, immediately afterwards, and inquire if Christ has passed that way, she says she has thrown him into the oven. The Jews are convinced of the truth of her statement, by the sight of a child's hand amid the flames; whereupon they dance for joy, and depart, after fastening an iron plate over the oven door. Christ vanishes from the arms of the merciful woman; she remembers her own child and begins to weep. Then Christ's voice assures her that he is well and happy. On opening the oven door, she beholds her baby playing with the flowers in a rich green meadow, reading the Gospels, or rolling an apple on a platter, and comforted by angels.
"The Wanderings of the All-Holy Birth-giver of God," another very ancient ballad, represents the Virgin Mother wandering among the mountains in search of Christ. She encounters three Jews; and in answer to her query, "Accursed Jews, what have ye done with Christ?" they inform her that they have just crucified him on Mount Zion. She hastens thither, and swoons on arriving. When she recovers, she makes her lament, and her plakh, or wail, beginning: "O, my dear son, why didst thou not obey thy mother?" Christ comforts her, telling her that he shall rise again, and bidding her: "Do not weep and spoil thy beauty." A form of the ballad which is common in Little Russia reverses the situation. It is the Jews who inquire of Mary what she has done with her son. "Into the river I flung him," she promptly replies. They drain the river, and find him not. Again they ask, "Under the mountains I buried him." They dig up the mountains, and find him not. At last they discover a church, and in it three coffins. Over the Holy Virgin's, the birds are warbling or flowers are blossoming; over John the Baptist's, lights are burning; over Christ's, angels are singing.
As might be expected, the Holy Virgin is a very popular subject of song. In numerous ballads she delivers a temperance lecture to St. Vasily the Great on his drunkenness, putting to him various questions, such as, "Who sleeps through matins? Who walks and riots during the liturgy?" [St. Vasily being the author of a liturgy which is used on certain important occasions during the church year.] "Who has unwashed hands? Who is a murderer?" and so on, through a long list of peccadilloes and crimes. The answer to each question is, "The drunkard." Poor St. Vasily dashes his head against a stone, and threatens to put an end to himself on the spot, if his one lapse in five and twenty years be not forgiven. Accordingly the Holy Virgin steps down from her throne, gives him her hand, and informs him that the Lord has three mansions: one is the House of David, where the Last Judgment will take place; through the second flows a river of fire, the destination of wizards, drunkards, and the like; and the third is Paradise, the home of the elect. The imagery in the very numerous and ancient poems on the Last Judgment, by the way, is purely heathen in character. The ferryman over the river of fire sometimes acts as the judge, and the punishments to which sinners are condemned by him recall those mentioned in the AEneid, and in Dante's Divina Commedia, the frescoes on the walls of churches bearing out the same idea.
Adam and Eve naturally receive a share of the minstrel's attention, and "Adam's Wail" before the gates of Paradise is often very touching. In a ballad from White Russia, Adam begs the Lord to permit him to revisit Paradise. The Lord accordingly gives orders to "St. Peter-Paul" to admit Adam to Paradise, to have the song of the Cherubim sung for him, and so forth; but not to allow him to remain. In the midst of Paradise Adam beholds his coffin and wails before it: "O, my coffin, coffin, my true home! Take me, O my coffin, as a mother her own child, to thy white arms, to thy ruddy face, to thy warm heart!" But "St. Peter-Paul" soon catches sight of him, and tells him that he has no business to be strolling about and spying out Paradise; his place is on Zion's hill, where he will be shown books of magic, and of life, and things in general.
There is a great mass of poetry devoted to Joseph; and a lament to "Mother Desert," uttered as he is being led away into captivity by the merchants to whom his brethren have sold him, soon becomes the groundwork for variations in which the Scripture story is entirely forgotten. In these Joseph is always a "Tzarevitch," or king's son, his father being sometimes David, sometimes "the Tzar of India," or of "the Idolaters' Land," or some such country. He is confined in a tower, because the soothsayers have foretold that he will become a Christian (or because he is already a Christian he shuts himself up). One day he is permitted to ride about the town, and although all old people have been ordered to keep out of sight, he espies one aged cripple, and thus learns that his father has grossly deceived him, in asserting that no one ever becomes old or ill in his kingdom. He forthwith becomes a Christian, and flees to the desert. Then comes his wail to "Mother Desert Most Fair," as she stands "afar off in the valley": "O Desert fair, receive me to thy depths, as a mother her own child, and a pastor his faithful sheep, into thy voiceless quiet, beloved mother mine!" "Mother Desert" proceeds to remonstrate with her "beloved child": "Who is to rule," she says, "over thy kingdom, thy palaces of white stone, thy young bride? When spring cometh, all the lakes will be aflood, all the trees will be clothed with verdure, heavenly birds will warble therein with voices angelic: in the desert thou wilt have none of this; thy food will be fir-bark, thy drink marsh-water." Nevertheless, "Joseph Tzarevitch" persists in his intention, and Mother Desert receives him at last. Most versions of this ballad are full of genuine poetry, but a few are rather ludicrous: for example, "Mother Desert" asks Joseph, "How canst thou leave thy sweet viands and soft feather-beds to come to me?"
Of David, strange to say, we find very little mention, save in the "Dove Book," or as the father of Joseph, or of some other equally preposterous person.
Among the ballads on themes drawn from the New Testament, those relating to the birth of Christ, and the visit of the Wise Men; to John the Baptist, and to Lazarus, are the most numerous. The Three Wise Men sometimes bring queer gifts. One ballad represents them as being Lithuanians, and only two in number, who bring Christ offerings of botvinya—a savory and popular dish, in the form of a soup served cold, with ice, and composed of small beer brewed from sour, black, rye bread, slightly thickened with strained spinach, in which float cubes of fresh cucumber, the green tops of young onions, cold boiled fish, horseradish, bacon, sugar, shrimps, any cold vegetables on hand, and whatever else occurs to the cook. Joseph stands by the window, holding a bowl and a spoon, and stares at the gift. "Queer people, you Lithuanians," he remarks. "Christ doesn't eat botvinya. He eats only rolls with milk and honey (or rolls and butter)." In one case, the Three Wise Men appear as three buffaloes bringing gifts; in another as "the fine rain, the red sun, and the bright moon," showing that nature worship can assume a very fair semblance of Christianity.
Christ's baptism is sometimes represented by his mother bathing him in the river; and this is thought to stand for the weary sun which is bathed every night in the ocean. A "Legend of the Sun," whose counterpart can be found in other lands, represents the sun as being attended by flaming birds, who dip their wings in the ocean at night and sprinkle him, and by angels who carry his imperial robe and crown to the Lord's throne every night, and clothe him again in them every morning, while the cock proclaims the "resurrection of all things." In the Christmas carols, angels perform the same offices, and the flaming phoenix-birds are omitted.
The Apostle Peter's timid and disputatious character seems to be well understood by the people. One day, according to a ballad, he gets into a dispute with the Lord, as to which is the larger, heaven or earth. "The earth," declares St. Peter; "Heaven," maintains the Lord. "But let us not quarrel. Call down two or three angels to measure heaven and earth with a silken cord. So was it done; and lo! St. Peter was right, and the Lord was wrong! Heaven is the smaller, because it is all level, while the earth has hills and valleys!"
On another occasion, "all the saints were sitting at table, except the Holy Spirit." "Peter, Peter, my servant," says the Lord, "go bring the Holy Spirit." Peter has not traversed half the road, when he encounters a wondrous marvel, a fearful fire. He trembles with fear and turns back. "Why hast thou not brought the Holy Spirit?" inquires the Lord. Peter explains. "Ho, Peter, that is no marvel! that is the Holy Spirit. Thou shouldst have brought it hither and placed it on the table. All the saints would have rejoiced that the Holy Spirit sat before them!"
The Lazarus ballads illustrate how the people turn Scriptural characters into living realities, by incorporating their own observations on human nature with the sacred text. According to them, Lazarus and Dives were two brothers, both named Lazarus; the younger rich, the elder poor. Poor Lazarus begs alms of his brother: "How dare you call me brother?" retorts rich Lazarus. "I have brothers like myself—princes, nobles, wealthy merchants, who fare sumptuously and dress richly. Even the church dignitaries visit me. Your brethren are the fierce dogs which lie under my table and gather up the fragments. I fear not God, I will buy off intrusive death, I will attain to the kingdom of heaven; and if I attain not thereunto, I will buy it!" Thereupon, he sets the dogs on his brother, spits in his eye, locks the gates, and goes back to his feasting. The dogs which are set upon poor Lazarus bring him their food, instead of rending him. After three efforts to move his brother to compassion, poor Lazarus entreats the Lord to let him die: "Send sudden death, Lord, winged but not merciful," he prays. "Send two threatening angels; let them take out my unclean soul through my side with a hook, my little soul through my ribs, with a spear and with iron hooks; let them place my soul under their left wing, and carry it to the nethermost hell, to burning pitch and the river of fire. All my life have I suffered hunger and cold, and my whole body hath been full of pains. It is not for me, a poor cripple, to enter Paradise." (This is in accordance with the uncomfortable Russian belief that a man's rank and station in this life determine his fate in the other world.) But the Lord gives orders to have everything done in precisely the opposite way. Holy angels remove Lazarus's soul gently, through his "sugar mouth" (referring, possibly, to the Siberian belief that the soul is located in the windpipe) wrap it in a white cloth, and carry it to Abraham's bosom. After a while rich Lazarus is overtaken by misfortune and illness, and he, also, prays for speedy death, minutely specifying how his "large, clean soul," is to be handled and deposited in Abraham's bosom. He acknowledges that he has committed a few trivial sins, but mentions, with pride, in extenuation, that he has never worn anything but velvet and satin, and that he formerly possessed great store of "flowered garments." Again the Lord gives contrary orders, and rich Lazarus undergoes the treatment which his poor brother had indicated for his own soul. When rich Lazarus looks up from his torment and beholds poor Lazarus in Abraham's bosom, he addresses him as "Brother, my own brother." Here one version comes to a sudden end, and the collector who transcribed it, asked: "What?" "He repented," answered the peasant woman who sang it, "and called him 'brother' when he saw that he was well off." In other versions, a long conversation ensues, in the course of which poor Lazarus reminds rich Lazarus of numerous sins of omission and commission, and inquires, with great apparent solicitude, what has become of all his gold, silver, flowered garments, and so forth, and assures him that he would gladly give him not a drop but a whole bucketful of water were he permitted to do so.
But to the share of no saint does a greater number of songs (and festivals) fall than to that of John the Baptist. In addition to June 24th, which still bears the heathen name of Kupalo, in connection with St. John's Eve, and which is celebrated by the peasants in as thoroughly heathen a fashion as is the Christmas festival, in honor of the Sun-goddess, Kolyada, he has three special days dedicated to him. Two of these deserve mention, because of a curious superstition attached to them. On St. John's Day, May 25th, the peasants set out their cabbages; but on the autumn St. John's Day, August 29th, they must carefully avoid all contact with cabbages, because it is the anniversary of the beheading of John; no knife must be taken in the hand on that day, and it is considered a great crime to cut anything, particularly anything round, resembling a head. If a cabbage be cut, blood will flow; if anything round be eaten—onions, for example—carbuncles will follow.
In concluding this brief sketch of the religious ballads of the Slavonians, I venture to quote at length, a masterpiece of the Wandering Cripples' art. It is a Montenegrin version of a legend which is common to all the Slavonic peoples, and contains, besides an interesting problem in ethics, an explanation of the present shape of the human foot. In some versions the emperor's crown is replaced, throughout, by "the bright sun," thus suggesting a mythological origin. It is called "The Emperor Diocletian and John the Baptist."
Two foster brothers were drinking wine, On a sunny slope by the salt seaside; One was the Emperor Diocletian, The other, John the Baptist. Then up spake John the Baptist As they did drink the wine: "Foster brother, come now, let us play. Use thou thy crown; but I will take an apple." Then up they jumped, began to play, And St. John flung his apple. Down in the depths of the sea it fell And his warm tears trickled down. But the emperor held this speech to him: "Now weep not, dear my brother, Only carry thou not my crown away And I will fetch thy apple." Then did John swear to him by God That he would not steal the crown. The emperor swam out into the sea, But John flew up to heaven, Presented himself before the Lord, And held this speech to him: "Eternal God, and All-Holy Father! May I swear falsely by thee? May I steal the emperor's crown?" The Lord replied: "O John, my faithful servant! Thrice shalt thou swear falsely by me, Only, by my name must thou not swear." St. John flew back to the sunny slope, And the emperor emerged from the sea. Again they played; again John flung his apple; Again it fell into the depths of the sea. But Diocletian, the emperor, said to him: "Now, fear thou not, dear brother, Only carry thou my crown not away, And I will fetch thy apple." Then did John swear to him by God, Thrice did he swear to him by God That he would not steal his crown. The emperor threw his crown under his cap, Beside them left the bird of ill omen, And plunged into the blue sea. St. John froze over the sea, With a twelve-fold ice-crust he froze it o'er, Seized the golden crown, flew on high to heaven. And the bird of ill omen began to caw. The emperor, at the bottom of the sea, divined the cause, Raced up, as for a wager, Brake three of the ice-crusts with his head, Then back turned he again, took a stone upon his head, A little stone of three thousand pounds, And brake the twelve-fold ice. Then unfolded he his wings, Set out in pursuit of John, Caught up with him at the gate of heaven, Seized him by his right foot, And what he grasped, he tore away. In tears came John before the Lord; The bright sun brought he to heaven, And John complained unto the Lord, That the emperor had crippled him. And the Lord said: "Fear not, my faithful servant! I will do the same to every man." Such is the fact, and to God be the glory!
"Therefore," say the Servians, in conclusion of their version of this ballad, "God has made a hollow in the sole of every human being's foot."
The Epic Songs, properly speaking, are broadly divisible into three groups: the Cycle of Vladimir, or of Kieff; that of Novgorod; and that of Moscow, or the Imperial Cycle, the whole being preceded by the songs of the elder heroes. With regard to the first two, and the Kieff Cycle in particular, undoubtedly composed during the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries, authorities on the origin of Russian literature differ considerably. One authority maintains that, although the Russian epics possess a family likeness to the heroic legends of other Aryan races, the Russians forgot them, and later on, appropriated them again from Ural-Altaic sources, adding a few historical and geographical names, and psychical characteristics. But this view as to the wholesale appropriation of Oriental myths has not been established, and the authorities who combat it demonstrate that the heroes are thoroughly Russian, and that the pictures of manners and customs which they present are extremely valuable for their accuracy. They would seem, on the whole, to be a characteristic mixture of natural phenomena (nature myths), personified as gods, who became in course of time legendary heroes. Thus, Prince Vladimir, "the Fair Red Sun," may be the Sun-god, but he is also a historical personage, whatever may be said as to many of the other characters in the epic lays of the Vladimir cycle. "Sadko, the rich Guest of Novgorod," also, in the song of that title, belonging to the Novgorod cycle, was a prominent citizen of Novgorod, who built a church in Novgorod, during the twelfth century, and is referred to in the Chronicles for a space of two hundred years. In fact, the Novgorod cycle contains less of the personified phenomena of nature than the cycle of the Elder Heroes, and the Kieff cycle, and more of the genuine historical element.
A regular tonic versification forms one of the indispensable properties of these epic poems; irregularity of versification is a sign of decay, and a complete absence of measure, that is to say, the prose form, is the last stage of decay. The airs to which they are sung or chanted are very simple, consisting of but few tones, yet are extremely difficult to note down. The peasant bard modifies the one or two airs to which he chants his lays with astonishing skill, according to the testimony of Rybnikoff, who made the first large collection of the songs, in the Olonetz government (1859), and Hilferding, who made a still more surprising collection (1870), to the north and east of Olonetz.
The lay of Sadko, above mentioned, is perhaps the most famous—the one most frequently alluded to in Russian literature and art. Sadko was a harper of "Lord Novgorod the Great." "No golden treasures did he possess. He went about to the magnificent feasts of the merchants and nobles, and made all merry with his playing." Once, for three days in succession, he was bidden to no worshipful feast, and in his sorrow he went and played all day long, upon the shore of Lake Ilmen. On the third day, the Water King appears to him, and thanks him for entertaining his guests in the depths. He directs Sadko to return to Novgorod, and on the morrow, when he shall be bidden to a feast, and the banqueters begin the characteristic brags of their possessions, Sadko must wager his "turbulent head" against the merchants' shop in the bazaar, with all the precious wares therein, that Lake Ilmen contains fishes with fins of gold. Sadko wins the bet; for the Tzar Vodyanoy sends up the fish to be caught in the silken net. Thus did Sadko become a rich guest (merchant of the first class) of Novgorod, built himself a palace of white stone, wondrously adorned, and became exceeding rich. He also held worshipful feasts, and out-bragged the braggers, declaring that he would buy all the wares in Novgorod, or forfeit thirty thousand in money. As he continues to buy, wares continue to flow into this Venice of the North, and Sadko decides that it is the part of wisdom to pay his thirty thousand. He then builds "thirty dark red ships and three," of the dragon type, lades them with the wares of Novgorod, and sails out into the open sea, via the river Volkhoff, Lake Ladoga, and the Neva. After a while the ships stand still and will not stir, though the waves dash and the breeze whistles through the sails. Sadko arrives at the conclusion that the Sea King demands tribute, as they have now been sailing the seas for twelve years, and have paid none. They cast into the waves casks of red gold, pure silver, and fair round pearls; but still the ships move not. Sadko then proposes that each man on board shall prepare for himself a lot, and cast it into the sea, and the man whose lot sinks shall consider himself the sacrifice which the Sea King requires. Sadko's lot persists in sinking, whether he makes it of hop-flowers or of blue damaskeened steel, four hundred pounds in weight; and all the other lots swim, whether heavy or light. Accordingly Sadko perceives that he is the destined victim, and taking his harp, a holy image of St. Nicholas (the patron of travelers), and bowls of precious things with him, he has himself abandoned on an oaken plank, while his ships sailed off, and "flew as they had been black ravens." He sinks to the bottom, and finds himself in the palace of the Sea King, who makes him play, while he, the fair sea-maidens, and the other sea-folk dance violently. But the Tzaritza warns Sadko to break his harp, for it is the waves dancing on the shore, and creating terrible havoc. The Tzar Morskoy then requests Sadko to select a wife; and guided again by the Tzaritza's advice, Sadko selects the last of the nine hundred maidens who file before him—a small, black-visaged maiden, named Tchernava. Had he chosen otherwise, he is told, he would never again behold "the white world," but must "forever abide in the blue sea." After a great feast which the Sea King makes for him, Sadko falls into a heavy sleep, and when he awakens from it, he finds himself on the bank of the Tchernava River, and sees his dark red ships come speeding up the Volkhoff River. Sadko returns to his palace and his young wife, builds two churches, and roams no more, but thereafter takes his ease in his own town.
Between these cycles of epic songs and the Moscow, or Imperial Cycle there is a great gap. The pre-Tatar period is not represented, and the cycle proper begins with Ivan the Terrible, and ends with the reign of Peter the Great. Epic marvels are not wholly lacking in the Moscow cycle, evidently copied from the earlier cycles. But these songs are inferior in force. Fantastic as are some of the adventures in these songs, there is always a solid historical foundation. Ivan the Terrible, for instance, is credited with many deeds of his grandfather (his father being ignored), and is always represented in rather a favorable light. The conquest of Siberia, the capture of Kazan and Astrakhan, the wars against Poland, and the Tatars of Crimea, and so forth, are the principal points around which these songs are grouped. But the Peter the Great of the epics bears only a faint resemblance to the real Peter.
Perhaps the most famous hero of epic song in the seventeenth century is the bandit-chief of the Volga, Stenka Razin, whose memory still lingers among the peasants of those regions. He was regarded as the champion of the people against the oppression of the nobles, and "Ilya of Murom, the Old Kazak" is represented as the captain of the brigands under him. To Stenka, also, are attributed magic powers. From the same period date also the two most popular dance-songs of the present day—the "Kamarynskaya" and "Barynya Sudarynya," its sequel. The Kamarynskaya was the district which then constituted the Ukraina, or border-marches, situated about where the government of Orel now is. The two songs present a valuable historical picture of the coarse manners of the period on that lawless frontier; hence, only a few of the lines which still subsist of these poetical chronicles can be used to the irresistibly dashing music.
The power of composing epic songs has been supposed to have gradually died out, almost ceasing with the reign of Peter the Great, wholly ceasing with the war of 1812. But very recently an interesting experiment has been begun, based on the discovery of several new songs about the Emperor Alexander II., which are sung by the peasants over a wide range of country. All these songs are being written down with the greatest accuracy as to the peculiarities of pronunciation and accentuation. If, in the future, variants make their appearance, containing an increasing infusion of the artistic and poetical elements, considerable light will be thrown upon the problem of the rise and growth of the ancient epic songs, and on the question of poetical inspiration among the peasants of the present epoch. One of these ballads, written down in the Province of the Don, from the lips of a blind beggar, says that Alexander II., "burned with love, wished to give freedom to all, kept all under his wing, and freed them from punishment. He reformed all the laws, heard the groans of the needy, and himself hastened to their aid." "So the wicked killed him," says the ballad, and proceeds to describe the occurrence, including the way in which "the black flag" was lowered on the palace, and "they sent a telegram about the eclipse of our sun." In the far northern government of Kostroma, on the Volga, two more ballads on the same subject have been taken down on the typewriter, so that the bard could readily correct them. The first, entitled "A Lay of Mourning for the Death of the Tzar Liberator," narrates how "a dreadful cloud of black, bloodthirsty ravens assembled, and invited to them the underground, subterranean rats, not to a feast-ball, not to a christening, but to undermine the roots of the olive-branch." Naturally this style demands that the emperor be designated as "the bright falcon, light winged, swift eyed." It describes the plot, and how the bombs were to be wrapped up in white cloths, and the conspirators were "to go for a stroll, as with watermelons." When the bombs burst, "the panes in the neighboring houses are shattered," and "the dark blue feathers" of the "bright falcon" are set on fire. "As there were no Kostroma peasants on hand to aid the emperor—no Komisaroffs or Susanins," adds the ballad, with local pride (alluding to the legend of Ivan Susanin saving the first Romanoff Tzar from the Poles in 1612, which forms the subject of the famous opera by Glinka, "Life for the Tzar"), "he laid himself down in the bosom of his mother (earth)." The second ballad is "The Monument-Not Made-with-Hands to the Tzar Liberator"—the compound adjective here referring to that in the title of a favorite ikona, or Holy Picture, which corresponds to the one known in western Europe as the imprint of the Saviour's face on St. Veronica's kerchief. There are four stanzas, of six lines each, of which the third runs as follows:
He is our Liberator and our father! And we will erect a monument of hearts Whose cross, by its gleaming 'mid the clouds, Shall transmit the memory to young children and the babes in arms, And this shall be unto ages of ages So long as the world and man shall exist!
In southwestern Russia, where the ancient epic songs of the Elder Heroes and the Kieff Cycle originated, the memory of them has died out, owing to the devastation of southern Russia by the Tatars in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the decay of its civilization under Lithuanian sway in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In the sixteenth century the population of southern Russia reorganized itself in the forms of kazak communes, and fabricated for itself a fresh cycle of epic legends, which replaced those of Kieff; and there the kobzars (professional minstrels who accompany their songs on the kabza, a mandolin-like, twelve-stringed instrument) celebrate the deeds of a new race of kazak heroes. But in the lonely wildernesses of the northeast, whither the Tatar invasion drove the descendants of those who composed and sang the great epic songs, no more recent upheavals have brought forward heroes to replace the historic paladins, who there hold undisputed sway to the present time.
Of the songs still sung by the people, the following favorite (in the version from the Olonetz government) may serve as a sample. It is not rhymed in the original.
Akh! Little guelder-rose, with pinkish azure bloom, And merry little company, where my dear one doth drink; My darling will not drink, until for me he sends. When I, a maiden, very young did dally, Tending the ducks, the geese, the swans, When I, a young maid, very young, along the stream-bank strolled, I trampled down all sickly leaves and grass, I plucked the tiny azure flowerets, At the swift little rivulet I gazed; Small was the hamlet there, four cots in all, In every cot four windows small. In every little window, a dear young crony sits. Eh, cronies dear, you darlings, friends of mine, Be ye my cronies, one another love, love me, When into the garden green ye go, then take me, too; When each a wreath ye twine, twine one for me; When in the Danube's stream ye fling them, drop mine, too; The garlands all upon the surface float, mine only hath sunk down. All your dear lover-friends have homeward come, mine only cometh not.
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW
1. How was Christianity introduced into Russia?
2. In what two important centers was it finally established?
3. How was the Greek Church able to supply these converts with a Slavonian translation of the Bible?
4. Who were Kyrill and Methody? Describe their work.
5. Why was "Ancient Bulgarian" not the original language of the Bulgarians?
6. In what language was Russian literature written up to the time of Peter the Great?
7. Where, according to tradition, did the early Slavonians settle in Europe?
8. How are the forces of nature represented in the ancient marriage songs?
9. What custom is illustrated in "The Sowing of the Millet"?
10. What connection is there between the funeral wails of modern and of ancient Russia?
11. What was the festival of Kolyada?
12. What Christian character has been given to the ancient "Glory Song"?
13. Why is pork commonly used at the Russian New-Year?
14. What different dates have been observed for the opening of the New-Year?
15. What remarkable fact is true of the preservation of the Russian epic songs?
16. How were the religious ballads brought before the people?
17. Describe some of the characteristics of these ballads.
18. Into what three groups do the epic songs naturally fall?
19. What is the Lay of Sadko?
20. What are the favorite subjects of the songs of the "Imperial Cycle"?
21. What interesting discovery of modern epic songs has recently been made?
22. Why have the songs of the Kieff Cycle died out in their own country?
The Epic Songs of Russia. Isabel F. Hapgood.
Myths and Folk-Tales of Russians, Western Slavs, and Magyars. Jeremiah Curtin.
Cossack Fairy-Tales. R. Nisbet Bain.
Sixty Folk-Tales from Exclusively Slavonic Sources. A. H. Wratislaw.
Russian Fairy-Tales. R. Nisbet Bain.
Fairy-Tales of the Slav Peasants and Herdsmen. From the French of Alexander Chodsko.
Songs of the Russian People and Russian Folk-Tales. W. R. S. Ralston.
Slavonic Fairy-Tales. M. Gastner.
Slavonic Literature and its Relations to the Folk-Lore of Europe. M. Gastner.
Russian Folk-Songs as Sung by the People. Mme. Eugenie Lineff.
 A Tatar word, signifying "tower"; used to mean the part of the house where the women were secluded, in Oriental fashion.
 Lord, in the original, is Gosudar, the word which, with a capital, is applied especially to the emperor.
 The dramatist Ostrovsky has made effective use of this game, and the more prophetic couplets of the song, in his famous play: "Poverty is not a Vice." Other national customs and songs are used in his play.
THE ANCIENT PERIOD, FROM THE INTRODUCTION OF CHRISTIANITY TO THE TATAR DOMINION, 988-1224.
As soon as Prince Saint Vladimir introduced Christianity into Russia, he and his sons began to busy themselves with the problem of general education. Priests came from Greece and Bulgaria to spread the Gospel in Russia; but they thought only of disseminating Christianity, and were, moreover, not sufficiently numerous to grapple with educational problems. Accordingly, Vladimir founded schools in Kieff, and ordered that the children of the best citizens should be taken from their unwilling parents, and handed over to these schools for instruction. His son, Yaroslaff I. ("the wise"), pursued the same policy, in Kieff and elsewhere—the schools being attached to the churches, and having for their chief object the preparation of ecclesiastics. The natural result was, that in ancient Russia, most people who could read and write were ecclesiastics or monks, and religious literature was that most highly prized. Even so-called worldly literature was strongly tinctured with religion. The first Russian literary compositions took the form of exhortations, sermons, and messages addressed by the clergy to their flocks, and the first Russian authors were Ilarion, metropolitan of Kieff (beginning in 1051), and Luka Zhidyata, appointed bishop of Novgorod in 1036. The latter's "Exhortation to the Brethren" has come down to us, and is noteworthy for the simplicity of its language, and its conciseness of form. From Ilarion we have, "a Word Concerning the Law" (meaning, the Law of God), which deals with the opposing character of Judaism and Christianity. It proves not only that he was a cultivated man, capable of expressing himself clearly on complicated matters, but also that his hearers were capable of comprehending him. Other good writers of that period were: Feodosiy, elected in 1062, abbott of the Monastery of the Catacombs in Kieff (which was fated to become one of the most important nurseries of enlightenment and literature in Russia); Nestor, who left a remarkable "Life of Feodosiy"; Nikifor, a Greek by birth, educated in Byzantium, who was metropolitan of Kieff, 1104-1121; and Kyrill, bishop of Novgorod, 1171-1182.
Thus, it will be seen, events took their ordinary course in Russia as in other countries: learning was, for a long time, confined almost exclusively to the monasteries, which were the pioneers in education and culture elements, such as they were. Naturally the bulk of the literature for a long time consisted of commentaries on the Holy Scriptures, translations from the works of the fathers of the church (Eastern Catholic), homilies, pastoral letters, and the like. But in the monasteries, also, originated the invaluable Chronicles; for not only did men speedily begin to describe in writing those phenomena of life which impressed them as worthy of note, but ecclesiastics were in a position to learn all details of importance from authoritative sources, and were even, not infrequently, employed as diplomatic agents, or acted as secretaries to the ruling princes. The earliest and most celebrated among these ancient Russian historical works is the Chronicle of Nestor, a monk of the Catacombs Monastery in Kieff (born about 1056), the reputed author of the document which bears his name. Modern scientists have proved that he did not write this Chronicle, the earliest copy of which dates from the fourteenth century, but its standing as a priceless monument of the twelfth century has never been impunged, since it is evident that the author gathered his information from contemporary eye-witnesses. The Chronicle begins by describing how Shem, Ham, and Japhet shared the earth between them after the flood, and gives a detailed list of the countries and peoples of the ancient world. It then states that, after the building of the Tower of Babel, God dispersed all the peoples into seventy-two tribes (or languages), the northern and western lands falling to the tribe of Japhet. Nestor derives the Slavonians from Japhet—describes their life, first on the banks of the Danube, then their colonization to the northeast as far as the River Ilmen (the ancient Novgorod), the Oka, in central Russia, and the tributaries of the Dniepr, delineating the manners and customs of the different Slavonic tribes, and bringing the narrative down to the year 1110, in the form of brief, complete stories. The style of the Chronicle is simple and direct. For example, he relates how, in the year 945, the Drevlyans (or forest-folk) slew Igor, prince of Kieff, and his band of warriors, who were not numerous.
Then said the Drevlyans, "Here we have slain the Russian Prince; let us now take his wife, Olga, for our Prince Malo; and we will take also Svyatoslaff (his son), and will deal with him as we see fit"; and the Drevlyans dispatched their best men, twenty in number, in a boat, to Olga, and they landed their boat near Boritcheff, and Olga was told that the Drevlyans had arrived, and Olga summoned them to her. "Good guests are come, I hear"; and the Drevlyans said: "We are come, Princess." And Olga said to them, "Tell me, why are ye come hither?" Said the Drevlyans: "The land of the Drevlyans hath sent us," saying thus: "We have slain thy husband, for thy husband was like unto a wolf, he was ever preying and robbing; but our own princes are good. Our Drevlyan land doth flourish under their sway; wherefore, marry thou our Prince, Malo" for the Drevlyan Prince was named Malo. Olga said to them: "Your speech pleaseth me, for my husband cannot be raised from the dead; but I desire to show you honor, to-morrow, before my people; wherefore, to-day, go ye to your boat, and lie down in the boat, exalting yourselves; and to-morrow I will send for you, and ye must say: 'we will not ride on horses, we will not walk afoot, but do ye carry us in our boat.'" Thus did she dismiss them to the boat. Then Olga commanded a great and deep pit to be digged in the courtyard of the palace, outside the town. And the next morning, as Olga sat in her palace, she sent for the guests, and Olga's people came to them, saying: "Olga biddeth you to a great honor." But they said: "We will not ride on horses, nor on oxen, neither will we walk afoot, but do thou carry us in our boat." And the Kievlyans said: "We must, perforce, carry you; our prince is slain, and our princess desireth to wed your prince," and they bore them in the boat, and those men sat there and were filled with pride; and they carried them to the courtyard, to Olga, and flung them into the pit, together with their boat. And Olga, bending over the pit, said unto them: "Is the honor to your taste?" and they made answer: "It is worse than Igor's death"; and she commanded that they be buried alive, and they were so buried.
The narrative goes on to state that Olga sent word to the Drevlyans, that if they were in earnest, their distinguished men must be sent to woo her for their prince; otherwise, the Kievlyans would not let her go. Accordingly, they assembled their best men, the rulers, and sent them for her. Olga had the bath heated and ordered them to bathe before presenting themselves to her, and when they began to wash, Olga had the bath-house set on fire, and burned them up. Then Olga sent again to the Drevlyans, demanding that they collect a vast amount of hydromel in the town where her husband had been slain, that she might celebrate the ancient funeral feast, and weep over his grave. So they got the honey together, and brewed the hydromel (or mead), and Olga, taking with her a small body-guard, in light marching order, set out on the road and came to her husband's grave and wept over it; and commanded her people to erect a high mound over it; and when that was done, she ordered the funeral feast to be celebrated on its summit. Then the Drevlyans sat down to drink, and Olga ordered her serving-boys to wait on them. And the Drevlyans asked Olga where was the guard of honor which they had sent for her? And she told them that it was following with her husband's body-guard. But when the Drevlyans were completely intoxicated, she ordered her serving-lads to drink in their honor, went aside, and commanded her men to slay the Drevlyans, which was done, five hundred dying thus. Then Olga returned to Kieff, and made ready an army against the remaining Drevlyans. Such is one of the vivid pictures of ancient manners and customs which the chronicle of Nestor furnishes.
The descendants of Prince-Saint Vladimir were not only patrons of education, but collectors of books. One of them, in particular, Vladimir Monomachus, is also noted as the author of the "Exhortation of Vladimir Monomachus" (end of the eleventh century), which he wrote for his children, in the style of a pastoral address from an ecclesiastic to his flock—a style which, in Russia, as elsewhere, was the inevitable result of the first efforts at non-religious literature, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. "Chiefest of all," he writes, among other things, "forget not the poor, and feed them according to your powers; give most of all to the orphans, and be ye yourselves the defenders of the widows, permitting not the mighty to destroy a human being. Slay ye not either the righteous or the guilty yourselves, neither command others to slay them. In discourse, whatsoever ye shall say, whether good or evil, swear ye not by God, neither cross ye yourselves; there is no need of it.... Reverence the aged as your father, the young as brethren. In thy house be not slothful, but see to all thyself; put not thy trust in a steward, neither in a servant, that thy guests jeer not at thy house, nor at thy dinner.... Love your wives, but give them no power over you. Forget not the good ye know, and what ye know not, as yet, that learn ye," and so forth.
The beginning of the twelfth century witnessed other notable attempts at secular literature. To the twelfth century, also, belongs Russia's single written epic song, "The Word (or lay) Concerning Igor's Raid," which contains an extremely curious mixture of Christianity and heathen views. By a fortunate chance, this epic was preserved and was discovered, in 1795, by Count Musin-Pushkin, among a collection which he had purchased from a monastery. Unhappily, Count Musin-Pushkin's valuable library was burned during the conflagration of Moscow, in 1812. But the Slovo had been twice published previous to that date, and had been examined by many learned paleographists, who decided that the chirography belonged to the end of the fourteenth century or the beginning of the fifteenth century.
Igor Svyatoslavitch was the prince of Novgorod-Syeversk, who in 1185, made a raid against the Polovtzy, or Plain-dwellers, and the Word begins thus:
Shall we not begin our song, oh brothers, With the story of the feuds of old; Song of the valiant troop of Igor, And of him, the son of Svyatoslaff, And sing them as men now do sing, Striving not in thought after Boyan. Making this ballad, he was wont the Wizard, As a squirrel swift to flit about the forest, As a gray wolf o'er the clear plain to trot, And as an eagle 'neath the clouds to hover; When he recalleth ancient feuds of yore, Then, from out the flock of swans he sendeth In pursuit, ten falcons, swift of wing.
The whole expedition is described in this poetical style, in three hundred and eighty-four unrhymed lines, with a curious mingling of heathen beliefs and Christian views. God shows Igor the road "to the land of Polovetzk, to the Russian land," and on his return from captivity, Igor rides to Kieff to salute the Holy Birth-giver of God of Pirogoshtch, while the Polovtzy are called "accursed," in contrast with the orthodox Russians. But the winds are called "the grandchildren of Stribog," and the Russian people are alluded to as "the grandsons of Dazhbog," both heathen divinities, and other mythical and obscure personages are introduced.
With this epic lay, the first period of Russian literature closes.
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW
1. How did Vladimir and his son provide for the education of their people?
2. What kind of literature naturally grew out of the learning of the monasteries?
3. What was the chronicle of Nestor? What special interest has it?
4. Quote some of the precepts from the "Exhortation of Monomachus."
5. By what good fortune has "Igor's Raid" been preserved?
6. What is the character of this Epic Song?
 Evidently an ancient epic bard.
SECOND PERIOD, FROM THE TATAR DOMINION TO THE TIME OF IVAN THE TERRIBLE, 1224-1330.
During the Tatar Dominion, or yoke (1224-1370), Kieff lost its supremacy, and also ceased to be, as it had been up to this time, the center of education and literature. The dispersive influence of the Tatar raids had the effect of creating centers in the northeast, which were, eventually, concentrated in Moscow; and in so far it proved a blessing in disguise for Russia. The conditions of life under the Tatar sway were such, that any one, man or woman, who valued a peaceful existence, or existence at all, was driven to seek refuge in monasteries. The inevitable consequence was, that a religious, even an aesthetic, cast was imparted to what little literature was created. One celebrated production, dating from about the middle of the fourteenth century, will serve to give an idea of the sort of thing on which men then exercised their minds and pens. It is the Epistle of Archbishop Vasily of Novgorod to Feodor, bishop of Tver, entitled, "Concerning the Earthly Paradise," wherein the author discusses a subject of contention which had arisen among the clergy of the latter's diocese, as to "whether the earthly paradise planted by God for Adam doth still exist upon the earth, or whether not the earthly but only an imaginary paradise doth still exist." The worthy archbishop, with divers arguments, defends his position, that the earthly paradise does still exist in the East, and hell in the West: which latter proposition is not surprising when we recall the historical circumstances under which it was enounced.
The monks continued to be the leaders in the educational and literary army, and under the stress of circumstances, not only won immense political influence over the life of the people, but also developed a new and special type of literature—political sermons—which attained to particular development in the fourteenth century. Another curious phenomenon was presented by the narratives concerning various prominent personages, which contain precious facts and expressions of contemporary views. The authors always endeavored, after the time-honored fashion of biographers, to exalt and adorn their subjects; so that "decorated narratives," a most apt title for that sort of literature in general, was the characteristic name under which they came to be known. One peculiarity of all of these, it is worth noting, including that which dealt with the decisive battle with the Tatars on the field of Kulikovo, on the Don, in 1370, under Dmitry Donskoy (Dmitry of the Don), Prince of Moscow, is, that they are imitated, in style and language, from the famous "Word Concerning Igor's Raid."
Among the many purely secular tales of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries preserved in manuscript, not one has anything in common with Russian national literature. All are translations, or reconstructions of material derived from widely divergent sources, such as the stories of Alexander of Macedon, of the Trojan War, and various Oriental tales. About the middle of the sixteenth century, Makary, metropolitan of Moscow, collected, in twelve huge volumes, the Legends (or Spiritual Tales) of the Saints, under the title of Tchetya Minaya—literally, Monthly Reading. It was finished in 1552, and contains thirteen hundred Lives of Saints.
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW
1. What was the effect of the Tatar raids upon Kieff?
2. What striking illustration have we of the weak religious literature of this time?
3. What were the "decorated narratives"? To what famous epic are they similar in style?
4. What foreign character have the secular tales of this period?
5. What famous collection of Legends of the Saints was made in the sixteenth century?
THIRD PERIOD, FROM THE TIME OF IVAN THE TERRIBLE, 1530, TO THE MIDDLE OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY.
Political events had tended to concentrate absolute power in the hands of the Grand Princes of Moscow, beginning with Ivan III. But no counterbalancing power had arisen in Russian society; there was no independent life, no respect for the individual, no public opinion to counteract the abuse of power. In the beginning of the sixteenth century, Russian society had reached the extreme limits of development possible to it under its unfavorable conditions. The time for the Russian Renaissance had arrived. It is well to remember that at this time in other parts of Europe also the spirit of despotism and intolerance was holding individual liberty in check. This was the age of Henry VIII., of Catherine de Medici, of the Inquisition, and of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew.
In this century of transition, the sixteenth, the man who exerted over the spirit of the age more influence than any other was Maxim the Greek (1480-1556), a learned scholar, a monk of Mt. Athos, educated chiefly in Italy. He was invited to Russia by Grand Prince Vasily Ivanovitch, for the purpose of cataloguing a rich store of Greek manuscripts in the library of the Grand Prince. To his influence is due one of the most noteworthy books of the sixteenth century, the "Stoglava," or "Hundred Chapters," a set of regulations adopted by the young Tzar Ivan Vasilievitch (afterwards known as Ivan the Terrible), the son of Vasily, and by the most enlightened nobles of his time at a council held in 1551. Their object was to reform the decadent morals of the clergy, and various ecclesiastical and social disorders, and in particular, the absolute illiteracy arising from the lack of schools. Another famous work of the same century is the "Domostroy," or "House-Regulator," attributed to Pope (priest) Sylvester, the celebrated confessor and counselor of Ivan the Terrible in his youth. In an introduction and sixty-three chapters Sylvester sets forth the principles which should regulate the life of every layman, the management of his household and family, his relations to his neighbors, his manners in church, his conduct towards his sovereign and the authorities, his duties towards his servants and subordinates, and so forth. The most curious part of the work deals with the minute details of domestic economy—one injunction being, that all men shall live in accordance with their means or their salary—and family relations, in the course of which the position of woman in Russia of the sixteenth century is clearly defined. This portion is also of interest as the forerunner of a whole series of articles in Russian literature on women, wherein the latter are depicted in the most absurd manner, the most gloomy colors—articles known as "About Evil Women"—and founded on an admiration for Byzantine asceticism. In his Household Regulations Sylvester thus defines the duties of woman:
"She goeth to church according to opportunity and the counsel of her husband. Husbands must instruct their wives with care and judicious chastisement. If a wife live not according to the precepts of her husband, her husband must reprove her in private, and after that he hath so reproved her, he must pardon her, and lay upon her his further injunctions; but they must not be wroth one with the other.... And only when wife, son, or daughter accept not reproof shall he flog them with a whip, but he must not beat them in the presence of people, but in private; and he shall not strike them on the ear, or in the face, or under the heart with his fist, nor shall he kick them, or thrash them with a cudgel, or with any object of iron or wood. But if the fault be great, then, removing the offender's shirt, he shall beat him (or her) courteously with a whip," and so forth.
We have seen that Ivan IV. (the Terrible) took the initiative in reforms. After the conquest of Kazan he established many churches in that territory and elsewhere in Russia, and purchased an immense quantity of manuscript service-books for their use, many of which turned out to be utterly useless, on account of the ignorance and carelessness of the copyists. This circumstance is said to have enforced upon Ivan's attention the advisability of establishing printing-presses in Russia; though there is reason to believe that Maxim the Greek had, long before, suggested the idea to the Tzar. Accordingly, the erection of a printing-house was begun in 1543, but it was only in April, 1563, that printing could be begun, and in March, 1564, the first book was completed—The Acts of the Apostles. The first book printed in Slavonic, however, is the "Oktoikh," or "Book of the Eight Canonical Tones," containing the Hymns for Vespers, Matins, and kindred church services, which was printed in Cracow seventy years earlier; and thirty years earlier, Venice was producing printed books in the Slavonic languages, while even in Lithuania and White Russia printed books were known earlier than in Moscow. After printing a second book, the "Book of Hours" (the Tchasosloff)—also connected with Vespers, Matins, kindred services, and the Liturgy, in addition—in 1565, the printers, both Russians, were accused of heresy, of spoiling the book, and were compelled to flee from Moscow. In 1568 other printers produced in Moscow the Psalter, and other books. In 1580, in Ostrog, Government of Volhynia, in a printing-house founded by Prince Konstantin Konstantinovitch Ostrozhsky, was printed the famous Ostrozhsky Bible, which was as handsome as any product of the contemporary press anywhere in Europe.
Nevertheless, manuscripts continued to circulate side by side with printed books, even during the reign of Peter the Great.
During the reign of Ivan the Terrible, secular literature and authors from the highest classes of society again made their appearance; in fact, they had never wholly disappeared during the interval. Ivan the Terrible himself headed the list, and Prince Andrei Mikhailovitch Kurbsky was almost his equal in rank, and more than his equal in importance from a literary point of view. Ivan the Terrible's writings show the influence of his epoch, his oppressed and agitated childhood, his defective education; and like his character, they are the perfectly legitimate expression of all that had taken place in the kingdom of Moscow.
The most striking characteristic of Ivan's writings is his malicious, biting irony, concealed beneath an external aspect of calmness; and it is most noticeable in his principal works, his "Correspondence with Prince Kurbsky," and his "Epistle to Kozma, Abbot of the Kirillo-Byelozersk Monastery." They display him as a very well-read man, intimately acquainted with the Scriptures, and the translations from the Fathers of the Church, and the Russian Chronicles, as well as with general history. Abbot Kozma had complained to the Tzar concerning the conduct of certain great nobles who had become inmates of his monastery, some voluntarily, others by compulsion, as exiles from court, and who were exerting a pernicious influence over the monks. Ivan seized the opportunity thus presented to him, to pour out all the gall of his irony on the monks, who had forsaken the lofty, spiritual traditions of the great holy men of Russia.
Of much greater importance, as illustrating Ivan's literary talent, is his "Correspondence with Prince Kurbsky" (1563-1579), a warrior of birth as good as Ivan's own, a former favorite of his, who, in 1563, probably in consequence of the profound change in Ivan's conduct, which had taken place, and weighed so heavily upon the remainder of his reign, fled to Ivan's enemy, the King of Poland. The abuses of confidence and power, with the final treachery of Priest Sylvester (Ivan's adviser in ecclesiastical affairs), and of Adasheff (his adviser in temporal matters), had changed the Tzar from a mild, almost benevolent, sovereign, into a raging despot. On arriving in Poland, Prince Kurbsky promptly wrote to Ivan announcing his defection, and plainly stating the reasons therefor. When Ivan received this epistle—the first in the celebrated and valuable historical correspondence which ensued—he thrust his iron-shod staff through the foot of the bearer, at the bottom of the Red (or Beautiful) Staircase in the Kremlin, and leaning heavily upon it, had the letter read to him, the messenger making no sign of his suffering the while. Kurbsky asserted the rights of the individual, as against the sovereign power, and accused Ivan of misusing his power. Ivan, on his side, asserted his omnipotent rights, ascribed to his own credit all the noteworthy events of his reign, accused Kurbsky of treason, and demonstrated to the Prince (with abundant Scriptural quotations), that he had not only ruined his own soul, but also the souls of his ancestors—a truly Oriental point of view. "If thou art upright and pious," he writes, "why wert not thou willing to suffer at the hands of me, thy refractory sovereign lord, and receive from me the crown of life?... Thou hast destroyed thy soul for the sake of thy body ... and hast waxed wroth not against a man, but against God."
Kurbsky's letters reveal in him a far more cultivated man, with more sense of decency and self control, and even elegance of diction, than the Tzar. He even reproaches the latter, in one letter, for his ignorance of the proper way to write, and for his lack of culture, and tells him he ought to be ashamed of himself, comparing the Tzar's literary style with "the ravings of women," and accusing him of writing "barbarously."