Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Happy Birthday, Igor

Igor Svyatoslavich (April 3, 1151 – 1202) was the prince of Novgorod-Seversky from 1180 to 1202. As Wikipedia says: His skirmishes against the Polovtsians would most likely have passed into oblivion if they had not been immortalized in The Tale of Igor's Campaign and the opera Prince Igor.

Не начать ли нам, братья,
по-стародавнему скорбную
повесть о походе Игоревом,
Игоря Святославича!
Или да начнется песнь
ему по былям нашего времени
- не по замышлению Боянову!
Ведь Боян вещий
когда песнь кому сложить хотел,
то белкою скакал по дереву,
серым волком по земле,
сизым орлом кружил под облаками.
Поминал он давних времен рати -
тогда пускал десять соколов на стаю лебедей;
какую догонял сокол,
та первая песнь пела
старому Ярославу,
храброму Мстиславу,
что зарезал Редедю пред полками касожскими,
красному Роману Святославичу.
Боян же, братья, не десять соколов
на стаю лебедей пускал,
но свои вещие персты
на живые струны возлагал;
они же сами князьям славу рокотали.
OCS opening

«Would it not be fitting, brothers.
To begin with ancient words
The sorrowful song of the campaign of Igor,
Igor Svyatoslavich. Now let us begin this song
In the manner of a tale of today,
And not according to the notions of Boyan.
Now the wizard Boyan,
If he wanted to make a song to someone,
His thought would range through the trees;
It would range like a grey wolf across the land,
Like a blue eagle against the clouds.
His words would recall the
Early years of princely wars:
Then he would release ten falcons
Onto a flock of swans;
The first swan to be touched,
It would be the first to sing:
To old Yaroslav, to brave Mstislav,
Who cut down Rededya before the
Armies of the Kasogians,
To the handsome Roman Svyatoslavich.
Now Boyan, brothers, would not
Release ten falcons
Onto a flock of swans,
But his magic fingers would
He place on the living strings,
And they themselves would
Sound forth praises to the princes...» (tr Robert Howes)

You can find the Slovo on line: in OCS and several Russian translations here, along with poetic works inspired by it, with Ukrainian studies, and in Leonard Magnus's English translation (see below.)

Were it not seemly to us, brothers, to begin in ancient diction the tales of the toils of the army of Ígoŕ, Ígoŕ Svyatoslávič?

[Or] to begin this song in accordance with the ballads of this time, and not like the invention of Boyán?

For the wise Boyán when he wished to make a song for any man, in his thought used to fly in the trees, [race] like a grey wolf on earth, [soar] like a dusky eagle beneath the clouds. He used to recall the words and the dissensions of the early times.

Then he released falcons on a flock of swans; whichever [falcon] first arrived, its swan sang a song,--to the elder Yarosláv, to Mstíslav the Brave who slew Redélya in front of the Kasog hosts, [or] to Román Svyatoslávič the Handsome.

Yet, Boyán, my brothers, did not let loose ten falcons on a flock of swans, but laid his own wizard fingers on the living strings, which then themselves throbbed out praise for the princes.

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