WHEN the present volume was originally planned it was intended to contain an account of Russian folklore in general--of the stories, legends, riddles, proverbs, and epic as well as lyric poems, which oral tradition has preserved among the Russian peasantry. But I soon found that the subject was one which, if treated at all in detail, would require more time and space than I had expected. So I thought it best to restrict myself for the present to a part of it only, leaving the rest to be described afterwards. In this first instalment of the work, therefore, I have dealt chiefly, though not exclusively, with the lyric poetry of the peasantry; the next will be mainly devoted to their Popular Tales and their Metrical Romances.
In order to render intelligible the songs I have quoted, it has been necessary to give some slight account of the religious ideas attributed to the ancient
Slavonians and the superstitions current among their descendants, as well as of some of the manners and customs of the Russian peasantry, especially with regard to marriages and funerals. But my book can make no pretence to any thing like a satisfactory grappling with the difficult problems--mythological, ethnological, philological, historical--suggested by the study of Slavonic antiquities. Perhaps the best excuse I can offer for my shortcomings with respect to those questions is this. A great part of the ground over which I have hastily skimmed has been explored by a scholar who is far better qualified for the task than I am. And so to Mr. Morfill's forthcoming work on "The Slaves" I refer, at all events for a time, all who wish for fuller information on the subject.
In the translations contained in the present volume I have attempted to give, in every case, as literal a version of the original as possible. My rule has been to translate the songs into prose, line for line and word for word, and this rule has scarcely ever been broken. Only here and there, in the introductory chapter and in that on Marriage, I have been sometimes almost unconsciously led into following, to some slight extent, the rhythmical flow of the Russian. Rhyme, as my readers are probably aware, very rarely
appears in any but modern Russian Songs, and upon recent poetry I have not touched.
For inconsistency in the use of accents I have only this excuse to offer. On my "copy" I had marked every accented syllable, but typographical difficulties prevented me from carrying out my original idea. After having begun to print, however, I found that certain words were specially liable to be mispronounced, so I inserted a few marks here and there, where they seemed to be most needed, in order to show on which syllable the accent ought to fall.
With respect to the authorities I have consulted, it may be as well to say a few words. My chief aim has been to render available to such students of mythology and folk-lore as may happen not to read Russian, some part, at least, of the evidence bearing upon those subjects which has been collected in Russia, but which has not been hitherto rendered into generally intelligible speech, and therefore I have not thought it necessary to make more than occasional reference to books written in, or translated into, the languages of Western Europe 1. Of the
Russian authorities on which I have principally relied a full list will be given at the end of the book. The Songs contained in the present volume have been taken, for the most part, from the rich collections made by Sakharof and Shein; the descriptions of popular manners and customs have been mainly borrowed from the valuable works of Snegiref and Tereshchenko; the greater part of the chapter on Funeral Songs I have extracted from the erudite treatise by Kotlyarevsky, "On the Funeral Rites of the Heathen Slavonians;" and for the arrangement and much of the contents of the chapter on Mythic and Ritual Songs I am indebted to Orest Miller's "Historical Survey of Russian Literature."
But it is to Alexander Nikolaevich Afanasief, whose recent and premature death cannot sufficiently be deplored, that I am under the deepest obligations. His great work, "On the Poetic Views of the Old Slavonians about Nature" is a rich storehouse to which I have had constant recourse in the present volume; on his excellent collections of Russian Popular Tales and Legends the next volume will be based; and from his writings in general I have derived frequent assistance while studying the Builínas,
or Metrical Romances--with respect to which the special books of reference are the collections of Ruibnikof and Kiryeevsky 2, and the critical works of Buslaef, Bezsonof, Maikof, Orest Miller, Schiefner, Stasof, and many others. There is one other Russian scholar to whom I wish to render hearty acknowledgments for aid constantly received. Were it not for the great dictionary "of the living Russian language" by Vladímir Dahl, a foreigner would be hopelessly bewildered when trying to make his way through the difficult field of Russian folk-lore.
Finally, let me offer cordial thanks for the assistance personally tendered to me by many Russian friends, as well upon other occasions as on those of my visits to Russia in 1868 and 1870. To them I dedicate my book, trusting that, imperfect as it is, they will recognize in it such traces of honest work as may render them lenient towards its sins both of omission and of commission.
vii:1 A long list of books in various languages on Slavonic Antiquities is given by Dr. L J. Hanusch. See Die Wissenshaft des slawischen Mythus, pp. 48-71. A number of Russian Songs have been faithfully translated by P. Von Goetze, under the title of Stimmen des russischen Volks in Liedern. Stuttgart, 1828. A p. viii few occur also in the collection entitled Balalaika. Eine Sammlung slawischer Lieder von W. von Waldbrühl. Leipzig, 1848.
ix:2 A new collection of builinas is now in the press, containing the poems written down from the dictation of the Olonets "rhapsodists" by the editor, A. F. Hilferding. They will not be arranged according to their subjects, nor chronologically,; but they will be grouped in relation to their reciters--all the poems dictated by each rhapsodist being kept together.