Sacred Texts  Legends & Sagas  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 262



HAVING formed some idea of the various other divisions of the Obryádnuiya Pyesni, or Ritual Songs--many of them relics of pagan worship or mythical doctrine which, after having undergone a more or less serious change, have come down to our own times, and still live in the memories and on the lips of the Russian peasantry--we will now proceed to glance at that mass of popular poetry which is closely connected with the social life of the people, specially consecrated to days of family joy or mourning. The principal occasions on which songs of this kind may be heard are those of a wedding or of a burial, and therefore it is mainly to the marriage and funeral customs of the Russian people that this chapter and the next will be devoted. The Marriage Songs alone are numerous enough to form a bulky volume; but all that can be done here is to attempt, in a hasty sketch, to convey some idea of their nature and their worth.

Before introducing the songs themselves, it will be necessary to give some account of the marriage customs and rites which they, for the most part,

p. 263

accompany and illustrate. These customs differ somewhat in the various districts of Russia, but their purport is always the same, however much their form may have been warped by time or accident. Tereshchenko has devoted to the subject a volume of 618 pages, giving a detailed account of the mode of conducting a marriage in nine distinct Russian provinces, as well as in Little-Russia, White-Russia, and Lithuania. In the rapid sketch of a peasant wedding in the present day which I am about to give, I shall partly rely upon the animated picture drawn by Ruibnikof [III. 347-409] of a marriage in the neighbourhood of Lake Onega, and partly upon that contained in the eighth chapter of Tereshchenko's exhaustive treatise.

In the districts to which Ruibnikof's account refers, "the marriage ceremony has developed," he remarks, "into a complete scenic representation," of which, in order to understand it aright, it is necessary to be familiar with this list of


The Knyaz [Prince], i. e. The Bridegroom.

The Knyazhná, or Knyagínya 1 [Princess], i. e. The Bride.

The Tuísyatsky 2 [Captain or Chief], i. e. The chief of the Bridegroom's party.

The Druzkhi [drug = friend], i. e. The Groomsmen.

p. 264

The Boyáre 3 [Lords], i.e. The male members of the bridal cortége, called also Poyezzhane [Poyezd = cortége].

The Boyáruini [Ladies], i. e. The female members of the cortége, called also Bryudgi.

The Voplénitsa 4 [Wailer], i.e. The mistress of ceremonies, who directs the whole course of the wedding, so far as what takes place in the bride's house is concerned.

These are the principal characters, but besides them there are also the Svat and Svakha, the male and female match-makers, and a number of youths and maidens who attend upon the bride and bridegroom. In some districts, it should be observed, the Voplénitsa is unknown.

The bride And bridegroom, in the districts of which Ruibnikof speaks, have generally become acquainted at the gatherings called Besyedas, and have glided into a sort of informal engagement, during which they have been known as a parochka, or pair. At last, having ascertained that the girl's family will not object, one autumn or winter day the lover has begged his father or godfather to go to her

p. 265

parents and ask for her hand. So the envoy has set out on the Svátanie, or match-making, attended by various other members of the bridegroom's family.

They always start at night, and they choose a bye-way, so as not to meet any one, for a meeting would be an evil omen. Having arrived at the house of the bride's father, they knock at the window and ask for admission. Milosti prosim, "Do us the favour," is the ordinary reply. When they have come in they are asked to sit down, but they refuse. "We have not come," they say, "to sit down, nor to feast, but to ask in marriage. We have a Dóbry Molodéts 5, a brave youth; you have a Krásnaya Dyevítsa, a fair maiden. Might not the two be brought together?" The parents of the bride return thanks for the compliment, on which the visitors take off their caps and sit down to a meal. When it is over the matchmakers ask for a final answer. The parents at first plead for delay, but, if they see no objection to the match, eventually give their consent. Upon this a candle is lighted and placed before the holy picture, and the contracting parties, having crossed themselves and uttered a prayer, strike hands on the bargain, and settle the matter. After the Rukobitie [ruká, a hand; bit', to beat] the girl generally begins to lament, and to entreat her relatives to break off the engagement. Let them do what else they will with

p. 266

her, she cries, she will be their faithful servant; only let them not send her away into a land of strangers, and so forth; or perhaps her wailing takes a narrative form:--

Not two ravens have flown together in the dark forest,
Nor have two warriors ridden together in the open plain,
But two match-makers have met within my home,
In the chief, the revered corner, the place of honour.
The first of them is my father dear,
The second is a match-maker from the abode of strangers.
They have taken close counsel together,
They have lighted candles of pure wax
Before the wonder-working picture,
And have crossed their bright eyes,
And have struck hand upon hand . . .  6.

In the districts of which Tereshchenko speaks, the Svátanie is performed somewhat differently. Very often it is the girl's family which makes the first move, its members sending a Svakha, or female match-maker, to suggest the idea of the marriage to the youth's parents. They receive her as if in total ignorance of her designs, and she at first pretends to have dropped in accidentally. Presently, however, she proceeds to business. If the idea proves acceptable, the youth's parents in their turn send a Svat to carry on the parleying. An agreement is soon arrived at between the two families, and then the young people make each other presents, and their

p. 267

engagement is celebrated by a feast, at which only cheerful songs are sung, such as

The nightingale flew
To the coppice green,
To the birchwoods bright.
To a spray, without heeding,
The nightingale flew.
That spray so alluring,
That verdure enchanting,
The nightingale pleased,
The songster delighted:
He will not depart from it now.

And so--the song goes on to say, introducing the names of the youth and the maiden--Luka Ivánovich, without any settled purpose, came to Efim's house, and then saw the fair Prascovia Andreevna, and, having seen her,

Part from her he cannot,
But wed her he will 7.

Two days after the hand-striking, continues Ruibnikof, begins the ceremony of poruchénie, elsewhere called obruchénie, or betrothal. During the interval the bride, as she may now be called, visits her relatives, attended by half a score or a score of other girls, with whom she sings various songs and zapláchki, or laments.

Towards the end of the second day arrive the bridegroom and his friends. The Tuísyatsky and groomsmen lead the way, and, having left the bridegroom and the rest of his escort at some house in the village, go straight to the bride's house, where they

p. 268

entreat her friends to get her ready as soon as possible. This being promised, after a fee has been paid to the Voplénitsa, the recognized directress of the ceremony, the bridegroom arrives with his festive train, and the whole party sit down to a table covered with a white cloth and provided with bread and salt.

Meanwhile the bride has been adorned in wedding apparel, with a fatá, a sort of veil, on her head and covering her face. When she is ready her friends form a procession, and bring her in state to the table at which the guests are seated. In front, together with the Bozhatka, or Godmother, go the Peredovshchiki and Peredovshchitsui, the "Foremen" and "Forewomen" [pered or pred = before]. The bride follows, leaning on the arms of two girls called Pristavlenitsui [Pristávit = to set over, etc.] When the procession draws near to the table, the leaders open out on both sides, and the bride is led up to it, while the chorus of girls, standing in one of the corners, sings what are called Pripyeval'nuiya songs [pripyév = accompaniment of song, or refrain; pripyevát' = to accompany with singing].

The Tuísyatsky then asks the bride's relatives to unveil her, saying, "We have come to see not a veil, but a bride." They comply, and the unveiled bride bends low to the bridegroom's relatives in general, and to the Tuísyatsky and the "Young Prince" in particular. "Is the young Princess lyubá [pleasing] to you?" ask the "Foremen." The bridegroom expresses his satisfaction by a silent inclination of the head, but his escorters cry loudly

p. 269

"Lyubá, Lyubá" [She is, she is pleasing]. "But ask the young Princess," they continue, "if our young Prince is lyub to her." The bride replies by a low bow or salaam (Russian peasant women do not curtsey, but bow low as the men do, in oriental fashion), but her attendants exclaim "Lyub, Lyub" [He is, he is pleasing].

The bridegroom now rises from the table, and hands to the bride a tray with two glasses of vodka, the Russian whiskey. She takes them round--the bridegroom filling them as they are emptied--first to her own relatives, then to those of the bridegroom. When all have been served, the young people help themselves, and, having signed a cross over their eyes, strike their glasses together, the bridegroom trying to lift his glass highest, so as to pour some of its contents into the bride's glass, his friends exclaiming, if he is successful, Ai-da mólodets, "There's a fine fellow!" After this the bride retires from the table, and the Voplénitsa intones a song beginning,

Grant Thy blessing, O Lord God,
On the holy, and happy hour,
On the prosperous time and season.

Meanwhile the bride sits on a bench, and the women of her family lament over her, bewailing her impending departure to "the land of strangers." When they have finished, the bride herself begins to sing sadly,

No leisure have I to be sitting here,
To be talking and chattering.

p. 270

The season for work has come,
The mowing time and the haymaking. . . .

Then she rises, takes the tray with glasses, and again makes the round of the guests, whose praises meanwhile the Voplénitsa sings, ending with those of the bridegroom, who is helped last, describing how--

He sits there bright as a burning taper;
When he speaks it is like the giving of roubles.
    .    .    .    .    .    .
His ruddiness is taken from the sun;
His fairness from the white snow.
    .    .    .    .    .    .
His cheeks are like the crimson poppy,
His bright eyes are the eyes of a hawk,
His brows are black with the blackness of a sable....

Then comes the poruchénie, the act of betrothal. "Its essence," says Ruibnikof, "consists in this, that the bridegroom, having lifted a glass of vodka to his lips, should take the hand (ruká) of the bride, and press it." After this the glasses are removed from the table, and the bridegroom offers to the bride a casket of presents. She takes it away from the table, but immediately brings it back, remarking that the key does not accompany it. The Voplénitsa addresses the bridegroom, singing,--

Thou hast given a coffer of metal work,
Now give the golden key.

The bridegroom unlocks the casket, and the bride carries it off, inspects the gifts, and then usually returns her thanks in song:--

p. 271

Wherefore, O young son of thy father,
Hast thou given me a coffer of metal-work?
No Priest's child am I,
No Deacon's child am I,
But the child of a simple peasant.

After this she again offers spirits to the bridegroom's relatives, who soon afterwards, having been feasted and presented with various gifts by her family, retire to their homes. When they have left, the bride goes the round of her own relations, serving them with drink, and receiving gifts from them--from the men ribbons and kerchiefs, and from the women shifts and pieces of different stuffs, and the like.

After the betrothal come two or three Vecherinki, or social gatherings, of which the last, on the eve of the wedding, is the most important. In the central provinces of Russia this is known as the Dyevíchnik, [dyéva, dyevítsa = a maiden]. Of this "girls' party" we will now give a description, following the account given by Tereshchenko [II. 126-130]. The day before the wedding the bride's unmarried friends meet at her house, and spend the evening with her, bewailing her coming departure, consoling her in her grief, and inspecting her wedding-dress and presents. When it grows dark a number of candles are lighted, and Khlyeb-sol', bread and salt, and Karavaí, a particular kind of cake, are placed on the table. The girls then lead the bride to a raised seat, and group themselves around her in a ring. One of their number wraps the bride's head in the wedding-veil, and leads the songs, in which, accompanied with many tears, they describe

p. 272

her impending departure from among them, and the altered form of life which she will have to adopt. After a time they take off the bride's veil, and begin combing her "ruddy tresses." Unmarried Russian girls wear their back hair hanging in a long, single plait, adorned with ribbons and sometimes, especially in Little-Russia, with flowers. This plait, called kosá 8 is a maiden's chief ornament, the cherished object of her care, the principal source of her girlish pride. Its unplaiting is a sign of the change which is coming upon her, for married women do not wear the kosá. Their back hair, if it is not cut short, is worn in two plaits, which are generally wound round the head, and concealed under a kerchief.

During the unplaiting of the kosá the girl who superintends the operation begins to sing,--

O my plait, my plaitling,
My dear plait,
Ruddy and golden!

And the girl who is assisting her replies,--

Early is it to unplait thee,
And for the long journey,
The long one to prepare thee!

When the bride's tresses have been combed out, and her kosá is about to be plaited anew, she sings,--

Not for gold do I mourn,
Nor mourn I for bright silver.
For one thing only do I mourn.
For the maiden beauty
Of my ruddy kosá.

p. 273

To which one of her friends replies,--

Weep not, weep not, dear Prascovia,
Make not unhappy the fair maidens,
Stain not with tears their white faces,
Nor break the strength of their hands!
Not for ever shall we remain unmarried,
Singing of our maiden freedom.

While the kosá is being replaited the chorus sings,--

O thou my dear, my ruddy kosá!
O thou my dear, my silken kosník 9!
Do thou plait, O my bride,
Plait thy braid, ever so finely,
Tie the knots, ever so tightly!

When the plait has been braided as tight as possible, and tied with blue laws, the bridegroom's brother, the Svakha, or some other personage deputed for the purpose, arrives, and begins bidding for it. To the sale of the kosá a great many songs are devoted, such as,

It was not a horn that in the early morning sounded;
It was a maiden her ruddy braid lamenting.
Last night they twined my braid together,
And interweaved my braid with pearls.
Luka Ivanovich--Heaven requite him!--
Has sent a pitiless Svakha hither.
My braid has she begun to rend.
Tearing out the gold from my braid,
Shaking the pearls from my ruddy braid.

The intending purchaser stands at the door, and bows to the company. Then he tries to get at the kosá, but the girls keep him off, while the bride weeps and sobs. Turning to her brother, or to one of the girls who represents him, she entreats him to

p. 274

defend her, and not to sell her kosá, or at all events not to sell it cheaply. The girls sing,--

Stand to it, brother!
Brother, hold out!
Sell not thy sister
For a rouble, for gold.

The brother replies,--

Dear to a brother is a sister,
But dearer still is gold.

Then in chorus the girls exclaim,--

Tartar of a brother!

The purchaser now goes up to the bride, and lays hold of her kosá, throwing money on the table as a sign that it has been sold and bought. This sale, in the north-east districts to which Ruibnikof's account refers, takes place the next day, just before the bride goes to the church.

After the sale of the kosá has taken place, the girls sit down to table, and sing the Karavaí [cake] song,--

The Karavaí
For all the family is fit.
Let the young Princess,
Taste it to-morrow;
Then will the young Prince
Love the young Princess.

In some places it is believed that if the bride tastes the cake on the eve of the wedding her husband will not love her. After the cake song, a number of others are sung, their tone being generally in accordance with the feelings displayed by the bride.

p. 275

One of the most poetic of the ideas to which the ceremonies of this girls' party gives expression, is the division by the bride of her krásota among her maiden companions. The word usually means "beauty," but, on this particular occasion, it is applied to "a kind of crown made of ribbons and flowers," which is placed on the table before the bride. It is intended to represent the ornaments which she used to twine in her braided hair in her girlish days, and so to typify the maiden liberty which she is about to exchange for the subjection of married life. Of the songs devoted to this subject, the number of which is very great, the following is a fair example:--

O my friend, beloved companion,
Whither shall I send my beauty?
Shall I let it go into the woods?
  Soon will it lose its way.
Shall I let it go into the meads?
  Long will it wander about.
Shall I let it go down to the stream?
  There will its feet be set fast.
I will give my beauty .
  To my dear companion,
To that sweet fair maiden,
  Dear Olinka.
With her my beauty
  Will find a shelter;
The darling one will be lapped in ease.
A mother of her own has
  A father of her own;
Brothers has she, bright falcons.
  Fair swans are their wives 1.

p. 276

After supper the girls retire for the night, to return the next morning and prepare the bride for the marriage ceremony.

We will now proceed with Ruibnikof's account. Part of the day preceding the marriage, he says, is spent by the bride in paying farewell visits to her relatives. To her godfather she addresses the following zaplachka, or lament:--

I have come to thee, O my bright Sun,
Beloved parent-Godfather,
I, the young one, have come to thee,
To bend low my forehead, and bow down.
Do thou forgive me, father dear!
I have been a giddy girl; . . . .
Bless me, father dear,
With an enduring benediction!

And before her godmother she sings,

Farewell, my own,
Thou never-enough-to-be-looked-on Sun!
Bless me, O my mother,
Bless, and be not angry
Remember not, my own,
My girlish follies,
My careless words!

Some of the bride's relatives spend the night before the wedding in her father's house. In the morning she awakes them with laments devoted to that purpose. Afterwards she addresses one of her married friends, asking her what parting with one's kith and kin (rod-plemya) is like. The reply is that--

Hard is it to part
From one's kith and kin,
From one's father and mother.
    .    .    .    .    .    .    .

p. 277

Hard is it to become accustomed
To another family,
To another father and mother....

Presently the Svakha begins to unplait her braided hair for the last time, amid much wailing song. When the operation has been performed, the bride is arrayed in wedding attire. Meantime, in some places, the bridegroom and his friends--or the friends only, the bridegroom having gone on to the church--have come to the house, and are waiting in the Syeni 2 at the open doors. They beg that the bride maybe brought to them, and at last, after their request has been many times repeated, the "Princess" appears, attended by her relatives and attendants, but stops short at the door. Again the bridegroom's friends demand the bride, but are told first to "Cleanse the threshold; then will the young Princess cross the threshold." On this the bridegroom's friends place some copper coins in a bowl, and offer them to the bride's relatives, who take a grosh or two apiece, and then open their ranks, and let the bride pass through into the Syeni. There they all "pray to God," and then--if the bridegroom is present--lead the young people up to each other. The bridegroom places one hand on the bride's head, and with the other turns her round three times "as the sun goes," while in

p. 278

doing so, if he is. adroit, he gives her a kiss. Then they enter the "living-room," and sit down to table, after the bridegroom has given a present to the children of the family, who have previously occupied all the places, in order to induce them to give up their seats. About this time, in the districts of which Ruibnikof speaks, takes place the sale of the bride, which, in the province referred to by Tereshchenko, occurs at the girls' party on the previous evening. The Tuisyatsky makes the purchase, handing money to the bride's female relatives till they pretend to be satisfied, on which the groomsmen cry, "Ye have sold the bride: she is yours no more." After this they prepare to go to church, but not before the bride has received her mother's last blessing. This is conferred at various times in different districts, but always in the same manner. The mother takes the holy image from the corner of honour, and blesses her daughter with it. To this ceremony the last lines refer in the following song. The word Sudáruinya, which occurs in it, is an abbreviation of Gosudáruinya, lady or mistress:--

"Mátushka! what is that dust on the plain
Sudáruinya! what is that dust on the plain?"
"My child, the horses have galloped about:
My darling, the horses have galloped about."

"Mátushka! guests to our courtyard have come!
Sudáruinya! guests to our courtyard have come!"
"My child, do not fear, we will not give thee up:
My darling, fear not, we will not give thee up."

"Mátushka! now they are mounting the steps!
Sudáruinya! now they are mounting the steps!"

p. 279

"My child, do not fear, we will not give thee up;
My darling, fear not, we will not give thee up."

"Mátushka! into the house 3 have they gone!
Sudáruinya! into the house have they gone!"
"My child, do not fear, we will not give thee up;
My darling, fear not, we will not give thee up."

"Mátushka! at the oak table they sit!
Sudáruinya! at the oak table they sit."
"My child, do not fear, we will not give thee up;
My darling, fear not, we will not give thee up."

"Mátushka! down has the picture 4 been taken!
Sudáruinya! down has the picture been taken!"
"My child, do not fear, we will not give thee up;
My darling, fear not, we will not give thee up."

"Mátushka! see, they are blessing me now!
Sudáruinya! see, they are blessing me now!"
"My child! may the Lord be ever with thee!
My darling! may God be ever with thee 5!"

As soon as the young couple arrive in the church, says Tereshchenko, the priest begins the wedding service. Over the heads of the bride and bridegroom the groomsmen hold crowns [vyentsui, whence the rite is called vyenchanie, or crowning]. The crowns must be allowed to press to some extent on the head, for if, in order to prevent the bride from being wearied, her crown is kept actually above her head, the peasants augur ill for the happiness of her

p. 280

married life. But if it is allowed to drop on her head, terrible misfortunes are expected. Omens are looked for also in the burning of the tapers which the young people hold in their hands.

When the nuptial benediction is pronounced the priest puts the wedding rings on their fingers, and then, having joined their hands with a piece of white linen, he leads them round the reading-desk. Afterwards he three times gives them red wine to drink, and tells them to kiss each other. The ceremony is over 6.

The bridegroom now leads his bride, says Ruibnikof, to his home. On the top of the, steps leading into the house his father and mother meet the young couple, and bless them with bread and salt, while some of the other relatives pour over them barley and down, and give them fresh milk to drink; the first that they may live in harmony and happiness, and the second "that their children may be not black, but white." The young people enter the house and sit down on a bench, the Princess [now no longer called Knyazhná but Knyagínya, as being a married woman] hiding her face from sight with a handkerchief. Then comes her mother-in-law, or an aunt, takes away the handkerchief, divides her loosely hanging tresses into two parts, and sets on her head the Povoínik, or married woman's headdress. After that begins the Knyazhenetsky Stol or "Princely Table," the "wedding-breakfast" of Russian peasant

p. 281

life, which is celebrated with great. mirth and spirit. Towards the end of it the young couple retire to their chamber, round which, in old times, one of the party, called a Klyetnik, used to watch.

The next day, after having taken a bath, the young wife makes presents to the relations of her "Prince," and to the Tuísyatsky, and a little later her husband goes to his mother-in-law's house, where she offers him an omelette. It is customary for him to make a hole in the middle of the omelette, into which a groomsman pours maslo--butter, or oil--and then breaks the pot from which the maslo was taken.

Some days later a dinner is given by the bride's mother to all the relatives on both sides, at the end of which a number of presents are made. And at the end of a week the bride's family are entertained by the bridegroom. Finally each of the persons who took part in the wedding invites the young couple either to a dinner or an evening entertainment.

[Ruibnikof asked how much the poorest peasant would have to pay when his daughter was married, without counting church fees, and the following list of expenses was made out for him:--

For entertainments, etc.





For 1 or 2 vedros of spirits
         (The vedro being about 2½ gallons).





To bride-room's father, 3 shirts and 3 towel





To bridegroom's mother, 6 shifts and 10 towels





To bridegroom's parents, a counterpane each





For presents to Tuísyatsky




To the bryudgi, a shift each





To others, towels and shirts











Or from about 4l. 8s. to 8l. 6s. of our money.

p. 282

So much is this tax felt by the poorer peasants, that in some cases, says Ruibnikof, they allow their daughters to make "run-away marriages," in order that the expense of a regular wedding may be avoided. In such cases the marriage is formally solemnized in a church, but the domestic rites are omitted.]

This sketch of the nuptial customs of the present day will, I hope, assist in rendering more intelligible than they would otherwise have been, the specimens of marriage songs which will follow. Some of them are specially interesting and valuable, inasmuch as there may be discovered in them traces of the habits and customs of the heathen Slavonians with respect to marriage, a subject on which no great amount of direct light has been thrown by history.

The earliest of the chroniclers of Old-Russia, the monk Nestor, writing towards the close of the eleventh century--he died about A.D. 1114--states that very different ideas, with respect to wedlock, prevailed in heathen times among the various Slavonic tribes in the neighbourhood of the Dniester.

There were the Drevlyane, he says, who were unacquainted with marriage, but who "carried off girls at this water," probably taking advantage of their coming out to the river for water 7. Among several other tribes, he remarks, such as the Syeveryane, for instance, a milder custom prevailed. Their young men were in the habit of carrying off their brides, it is true, seizing upon them: during the religious festivals

p. 283

which they celebrated from time to time in the villages, but then the capture or abduction was performed with the consent of the girls themselves. The Polyane, on the other hand, had regular marriages, on the occasion of which a dowry was paid, namely, a sum of money given to the bride's parents in return for their consent. For if the bride was not captured, at all events she was purchased. This custom is supposed to be typified in the game and choral song called "The Sowing of the Millet." The singers form two choirs, which face each other and exchange winged words. This song, it is as well to remark, belongs to the class of those devoted to vernal rites, a fact which may account for the invocation of Lado, the deity of the Spring and of Love, which is repeated after every line of the original.

The first chorus begins,

We have sown, we have sown millet,
Oi Did-Lado, we have sown!

To which the other replies,

But we will trample it, trample it,
Oi Did-Lado, will trample it.

Then they sing alternately,

1. But with what will ye trample it?
2. Horses will we turn into it.
1. But we will catch the horses.
2. What will ye catch them with?
1. With a silken rein.
2. But we will ransom the horses.
1. What will ye, ransom them with?
2. We will give a hundred roubles.

p. 284

1. A thousand is not what we want.
2. What is it then ye want?
1. What we want is a maiden.

On this one of the girls in the second choir goes over to the first, the two sides singing, respectively, "Our band has lost," and "Our band has gained." The game lasts until all the girls have gone over from one side to the other 8. In a corresponding Servian song the winning side says in plain terms, "If ye will not give us a maiden, we will take one by force."

To the forcible carrying away of the bride seems to refer, says Orest Miller, "a long series of nuptial songs from all parts, not only of Russia, but of the whole Slavonic world." In them the bridegroom is spoken of as a foreigner and a stranger, who has been wafted, Heaven knows whence, by a black cloud, and who is surrounded by brave companions, hostile to the bride. Even among the Czekhs, whose ideas have been considerably modified by foreign influences, the arrival of the bridegroom is still announced by the words, "The enemy is near at hand." "The bridegroom, that evil thief, has come," says a Vologda song. In Russia he is often called, also, after the invaders of the land, the Tartars or the Lithuanians.

In order to get at the bride the bridegroom has "to batter down the walls of stone," to "let fly the arrow of pearl," to "shatter the guarding locks." She

p. 285

looks upon him as her destroyer, for whom she must unplait her maiden braid, by whom her girlish beauty will be ruined. One of the many acts in the long drama, as it were, which is performed at every peasant wedding, consists in a representation of the attack and defence of the bride. Thus, in Little-Russia, when the bride's tresses have been unplaited, and the cap is being put on her head, she is bound to resist with all her might, and even to fling her cap angrily on the ground. Then the groomsmen, at the cry of "Boyars, to your swords!" pretend to seize their knives and make a dash at the bride, who is thereupon surrounded by her friends who come rushing to the rescue 9.

In some parts of Russia, on the eve of the marriage, all the doors of the house and the gates of the yard are closely shut, and when the bridegroom comes they are not opened until after long parleys, which evidently refer to the purchase of the bride, Numbers of the songs refer to such bargains. One of them, for instance, tells how the "match-makers arrived, and how, taking aside the bride's father,--

p. 286

They began to inquire about the white swan,
Began to fix the price of her dear unfettered freedom.

Then thus does the father fix the terms,--

"Let her freedom be set at a hundred roubles,
And her ruddy tresses at a thousand,
But the beauteous maiden is beyond all price."

On hearing this the chief of the match-makers begins to brag, and promises the father shall receive "towns with their suburbs, and villages with their surroundings." Finding this of no avail, he tries the effect of flattery, praising the residence of the stubborn father, and the gait and speech of his young son. But, continues the fair cause of the bargaining,--

Not on that account would my father give way,
Nor would he barter away my dear unfettered freedom.
But cunning was the evil one, the chief manager of the marriage.
Close up to my father did he press,
Low before him did he bow down,
Promising him, once and again,
Forty measures of green wine,
Forty casks of mighty beer.
On that my parents did give way,
And bartered away my freedom and liberty
For that sweet green wine,
For those small wine cups.
Ruinously did they drink away their possessions,
And squandered my freedom on debauchery 1.

p. 287

In the olden days, to which these songs are supposed to refer, women were not thought worthy of any great respect, and if the bride's parents were unwilling to part with her it may have been because they did not like the idea of losing a useful servant, or of transferring to other people "a living broom or shovel"--to make use of a popular Slavonian definition of a woman. In those patriarchal times a daughter was utterly at the mercy of her parents, and they might even sell her if it so pleased them. And in one sense it may be said that it did please them so to do, only the girl's purchaser was her future husband, and the purchase-money formed a species of dowry--for their benefit.

But although her parents have treated her cruelly in thus bartering away her liberty for money, yet the bride mourns bitterly at having to part from them. They may have betrothed her during her infancy, swinging her away from them in her cradle--the Russian cradle being suspended instead of being placed on rockers--according to the expression used by a young wife in the following song:--

  O my Father!
  O my Mother!
  When did ye ruin me?
  Then did ye ruin me,
  When my mother bare me,
And having borne me, laid me in the cradle,
  And three times swung me.
  The first time, alas!
    To an unknown land.

p. 288

  The next time, alas 1
    To an unknown father.
  The third time, alas!
    To an unknown mother 2.

But it grieves her to have to leave her old home, to give up her maiden liberty for a wife's state of subjection, and to pass from among kindly and familiar faces into a circle of unfriendly strangers. Such are the expressions used in one of the numerous songs of which some account has already been given, those sung during the unplaiting of the bride's kosá, or plait of hair:--

  In the house of my own father,
  In the house of my own mother,
I used to comb you, O ruddy tresses
  Amidst the oaks afield.
I used to wash you, O ruddy tresses,
  In fountain water cool.
I used to dry you, O ruddy tresses,
On the steep red steps in front of the house,
In the rosy light of the rising sun.
But now in that unknown, far off land,
  In the house of my husband's father,
  In the house of my husband's mother,
I shall have to comb you, O ruddy tresses,
  Within a curtain'd recess.
I shall have to wash you, O ruddy tresses,
  In the wave of my bitter tears.
I shall have to dry you, O ruddy tresses
  In the longing of my grief 3.

p. 289

When she thinks of the family into which she is about to marry, the bride (in what are supposed to be the older songs) shudders, looking upon its members as "bears," or as "piercing thorns and stinging nettles." On the other hand, she is looked upon by them in an unfavourable light, being considered a "she-bear," a "cannibal," a "sloven," and so forth. In one song, for instance, a girl complains as follows:--

They are making me marry a lout
  With no small family.
Oh! oh! oh! oh dear me!
With a father, and a mother,
  And four brothers
  And sisters three.
Oh! oh! oh! oh dear me!
Says my father-in-law,
  "Here comes a bear!"
Says my mother-in-law,
  "Here comes a slut!"
My sisters-in-law cry,
  "Here comes a do-nothing!"
My brothers-in-law exclaim,
  "Here comes a mischief-maker!"
Oh! oh! oh! oh dear me 4!

She complains bitterly of the conduct of her father and mother. In a Siberian song a daughter says that her parents have "locked up their stony hearts in a coffer, and flung the keys into the blue sea; and in a Galician song a young wife says that her wishes have been utterly set at nought by her relatives, for,

p. 290

He whom I love truly
Stands there outside.
To one whom I have never seen
Have they given my hand.

Better would it have been for her, she says, if her father had taken his sharp sword and struck off "her ill-fated head," than that he should have condemned her to captivity in an unknown land; for whither she is going she knows no more than a leaf driven before the wind. In some of the Bohemian nuptial songs a very sombre future is held up before the eyes of the bride. "Wait a little, dark-eyed maiden," they say to her; "thou art destined to weep without ceasing. After the first week of married life not a day will pass without tears. And when a month has gone by, thou wilt weep even more." No wonder that the bride, finding all her appeals to her parents fruitless, turns to her brother, and, as we have already seen, entreats him to help her.

In some places, as has been mentioned before, during the betrothal ceremonies a present of money is made to the bride's brother. In Galicia, when he accepts it the chorus sings,--

Thou Tartar, brother, thou Tartar
To sell thy sister for a thaler,
Her ruddy hair for a piece of six,
Her fair face for nothing at all.

Sometimes, however, the bride takes a more business-like view of the transaction, as, for instance, in the song which (in the Saratof Government) her

p. 291

companions sing while the bargaining with the brother is going on:--

  It is dark, dark out of doors,
  But darker still in the upper chamber.
  The Boyars have seized the gates,
  They bargain, bargain for Dunya.
    Bargain, bargain, brother,
    Do not sell me cheaply!
    Ask for me a hundred roubles,
    For my maiden tresses ask a thousand,
    But my beauty is beyond appraising.
  Enter Boyars!
  Enter Boyars!
Long have we expected you 5.

While the trading is going on, the bridegroom, in many districts, stands outside the door, even if it be in the depth of winter, and must not come into the house till the bargain is struck.

Finding her appeals to her father and brother useless, the bride indulges in imprecations against the Svatui, and Svakhi, the male and female arrangers and managers of the marriage. In one song she entreats her father to take the Svat out of doors, "and comb his head with a harrow;" in another she begs her attendant maidens to fasten a sharp knife in her hair, so that when the Svakhi come to unplait it they may cut their fingers. And in return for the service the chief Svat has done her she hopes there may be

To him forty sons,
And to him fifty daughters.
That the sons may never get wives,
And the daughters may find no husbands.

p. 292

Sometimes these imprecations are uttered, not by the bride, but by the friends of her girlhood, who, on the eve of her wedding, assemble at her house for the Dyevichnik, or girls' party, of which a description has been given. Among the numerous songs sung on that occasion, bewailing the approaching loss of the bride's "maiden freedom," and the "beauty" with which that freedom is associated, is one 6 in which a being called the, "White Kika" threatens to destroy the bride's maiden beauty, the Kika being here most likely a type of married life, for that word means some sort of head-covering in many Slavonian dialects.

The songs about maiden freedom convey a favourable impression of the manner in which the Old Slavonians used to treat their daughters. Not only her mother is constantly spoken of by the bride in terms of warm affection, but her father also. "Where hast thou grown up, Kalinushka," asks a Galician song [the Kalina being the guelder-rose], "that thou hast become so slim and tall, and that thy foliage has spread so widely?" "In the meadows beside the fountain, beside the cool waters, away from the wild winds, and from the scorching sun."

"Where hast thou grown up, O maiden, that thou hast become so beautiful?" "In my father's house, in the pleasant shade."

"Whatever the father-in-law may be like," says one song, "he never can be the same to you as your

p. 293

born father;" or as another more poetically expresses it, "However warm the winter may be, yet for all that it is not the summer." But the songs which most graphically depict the affection existing between parents and their daughters are those which have special reference to the case of an orphan bride. In them she grieves bitterly at the thought that she has no parent to bid her God-speed on her new path in life, but she is not without some hope that her father or mother will stand beside her in ghostly shape on the day of her wedding, if not to give her away, at least to bestow a blessing upon her.

O my brothers! ye bright falcons!
Enter into the church of God!
  Strike three times on the bell!
Split open, damp mother earth!
Fly asunder ye coffin-planks!
Unroll, O brocade of gold!
And do thou rise up, O father, bátyushka!
Say farewell, and give me thy blessing!
    .    .    .    .    .    .    .
I am borne away by my own, my brothers,
Give me thy blessing, father, bátyushka 7.

In one of the Little-Russian songs a dead mother transforms herself into a rain-cloud, and pours a fruitful shower over the village in which her daughter is about to spend her married life. It seems from the songs, says Orest Miller [Opuit. I. 114], as if the severity with which parents treated their daughters in the old "patriarchal" days, and the

p. 294

state of dependence in which they held them, had become greatly altered as time passed by. In what some commentators suppose to be the oldest relies of Slavonian nuptial poetry, the bride is purchased from her relatives by a stranger, whom she is compelled, much against her will, to follow to his home; and there she is treated by his family in a manner which makes her look back with fond regret to the relatives she has left behind. But in another group of wedding songs, later in date than the first it is supposed, but still ancient, the bride is represented as being allowed to choose a husband for herself, and she looks forward to being treated by his relatives as kindly as by her own.

In the songs which are now sung by the bride, or addressed to her, at the time of her wedding, the old complaints are still kept up, but they are for the most part conventional, and have. but little or no real meaning. The bride is still expected to weep and wail at the idea of leaving her father's house, and the bridegroom still, by deputy, goes through a form of bargaining for her, but these customs are but symbols, survivals from a period of sterner domestic relations.

The following account of how her mother counselled Máryushka Efímovna [Mary, the daughter of Euthymus] may be taken as a specimen of the nuptial songs which refer to the brides' right of selection, and which are more in accordance with modern sentiment than most of the marriage poems:--

Her mother has counselled Máryushka,
Has given counsel to her dear Efímovna.

p. 295

  "Go not, my child,
  Go not, my darling,
Into thy father's garden for apples,
  Nor catch the mottled butterflies,
  Nor frighten the little birds,
Nor interrupt the clear-voiced nightingale.
  For should'st thou pluck the apples
  The tree will wither away;
  Or seize the mottled butterfly,
  The butterfly will die.
And should'st thou frighten a little bird,
  That bird will fly away;
Or interrupt the clear-voiced nightingale,
  The nightingale will be mute:
  But catch, my child,
  My dear one, catch
The falcon bright in the open field,
  The green, the open field."

  Máryushka dear has caught,
  Caught has the dear Efímovna,
The falcon bright in the open field,
  The green, the open field.
  She has perched him on her hand,
  She has brought him to her mother.
  "Mother mine, Gosudáruinya,
  I have caught the falcon bright 8."

In another song her mother leads Máryushka from the terem, or women's chamber, into the room in which the guests are sitting, "the young men in bright array," and there makes her sit down by her side, saying,--

"Choose, my child,
My dear one, choose,

p. 296

  Out of unknown guests a known one,
  Out of the youths a youth in bright array.
  For with that youth thou hast to lead thy life,
To lead thy life, and me, thy mother, to forget."

Then the maiden chooses, and tells her mother on whom her choice has fallen, ending with the words,

With him, dear mother, will I lead my life,
But thee, my mother dear, I never will forget 9.

Sometimes a girl who is awaiting her lover's visit, sings thus:--

  Go down, O ruddy sun!
  But rise, thou gleaming moon!
  And shine through all the night,
  Through all the dark night shine,
  On all the road, on every path!
So may'st thou yield thy light to my betrothed,
  To my dear love Iván;
That so be may not miss his way,
  Nor have to turn again,
Nor wander in the forest lost,
  Nor in the river drenched;
So that no evil men on him may fall,
  No savage dogs may drive him far away.
Away from him my life is weary,
Away from him my life is sad 1.

When her lover leaves her for a time he gives her a golden ring [pérsten', a signet-ring, or one set with gems, from perst, a finger], and receives from her a gold ring in exchange [Kol'tsë, a plain

p. 297

circlet, like our own wedding-ring, from Kolo, a. circle].

It is not a falcon flying across the sky,
It is not a falcon scattering blue feathers,
But a brave youth galloping along the road,
Forth from his bright eyes pouring bitter tears.
  He has parted from his home,
  The Lower-River track, through which
  In all her beauty Mother Volga flows.
  He has parted from the maiden fair,
  And with her as a token left
    A costly diamond ring;
  And from her has he taken in exchange
    A plighting ring of gold.
And while exchanging gifts thus has he spoken,
  Forget me not, my dear one,
  Forget me not, my loved companion.
  Often, often gaze upon my ring;
  Often, often will I kiss thy circlet,
  Pressing it to my beating heart,
    Remembering thee, my own.
  If ever I think of another love,
  The golden circlet will unclasp:
  Should'st thou to another suitor yield,
  From the ring the diamond will fall 2.

Sometimes she tells her companions that their turn will come, and lovers even better than her own will be theirs, but that she shall not envy them, so contented will she be with her lot. She does not now look on her suitor as her enemy, or her purchaser. He is her loved one, who showers gifts on her relatives. And those relatives, instead of regarding her as a mere "living broom" to be sold into captivity,

p. 298

prize her, and mourn at having to part with her. When she goes to her new home her father-in-law shows himself in the light, not of "an evil bear," but of a loving parent. So happy is she that she prefers drinking water with her husband to indulging in mead with her mother.

Beyond the hill Khveklunka is weaving wreaths;
Her mother sends messengers after her.
"Come, Khveklunka, to drink mead."
"I will not come, mother, to drink mead.
To me to drink mead, is drought,
But to weave wreaths, is beauty."
Beyond the hill Khveklunka is weaving wreaths;
Samuska sends messengers after her.
"Come, Khveklunka, to drink water."
"To thee will I come, Samuska, to drink water.
With thee to drink water, to me is beauty;
Without thee to weave wreaths, to me is drought 3."

In a number of Little-Russian songs, indeed, she finds her lover far kinder than her parents, for they refuse to help her when she is drowning.

As the maiden sank,
She called to her father,
"O father dear!
Do not let me drown..."
"My dear child,
I cannot swim,
I dare not go into the river.'

Then she appeals to her lover, who immediately replies in the most prompt as well as sensible manner,

"My dear girl!

p. 299

I dare go into the water,
And I know how to swim,"

and then proceeds to save her.

As soft and romantic a sentiment as breathes in some of the Great-Russian songs which have been quoted, makes itself felt also in the corresponding utterances of the other Slavonic nations. In one of the Moravian songs a mother, who is vexed at her daughter's readiness to get married, paints a very gloomy picture of the husband who is awaiting her, and of all his family, constantly remarking "It was you yourself who would have him." To which the girl replies, "Yes, I chose the rose blossom for myself. That betrothed of mine is dearer to me than all the world beside." So much in Bohemian songs does many a girl love her betrothed, that for his sake she willingly parts with her green wreath-the type of maidenhood-being ready to place it in his hand "if only he will always love and cherish her till death itself." In one of the Servian songs a bride is asked if she does not grieve at leaving her mother. "Why should I grieve?" she replies. "In my loved one's house, I am told, I shall find a still better mother." In another a mother is represented as bitterly grieving over the daughter who is about to leave her, but the daughter herself feels little sorrow, she longs so to be with her bridegroom.

We have seen from some of the songs that among the Russian peasantry considerable liberty of action, with reference to the choice of a husband, has long been conceded to girls. In this respect the despotism

p. 300

of fathers has greatly altered since the patriarchal times, to the severe tone of which so many of the wedding songs bear witness. And the seclusion of women which was practised by the Boyars during the "Moscow period," a custom introduced by them from the East, and borrowed from them by the merchant class, seems scarcely to have been known to the peasantry. Among what may be called the higher and middle classes, it used to be customary for a bridegroom not to see the face of his bride until after the nuptial as well as the betrothal ceremonies had come to an end, but the young people of the lower classes seem never to have had to submit to any such restrictions on their elective privileges. For a long time, at all events, there has been full freedom of intercourse between the young men and maidens of the Russian villages. The houses of the peasants are not, as a general rule, large enough to allow their women much seclusion, and as it is customary for men and women to work together in the fields, the barriers between the sexes, which it would be difficult to maintain at home, cannot well be set up out of doors. But the occasions on which the young people in Russia most easily form acquaintance with each other are the summer Khorovods and the winter Posidyelkas which have been described in the introductory chapter. At these, as has already been remarked, the youths and maidens have every opportunity of falling in love, and of commencing a courtship which, as a general rule, terminates in a marriage.

p. 301

Of the numerous songs referring to such love-matches one specimen has been given at p. 31. Here is another of the same kind. It is supposed to be sung by a chorus of girls, in honour of a bridegroom who rejoices in the name of Andrei Polikarpovich, the bride's name being Aydótya Nikoláevna.

As from her nest,
Her warm little nest,
A young bird has fluttered forth,
And down from the apple-tree bough
Has flown away to the open fields,
The green fields, the grassy meadows;
There has plucked up by the roots a blade of grass,
Then flung the blade of grass aside;
But afterwards has cropped, the little bird has cropped,
Has plucked a poppy blossom;
And, having plucked, has fallen in love with it.
So from the terem, the terem,
From the fair, the lofty terem,
The fair, the lofty, the bright,
From under her mother's care,
Has come forth the fair maiden,
Has come forth, has hastened out,
The sweet fair maiden, Avdótyushka.
Out into the wide courtyard
Has gone the sweet Avdótyushka,
Into the green garden and grove of cedars.
The dear Nikoláevna has sat down
At the new, the oaken table,
Has looked round at the guests, the new arrivals,
All the new arrivals, strangers to her.
And she has chosen herself a bridegroom.
Not a single one of those there was to her liking.
Avdótyushka has chosen for herself,
Nikoláevna dear has chosen for herself,

p. 302

Has chosen thee Andrei, our master,
Thee Andrei Polikárpovich.
And now, having chosen, she has fallen in love,
Fallen in love with him, grown proud of him.
"Oh! how fond I am of him!
Oh! how dear he is to my heart!
Oh! how I can never be tired of looking at him!
Oh! how I can never gaze at him enough
Oh! bow I never want to part with him 5!"

The right of choosing their husbands, which is at least partially enjoyed by Russian peasant girls, is claimed by their sisters in other Slavonic lands. Even among the Slovenes, who are said still, as of old, to call their young girls "shovels" and "brooms," and among whom a bride is obliged, the day after her marriage, to do all the menial work of the household herself--even among them a girl is seldom called upon to marry an utter stranger. As a general rule her hand is asked for by some young man who has made her acquaintance at the games in which both sexes take part. One of the marriage customs still kept up among the Slovenes serves to prove that women were anciently looked upon by them as the servants of their husbands, but also shows that the wife's position became improved at some later period. After a marriage the bride is obliged to take her husband's boots off--a custom which prevails in Russia also--but having done so she hits him over the head with one of his boots, by way of a protest against the idea

p. 303

of inferiority implied in the function which she has just fulfilled. If a Slovene bride, indeed, contrives to reach the church porch before her husband, after the marriage-service is over, she hopes that she will enjoy a life-long supremacy over him--an idea which is shared by brides in many lands. In Russia the struggle between young married people is as to which of the two shall be the first to tread on the cloth laid down for the bride and bridegroom to stand on. But the idea of a wife's possible supremacy over her husband would be impossible, one would suppose, among people who took so low a view of the social status of women as appears to have prevailed among the heathen Slavonians. In every land a young wife is liable to the distaste for her new home, the longing after that of her girlish days, which is expressed in the following song. The first two lines are what is technically called a Pripyevka--something which accompanies the song, generally a refrain, here a prelude. Like the Prískazka, which often stands at the head of the Skazka, or tale, it usually has neither meaning of its own, nor connexion with what follows.

Through the currant bushes
There flowed a stream,
What time my mother
Bare me, the unhappy one.
Having chosen unwisely,
She gave me in marriage,
To go to a distant,
Unknown home.
My father-in-law

p. 304

Scolds me for nothing;
My mother-in-law,
For every trifle.
I will flee, dart away;
In a cuckoo's shape:
I will fly to my home,
To my father's home.
In his garden green
Will I take my place,
On the apple-tree
My mother loves.
I will cuckoo cry,
I will sadly wail,
Till my wailings sad
Make all eyes weep,
Till the garden is drowned
In bitter tears.

Through the passages
My mother speeds;
Her daughters-in-law
She rouses up.

"Up, up! in haste,
My daughters dear!
What bird is that
In our garden there?
"I will shoot it dead,"
Cries her eldest son.
"I will drive it away,"
Cries her second son.
Says the youngest son,
"I will go and look
If it may not be
Our sister sad,
From among strange folk,
From her far-off home, strange folk among."

p. 305

"Come, come, sister,
Into our chamber come.
Tell us about your sorrows,
Ask us about ours 5."

It must not be supposed that all the Russian marriage songs are of this mournful cast of thought. Here, for instance, is one of happier tone, intended to be sung in honour of the husband's father (Iván Ivanovich) and mother (Anna Ivánovna):--

Our young Boyáruinya has strolled through the rooms,
In her hands she held an embroidery frame.
On the frame was stretched a piece of rose-coloured velvet.
Three patterns has the Boyáruinya embroidered.
The first pattern she embroidered
The morning dawn with the white light.
The second pattern she embroidered
The bright young moon with the stars.
The third pattern she embroidered
The red sun with its rays.
The morning dawn with the white light,
That is love and agreement with one's wife,
Great love from all one's heart.
The bright young moon with the stars
Is Iván with his sons,
Dear Ivánovich with his falcons.
The red sun with its rays
Is Anna with her daughters
Dear Ivánovna with her swans 6.

p. 306

And here is another in which a very poetic view is taken of the relative positions of husband and wife:--

  "Little did I, the young one, slumber at night,
  Little did I slumber, but much did I see in sleep.
  Just as if in the middle of our courtyard
  There grew a cypress tree,
  And another sugar-sweet tree;
  And on the tree were golden boughs,
  Golden boughs, and boughs of silver."
  Then spake the head of the household, the master.
  "I, my soul, will explain to thee thy dream . . .
  The cypress tree--that is I who am thine,
  The sugar-sweet tree--that is thou who art mine:
And the boughs on the tree are the children who are ours,
Our children, children dear 7."



In the olden time the celestial divinities were supposed to be favourers and protectors of marriage, and the first nuptial crown was attributed to that heavenly framer of all manner of implements who forged the first plough for man. And so in some of the songs--one of which has been quoted [p. 198]--a prayer is offered up to a mysterious smith, beseeching him to construct a golden nuptial crown, and out of the fragments of it to make a wedding-ring, and a pin with which to fasten the bridal veil.

In another song a divine being is asked to come to the wedding, and to forge such a marriage as may be firm, strong, long enduring, eternal--one on which

p. 307

the wind may blow without scattering it, and the rain may beat without washing it away, and which the sun may dry without turning it into dust.

In one of the songs mention is made of a golden-horned stag--one of the forms, perhaps, of the solar deity--who promises to be present at a marriage, and to light up the whole courtyard with his antlers. But the mythic personages who are usually invited to a wedding, with a view towards reaping the benefit of their powers as metal-workers, are the saints Cosmas and Demian--the Christian heroes who, as we have seen, have usurped the place occupied in heathen times by the Slavonic Vulcan. Here is one of the songs in which their names occur:--

Kuzma and Demian, Oi Lado! Oi Lado!
Give us to drink to the wedding, Oi Lado, Oi Lado!
From Khalimon's to Peter's court
Lead three foot-paths.
Along the first path
Goes Kuzma with Demian.
And along the second path
The most Holy Redeemer Himself.
But along the third path
Has gone Khvatei with Alinya.
He takes her by the right hand,
And leads her to the court of God,
To the court of God; to the wedding 8.

Thus do Christian and heathen names still clash in the wedding songs of the Russian peasantry, just as, in the funeral songs to which we are now about

p. 308

to direct our attention, ideas founded on the Christianity of the present will be found strangely confused with those belonging to the heathenism of the past. 9


263:1 In Russian an unmarried princess is called Knyazhná, a married one Knyagínya.

263:2 Tuísyacha = 1000.

264:3 This term is also applied to all the members of the bridal party.

264:4 Vopit' = to wail or sob. She is also called the Plakalshchitsa, (plakat' = to cry). More will be said about her in the next chapter.

265:5 This is the stereotyped term in the songs for their heroes. Dóbry = good; Molodéts = (1) a youth; (2) a young bachelor; (3) a gay, daring, brave young spark or springald: in this sense the word is often accentuated--Mólodets.

266:6 Ruibnikof, III. 350.

267:7 Tereshchenko, II. 117-124.

272:8 Kosoi = slanting, bent. Kosá has several meanings, signifying, for instance, a scythe, a curved spit of land, etc.

273:9 The kosník is the bunch of ribbons at the end of the kosá.

275:1 Tereshchenko, II. 323.

277:2 This word is a very difficult one to translate. In the houses of the "gentry" it means the antechambers, or rooms through which admission is gained to the reception-rooms. In a peasant's house it represents the space not devoted to the "keeping-rooms," I have sometimes translated it by "the passages."

279:3 The novaya gornitsa, literally, "the new apartment," but the epithet has no real meaning.

279:4 The obraz, or icona--the sacred picture--taken down from the wall, in order to be used in the maternal benediction.

279:5 Tereshchenko, II. 134.

280:6 Tereshchenko, II. 136-137.

282:7 Solovief thinks that the words "among them there was no marriage," merely mean that the Drevlyane paid no attention to the wishes of the families from which they took their wives.--Ist. Ross. I. 74.

284:8 Sakharof, I. iii. 27.

285:9 "The hurling of old shoes after the bridegroom among ourselves may be a relic of a similar custom. It is a sham assault on the person carrying off the lady, and in default of any more plausible explanation, and we know of none such, it may fairly be considered as probable that it is the form of capture in its last state of disintegration." For an exhaustive account of "the origin of the form of capture in marriage ceremonies," see the erudite book from which this somewhat doubtful suggestion is taken, Mr. J. F. McLennan's "Primitive Marriage." Edinburgh, 1865, 8vo.

286:1 Ruibnikof, III. 353-354.

288:2 Orest Miller, Chrestomathy, I. 20. Quoted from a Pskof collection.

288:3 Orest Miller, Chrest. I. 21. Quoted from a Perm collection. I have taken the liberty of turning the kosá into "tresses."

289:4 Shein, I. 331.

291:5 Tereshchenko, II. 344.

292:6 A Vologda song.

293:7 Ruibnikof, III. 363.

295:8 Sakharof, I. iii. 124.

296:9 Sakharof, I. iii. 125.

296:1 Sakharof, I. iii. 123.

297:2 Shein, I. 303.

298:3 A White-Russian song. Tereshchenko, II. 561.

302:5 Sakharof, I. iii. 122.

305:5 Shein, I. 339. In another version of the same song it is not her brothers who make such harsh observations, but her sister-in-law, while her "born sister" comes to her aid.

305:6 Quoted from a Perm collection by Orest Miller, Chrest. I. 27. X

306:7 O. Miller, Chrest. I. 29, from the Perm collection.

307:8 From the "Ethnographical Collection" published by the Russian Geographical Society. Pt. vi. Bibliog. Ukaz. 13.

308:9 Kavelin thinks that many of the wedding songs now preserved among the common people were, in all probability, originally composed for and sung at the weddings of Princes and Nobles. Many of the allusions in the songs seem to him to point to such an origin; among others the frequent mention of the terem, the upper room set apart for the women of the family, which is generally supposed to have derived its name from the Greek word teremnon, a room. Some of the marriage customs, he suggests, are relics of ancient religious rites. Of such a nature, for instance, is the progress around a fire, outside the house, often performed when the bridal procession returns from church. But those which are connected with ecclesiastical ceremonies, it should be stated, probably come from Christian Greece, the Russian vyenchanie, or crowning, for example, answering to the Greek stephanôsis.

As regards the complaints of the modem bride about the "far-off land" into which she is about to be carried, when, perhaps, she is not going to leave her native village, Kavelin remarks that in olden times marriages seem not to have been contracted between members of the same community, who were looked upon as all forming one family; and therefore girls really had to go far from home when they married. And as each community looked upon all others as possible foes, so the bride who married into a different clan might fairly consider that she was going among not only strangers but enemies.

Next: Chapter V: Funeral Songs