Commentary by Lev Dmitriyev
The original copy of the Tale of the Host of Igor was destroyed in a fire in Moscow during the Napoleonic invasion in 1812. The Old Russian text of the Tale has come down to us from the first edition of 1800 and a hand-written copy made by Musin-Pushkin for Catherine II in the 1790s. We also possess separate short passages from the Old Russian text of the Tale copied out by the historian and writer Nikolai Karamzin and by Alexei Malinovsky who assisted with the first edition. A comparison of the 1800 edition, the Catherine copy and Karamzin's and Malinovsky's passages suggests that the Old Russian text of the Tale of the Host of Igor was read with a sufficient degree of accuracy in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At the same time one is bound to conclude on the basis of the same materials that neither the first edition, nor the Catherine copy can be considered as perfectly accurate reproductions of the manuscript of the Tale.
In Old Russia texts were written in an unbroken succession of letters, and in conveying such a text with spaces between the separate words erroneous readings and subjective treatment of the text are possible. There are a number of such errors in both the first edition and the Catherine copy. A study of the principles in rendering Old Russian texts, by which the first publishers of the Tale were guided in bringing out the work, has shown that they introduced changes into the writing of individual words in keeping with the norms of the orthography of their day. In Old Russian manuscripts certain letters were written not on the line in the word, but above the line, sometimes in the form of conventional signs. These letters are frequently misread or omitted. Erroneous reading of some of these letters in the original led to a number of incorrect or obscure renderings both in the first edition and in the Catherine copy.
On the basis of the opinions of those who saw the original manuscript in Musin-Pushkin's possession and a grammatical analysis of the text scholars concluded that the manuscript belonged to the 16th century. This means that it was a copy of earlier manuscripts of the work and undoubtedly contained errors that had accumulated as a result of the transcribing of the text by Old Russian scribes.
In connection with the foregoing it is clear that any modern edition of the Old Russian text of the Tale of the Host of Igor cannot be a repetition of the text of the first edition. The necessary corrections and certain changes based on facts concerning the history of the language, philological criticism of the text and palaeographic data are made in the text. Moreover, all new translations of the Tale of the Host of Igor both into modern Russian and into other languages correspond to the modern reading and interpretation of the text of the Tale. The Old Russian text of the Tale in Ivan Golikov's book which is reproduced in facsimile in the present edition is a copy of the first edition. It should be pointed out that the text of the Tale of the Host of Igor written out by Ivan Golikov is an imitation of the Old Russian uncial script that was characteristic of the earliest Old Russian manuscripts. The letters Я and Ю in the first edition are therefore written as small jers and iotated large jers. In order to acquaint the reader with the present standard of scholarship and interpretation of the Tale and enable him to correlate the English translation with the Old Russian text, the present volume includes the up-to-date scholarly publication of the Old Russian text of the Tale. It is based on the text of the first edition with a number of corrections taken from the Catherine copy and copied passages of Karamzin and Malinovsky. It also contains some conjectural emendations, which seem to be the most convincing and well-grounded, and are accepted by most commentators of the Tale.
Already the authors of the early studies of the Tale suggested that two changes in the arrangement of the text should be made, one at the beginning of the Tale, the other, in the middle of it. The first one deals with the solar eclipse. In the 1800 edition and the Catherine copy the solar eclipse is mentioned twice: first in the fourth paragraph, before Igor addressing his bodyguard ("Тогда Игорь възръ на свътлое солнце...") and then in the eighth paragraph, after Vsevolod's description of the warriors of Kursk ("Тогда въступи Игорь-князь въ златъ стремень... Солнце ему тъмою путь заступаше..."). Supposing that some passages of the text were probably misplaced by a mediaeval scribe, some scholars suggest that the fourth paragraph should go before the eighth. In this case the description of the solar eclipse would appear only once. The re-arrangement, however, is not accepted by all the commentators and translators of the Tale. We, for instance, publishing the Old Russian text do not follow it, while Professor Ward, whose translation of the Tale into English is included in the present volume, does. The other re-arrangement accepted by all the commentators and publishers of the Tale concerns the passage in the middle of the text. The words 'и в моръ погрузиста' in the boyars response to the great Prince Svyatoslav are included, in this edition in the sentence "Темно бо бt въ 3 день: два солнца помtркоста, оба багряная стлъпа погасоста, и въ морt погрузиста, и съ нима молодая мъсяца, Олегъ и Святъславъ, тъмою ся поволокоста". In the first edition and the Catherine copy they are placed after the words "аки пардуже гнездo" before the words "и великое буйство подасть хинови".
The Commentary provides as concisely as possible a modern interpretation of the historical figures, geographical names and historical facts mentioned in the Tale. The aim of the Commentary entries (arranged according to the line numbers) is to reveal the concealed meaning behind the Tale which the modern reader cannot grasp without some explanation.
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The Tale of the Host of Igor... Igor Svyatoslavich (1151 -1202), son of Prince Svyatoslav of Chernigov and grandson of Oleg of Chernigov (referred to as Gorislavich in the Tale of the Host of Igor) .In 1179 he received the principality of Novgorod-Seversky. From 1198 until the year of his death he was Prince of Chernigov. Chernigov was the centre of the principality of Chernigov, the second most important principality after Kiev. The town was on the River Desna, 130 km to the north-east of Kiev. Novgorod-Seversky was 150 km to the north-east of Chernigov, also on the River Desna.
"...begin this song... not with the devices of Boyan" (lines 3-4). Boyan is a bard mentioned only in the Tale of the Host of Igor and the Don Tale which imitates the Tale. The Tale lists the princes whose deeds Boyan sang ("ancient Yaro-slav", Igor's great-great-grandfather, "valiant Msti-slav", the brother of "ancient Yaroslav", "handsome Roman, the son of Svyatoslav", the brother of Igor's grandfather). Judging from these names Boyan was closely connected with Igor's forefathers and lived in the mid-1 lth to early 12th century.
"Then would he hurtle in thought through the tree..." (line 6). This is a poetic metaphor describing Boyan's creative manner. On the other hand, the author of the Tale calls the musical instrument, on which Boyan accompanied his songs, a "tree".
"Then would he let loose ten falcons upon a flock of swans..." (line 10). This is a metaphorical description of Boyan's playing a stringed musical instrument (most likely the gusli (psaltery): the ten falcons are his ten fingers and the flock of swans, the strings. Below the author explains this metaphor-symbol, saying that Boyan did not loose ten falcons, but laid his fingers on the "living strings".
"To ancient Yaroslav" (line 12). Yaroslav the Wise (978-1054). In 1015 Grand Prince Vladimir I of Kiev died, and a struggle broke out among his heirs for the principality of Kiev. After driving out Svyatopolk who had seized the throne of Kiev, Yaroslav became Prince of Kiev in 1019 and from 1036, after the death of his brother Mstislav, was the sole ruler of the Kievan state. Under him Kievan Russia acquired political unity and enjoyed an economic and cultural efflorescence. The epithet "ancient" not only indicates that he is a prince of the eleventh century, but also stresses special respect for this prince who earned the nickname of "the Wise" in Russian history.
"Valiant Mstislav,/(He who slew Rededya before the hosts of the Circassians)" (lines 13 -14). The Tale of Bygone Years says that in 1022 during a war waged by Mstislav, then reigning in Tmutorokan, against the Kasogs (a people inhabiting the northern foothills of the Caucasus). The Kasog prince Rededya proposed that the outcome of the war be decided by single combat. In single combat Mstislav overcame Rededya and stabbed him to death.
"To handsome Roman, the son of Svyatoslav" (line 15). Prince Roman of Tmutorokan, grandson of Yaroslav the Wise, son of Svyatoslav and the elder brother of Oleg of Chernigov, was killed by the Po-lovtsians in 1079.
"...from the Vladimir of old" (line 20). Vladimir I, son of Svyatoslav and Grand Prince of Kiev (died in 1015). Under him in the 980s Christianity was recognized as the official religion of the state.
"Against the land of the Polovtsians" (line 25). The Polovtsians (they are called the Kipchegs in Oriental sources and the Cumans in West European sources), a steppe people of Turkic origin, first appeared in Russia in 1054. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries the Polovtsians constituted a serious threat to Kievan Russia. The struggle against them became particularly acute in the latter half of the twelfth century. In the late eleventh and twelfth centuries the Polovtsians occupied the Black Sea steppeland between the Danube and the Volga, the Crimean steppes and the shores of the Sea of Azov.
"Racing on the path of Troyan..." (line 32). Troyan is mentioned three more times in the Tale: "There have been the ages of Troyan", "to the land of Troyan" and "In the seventh age of Troyan". There are several hypotheses as to who this Troyan of the Tale of the Host of Igor was. According to one of them Troyan was a pagan god (there is a god with this name in the pantheon of Old Russian pagan gods). The eminent specialist on the Tale of the Host of Igor, Асаdemician Dmitry Likhachev, explains the meaning of these phrases as follows: "racing the path of Troyan" means that Boyan was racing on divine paths; the "ages of Troyan" are the pagan times in Russian history, the times of the god Troyan; the "land of Troyan" is the Russian land; and "in the seventh age of Troyan" means in the last pagan age, for the "seventh" was the "last", according to the mediaeval concept of the number seven [See Д. С. Лихачев, "Комментарий исторический и географический",- в кн.: Слово о полку Игореве (D. S. Likhachev, "Historical and Geographical, Commentary", in: The Tale of the Host of Igor), Moscow, Leningrad, 1950, pp. 385, 386].
"...Boyan, scion of Veles..." (line 36). Veles or Volos was an Old Russian pagan god, the patron of cattle-breeding and the art of poetry.
"The horses whinny beyond the Sula,/Rings out the glory in Kiev..." (lines 37-38). A reference to the victory over the Polovtsians in the year preceding Igor's campaign. The Sula is a left tributary of the Dnieper, the nearest frontier with the Polovtsians to Kiev.
"The standards strain in Putivl" (line 40). Putivl is a town on the River Seim in the Seversky land to the south of Novgorod-Seversky. Igor's son, Vladimir, reigned there.
"Igor awaits his dear brother Vsevoiod" (line 41). Vsevoiod, son of Svyatoslav (born about 1155), Igor's brother and Prince of Trubchevsk and Kursk. Of all the descendants of Oleg of Chernigov Vsevoiod was particularly brave and valiant.
"...fierce bull Vsevoiod..." (line 42). The bull was a symbol of courage, valour and strength.
"...in Kursk..." (line 46). Kursk is in the upper reaches of the Seim, on the banks of the rivers Tuskor and Kura. The town was not far from the Polovtsian steppe, which is why the men of Kursk are described as particularly experienced warriors.
"Then Igor looked up at the brilliant sun/And saw all his warriors covered with the darkness it cast" (lines 59-60). There was a historically recorded solar eclipse in 1185 and it took place on May 1, that is, on the ninth day of Igor's campaign (he left Novgorod-Seversky on April 23.) By reporting the solar eclipse at the very beginning of his narrative, the author is stressing the courage and valour of Igor who ignores this bad omen. At the same time he wishes to show that right from the start nature warned Igor against the foolhardy campaign which he was undertaking without seeking the advice of the Grand Prince of Kiev.
"...So we may look upon the blue river Don" (line 65). That is, we shall come and conquer the lands through which the River Don flows, i.e. the lands inhabited by the Polovtsians.
"howling of beasts arose,/Deev was enraged-/He calls..." (lines 77-79). The identity of Deev still gives rise to debate and different interpretations. Most commentators of the Tale believe that it is a mythical creature hostile to the Russians.
"...the unknown land.../Volga and the coastal land and the land of the Sula and Surozh and Korsun,/And you, о idol of Tmutorokan" (lines 80-82). "The unknown land" is the Polovtsian steppe; "the coastal land" must be the coast of the Sea of Azov and the Balck Sea; "the land of the Sula" is the land along the River Sula; Surozh is modern Sudak in the Crimea, a mediaeval trading centre; Korsun (Chersonese) was a Byzantine colony in the Crimea (two or three kilometres from the modern city of Sevastopol); Tmutorokan was a town on the Taman Peninsula and the area around it. Tmutorokan is first mentioned in the Tale of Bygone Years under the year 988; it was a rich trading town of considerable strategic importance. In the eleventh century Tmutorokan belonged to Russia and was closely connected with Chernigov and ruled by the princes of Chernigov; most specialists take the view that the words "o idol of Tmutorokan" refer to one of the statues erected on the Taman Peninsula to the deities of Sanerg and Astarte in the fourth century B.C., remains of which survived until the eighteenth century.
"The foxes yelp at the scarlet shields" (line 90). According to popular superstition the yelping of foxes forebode disaster. The shields of the Russian warriors (which were almond-shaped or oval in the twelfth century) were painted pinkish-red.
"O land of Russia - now are you already beyond the hill" (line 91). It is possible that the author of the Tale had in mind the Izomsky tumulus, some high ground bordering on the Polovtsian steppe that lay on Igor's route. This phrase means that Russia had been left behind and Igor's warriors had entered the Polovtsian lands.
"...precious cloths of samite" (line 105). Samite which derives from the Greek hexamitos 'of six threads' is velvet cloth of red or violet shades adorned with ornaments (usually in the form of fantastic beasts and birds in round medallions). These fabrics were manufactured in Byzantium and greatly prized both in the Orient and Europe.
"...leather jerkins" (line 106). Over-garments made of or lined with fur.
"Scarlet the pennon..." (line 110). This was a horse's tail, dyed scarlet, and fixed to a pole. It was a sign of authority.
"Slumbers in the plain the valiant brood of Oleg" (line 112). "Brood of Oleg" refers to the princes who took part in Igor's campaign and who were all descendants of Oleg, son of Svyatoslav (see note to line 150 in the Commentary).
"Gzak races like a grey wolf,/Konchak..." (lines 117-118). The Polovtsian khans Gsak (Kza) Burnovich and Konchak Otrakovich. Konchak was a particularly energetic opponent of the Russians and frequently led campaigns against Russia.
"Their aim is to cover the four suns" (line 121). The four suns are the princes taking part in the campaign: Igor, his brother Vsevolod, Igor's son Vladimir and Igor's nephew Svyatoslav of Rylsk.
"...on the river Kayala..." (line 127). The question of which particular river is meant here is still a matter of dispute among specialists. The most convincing view is that the Kayala is actually the River Makatikha, which is a tributary of the River Golaya Dolina that flows into the River Sukhoi Torets (not far from the modern town of Slaviansk to the north-west of it). The name "Kayala" may derive from the Old Russian verd kayati (to pity, mourn), meaning the river of grief, destruction, lamenting.
"Behold the winds, scions pf Stribog..." (line 129). Stribog is a pagan Russian god. His name is mentioned in the Tale of Bygone Years in a list of the deities worshipped in Kiev before the espousal of Christianity. According to the Tale Stribog was the god of winds.
"...swords of tempered steel" (line 141) occur several times in the Tale of the Host of Igor and are not found in other works. Most commentators regard it as a Turkism, interpreting its meaning variously as "tempered", "destructive", "red-hot" (of metal).
"...the Avarian helmets..." (line 144). The Avar-ians are a people referred to as Obri in Slavonic sources. The Avarians appeared on the northern shores of the Black Sea in the fifth century; according to the chronicle they disappeared in the ninth century. Thus, it is either the name of a special type of helmet or a reference to helmets which the Polovtsians obtained from some tribe in the Northern Caucasus which was also called the Avarians.
"...beautiful Glebovna's ways..." (line 148). Gle-bovna was Vsevolod's wife. As was customary in Old Russia, she is called by the patronymic derived from her father's Christian name. She was the daughter of Prince Gleb of Pereyaslavl and grand-daughter of Prince Yuri Dolgoruky (George the Long-Armed) of Moscow.
"There have been the campaigns of Oleg, Oleg the son of Svyatoslav" (line 150). Oleg, son of Svyatoslav and grandson of Yaroslav the Wise, was the father of the "valiant brood of Oleg" and died in 1175. This is a reference to the numerous internecine wars waged by Oleg for which he became nicknamed "Gorislavich" (the Russian word gore, 'grief, replacing the first element in the patronymic derived from his father's Christian name).
"He steps into his golden stirrup in the town of Tmutorokan -/And that same sound was heard by great Yaroslav of old,/And Vsevolod's son Vladimir every morning stopped his ears in Chernigov" (lines 153-155). In such a reading the meaning of this
passage (which refers to Oleg's internecine feuding) can be understood as follows: already Yaroslav the Wise foresaw the noise of Oleg's internecine strife, and by the reign of Vladimir Monomakh the din of these battles was so great that Monomakh had to stop his ears.
"But lust for glory brought Vyacheslav's son Boris to judgement/And on the river Kanina spread him a green coverlet" (lines 156-157). A reference to the battle by the village of Nezhatina Niva in 1078 for Chernigov. Oleg captured Chernigov from Vsevolod, the son of Yaroslav the Wise, who had been ruling there. Oleg and his ally, his cousin Boris, were attacked by Izyaslav of Kiev, his brother Vsevolod and their sons Yaropolk and Vladimir Monomakh. Boris and Izyaslav lost their lives in this battle. The Kanina would appear to be the name of the river on the banks of which the battle was waged.
"From that same Kayala, Svyatopolk ordered his father to be carried/Between Hungarian amblers..." (lines 160-161). Here the River Kanina is called the Kayala, the river of grief and lamenting. Svyatopolk, the son of Izyaslav who was killed in the battle on the Nezhatina Niva, ordered his father's body to be brought to Kiev (where he himself was at the time) for burial there. Amblers were used for transporting the wounded and dead on a litter which was fixed on long poles to a number of amblers in single file. Hungarian amblers were particularly prized.
"...Dazhbog's scion..." (line 164). Dazhbog was an Old Russian pagan god. The author calls the Russian people Dazhbog's scion.
"Igor is wheeling his forces..." (line 183). A reference to the following episode in the battle: Igor tried to make the hired detachments who had taken to flight return to the battle-field. He galloped after them, but in vain. On his way back to rejoin the host he was captured by the Polovtsians.
"Here they finished the feast, the variant Russians: /They had given their guests to drink, and themselves lay down..." (lines 187-188). The comparison of a battle with a feast is often found both in Old Russian literature and in the oral folk tradition. In the Old Russian text the Polovtsians are called svaty ('matchmakers', 'son-in-law's father' or 'daughter-in-law's father') because the Russian princes were in fact frequently related to the Polovtsians by matrimonial ties (Russian princes often married Polovtsian women).
"Kama and Zhlya bewailed them.../Scattering fire on the people from their flaming horn" (lines 206- 208). The publishers of the first edition thought that Kama and Zhlya were the names of Polovtsian khans. Most specialists now agree that Kama and Zhlya are not proper nouns, but common nouns denoting the concepts of sorrow, lamentation and grief.
"...awakened that evil/Which their father, great Svyatoslav of Kiev, the dread, had put to sleep by fear" (lines 222-224). Svyatoslav (c. 1125-1194) was the son of Vsevolod and the older cousin of Igor and Vsevolod. He is called "their father" as their feudal suzerain. He reigned in Kiev from 1180 to the year of his death. Here and elsewhere the reference is to Svyatoslav's successful campaign together with Rurik (see note to line 326 in the Commentary) against the Polovtsians in 1184.
"And that pagan Kobyak..." (line 231). The Polovtsian khan Kobyak was captured during the campaign of Svyatoslav and Rurik against the Polovtsians in 1184.
"...in Kiev on the mountains..." (lines 244). The palace of the prince of Kiev was situated on a high ground in Kiev near the Cathedral of St Sophia.
"Great pearls..." (line 249). According to popular superstition it is a bad omen to dream of pearls.
"Now are the boards without a roof-tree..." (line 250). A damaged roof-tree symbolizes the destruction of the house. To see a broken roof-tree in a dream was a sign of impending disaster for the house. This is also the meaning of the phrase in the Tale. Prince Svyatoslav dreams of a princely chamber without a roof-tree: a disaster had befallen the house of Olgoviches - Igor's defeat.
"...at Plesensk" (line 253). Probably the name of an area near Kiev with flat terrain.
"...were the serpents of the gullies/And they crawled towards the blue ocean" (lines 254-255). This is one of the most obscure passages in the Tale, and its meaning still remains unclear. This sentence, as it appears in the first edition, does not make sense at all. The scholarly publication of the Old Russian text follows the suggestion of Nikolai Charlemagne who takes the view that "дебрь Киянь" is a wood in a gully with a small river running along it, and later the brook Kiyan (then Kiyanka). The whole passage should be understood as follows: "All night from evening onwards the grey ravens were croaking at Plesensk in the meadow (in the outskirts of Kiev), where the wood of the Kiyan was, and they (the ravens) sped towards the blue sea (to the place of Igor's defeat) ".
"For the two falcons have flown..." (line 258). The two falcons are Igor and Vsevolod. In Russian folklore and in Old Russian literature heroes are often compared with falcons.
"The two suns were dimmed.../And... the two young moons, Oleg and Svyatoslav" (lines 264-265). The two suns are Igor and Vsevolod. The two young participants in the campaign are Igor's son, Vladimir, and nephew, Svyatoslav of Rylsk. The names of Oleg and Svyatoslav appear to have been inserted into the text of the Tale later: Igor did have a son called Oleg, but at the time of the campaign in 1185 he was only ten.
"For, see, the beautiful Gothic maidens..." (line 275). A reference to the Crimean Goths who inhabited the Taman Peninsula and the Black Sea coast in the twelfth century.
"They sing of the times of Booss/And cherish the vengeance of Sharokan" (lines 278-279). Booss would apper to be the prince of the Antae who was defeated in 375 by the Gothic king Vinitar. (The Antae were ancestors of the eastern Slavs.) Sharokan was a Polovtsian khan, an enemy of Russia and the grandfather of Khan Konchak, who was captured in 1068 by Svyatoslav of Chernigov and routed in 1107 by the combined forces of the Russian princes. By defeating Igor Konchak was avenging his grandfather.
"...of my brother.../Yaroslav..." (lines 293-294). Yaroslav of Chernigov (1140-1198), the brother of Svyatoslav of Kiev. In the 1180s he refrained from taking part in the campaigns against the Polovtsians.
"With his Tatrans,/With his Shelbirs,/With his Topchaks,/With his Revoogs,/With his Olbers" (lines 296-300). The ethnic names of Turkic tribes that settled in the principality of Chernigov and fought on the side of the Russian princes.
"At Rimov they cry out under the Polovtsian sabres,/And Vladimir cries under his wounds" (lines 313-314). This is a reference to the capture of the town of Rimov by the Polovtsians during the campaign of khans Gzak and Konchak against Russia after Igor's defeat. Vladimir is Prince of Pereyaslavl (1157-1187). During the Polovtsian siege of Pereyaslavl, Prince Vladimir made a sortie, fought bravely in front of everyone and was badly wounded.
"Great Prince Vsevolod" (line 316). Prince Vsevolod of Vladimir-Suzdal (1154-1212), son of Yuri Dolgoruky and grandson of Vladimir Monomakh. In the 1180s he was one of the most powerful princes in Russia.
"For you can scatter the Volga with your oars..." (line 319). This is not only poetic hyperbole, but refers to a concrete historical event: in 1183 Vsevolod carried out a successful campaign against the Volga Bulgars.
"A slave-girl would cost but a farthing/And a slave but a mite" (lines 322-323). The meaning of the phrase is that Vsevolod would take so many prisoners that they would be sold for a trifle.
"With your valiant sons of Gleb" (line 325). The sons of Prince Gleb of Ryazan. They took part in Vsevolod's campaign against the Volga Bulgars in 1183.
"You, fierce Rurik and David" (line 326). Rurik and David were the sons of Rostislav, the grandsons of Mstislav and the great-grandsons of Vladimir Monomakh. Rurik (died 1215) spent his whole life fighting either the Polovtsians or internecine wars. He reigned in Kiev and Chernigov. He was one of the most active and energetic of the Old Russian princes. David (died 1197) reigned in Smolensk.
"Galician Osmomysl Yaroslav" (line 334). Yaro-slav of Galicia (1130-87), Igor's father-in-law, reigned in Galich from 1153 to 1187. Galicia was one of the most powerful Russian principalities. The nickname "Osmomysl", which is known only from the Tale of the Host of Igor, has widely varying interpretations: that he has eight thoughts, that is, a lot of military and political cares; that he is very wise - wise enough for eight men, etc.
"...the Hungarian mountains..." (line 336). The Carpathians, which formed the frontier between the principality of Galich and Hungary.
"Barring the way against the king" (line 337). The king of Hungary.
"..fierce Roman, and Mstislav" (line 348). Roman, Prince of Vladimir-Volhynia and Galicia (1150- 1205). At the time of the Tale of the Host of Igor he was reigning in Vladimir-Volhynia. Mstislav is either Roman's cousin, Mstislav of Peresopnitsk, or Prince Mstislav of Gorodno, who often allied with Roman against the Polovtsians.
"...Yatvaghi, Deremela..." (line 355). The names of Lithuanian tribes.
"On... Ros..." (line 361). The Ros is a right tributary of the Dnieper that joins the Dnieper below Kiev and forms the border with the Polovtsian steppe.
"Ingvar and Vsevolod and all three scions of Mstislav" (line 365). Ingvar and Vsevolod are the sons of Yaroslav of Lutsk and princes of Volhynia. The three scions of Mstislav are Roman, Vsevolod and Svyatoslav. They were the cousins of Ingvar and Vsevolod and also princes of Volhynia.
"...and your Polish lances and shields" (line 368). It is no accident that the arms of three sons of Mstislav are described as being Polish. They were half-Polish on their mother's line (the grandsons of the Polish king Boleslaw the Wry-Mouthed), and, as well as this, the Volhynian princes often turned to the Poles for military assistance.
"...to the city of Pereyaslavl" (lines 372-373). Pereyaslavl Yuzhny was not on the Sula, but on the Trubezh, a tributary of the Dnieper. The point here is that the Sula, the river bordering on the principality of Pereyaslavl, was muddied when the Polovtsian horses crossed it.
"...Izyaslav, the son of Vasilko..." (line 376). We know nothing of this prince apart from what can be elicited from the text of the Tale. He is a Polotskian prince, the son of Vasilko and the great-grandson of Vsevolod of Polotsk. Here and below the reference is to the struggle of the princes of Polotsk against the Lithuanians.
"...his grandfather Vseslav" (line 378). Vseslav, son of Bryachislav and Prince of Polotsk from 1044 to his death in 1101, was reputed to be a magician. All his life he fought against the descendants of Yaroslav the Wise.
"Here was neither his brother Bryacheslav nor his other brother Vsevolod" (line 385). Prince Bra-tislav of Vitebsk, the eldest son of Vasilko, lived in the middle and latter half of the twelfth century. Nothing is known of Vsevolod.
"...he let fall his pearl-like soul... past his golden necklet" (lines 386-387). The round or square neckline of a prince's shirt was decorated with gold and precious stones.
"Yaroslav and all the scions of Vseslav!" (line 391). Academician Dmitry Likhachev has suggested a different reading of this phrase from that in the first edition: "all the scions of Yaroslav and Vseslav", i.e., the author of the Tale is appealing to all the scions of Yaroslav the Wise and Vseslav of Polotsk, who are feuding with one another to be reconciled.
"...Vseslav cast his lot for the maiden dear to him./Cunningly he mounted his horses and galloped to the city of Kiev,/And with the shaft of his lance touched the golden throne of Kiev./He galloped thence like a raging beast at midnight from Belgorod" (lines 399-403). A reference to the brief reign of Prince Vseslav of Polotsk in Kiev. In 1067 Vseslav was captured by Prince Izyaslav of Kiev and imprisoned in an underground dungeon in the outskirts of Kiev. In 1068 the Russian princes were defeated in a battle against the Polovtsians on the River Alta. An uprising broke out in Kiev in connection with this. Izyaslav fled to Poland. The people of Kiev freed Vseslav from the dungeon and proclaimed him prince of Kiev. In 1069 Izyaslav marched against Vseslav. Vseslav went out to meet him and stopped in the small town of Belgorod, not far from Kiev. He fled secretly from Belgorod, without waiting for Izyaslav's arrival. Academician Dmitry Likhachev conveys the meaning of this passage in an explanatory translation: "...Vseslav cast lots for the maiden dear to him (tried his luck at gaining Kiev). He cunningly leaned on the horses (demanded by the insurgent people of Kiev), jumped (up out of the pit) to the town of Kiev and touched with the shaft (of his spear) the golden (princely) throne of Kiev."
"...he plunged in his axes,/Opened the gates of Novgorod,/Shattered the glory of Yaroslav,/Raced like a wolf to Nemiga from Dudutki" (lines 405-408). A reference to the seizure of Novgorod by Vseslav of Polotsk in 1067 and the ensuing battle on the River Nemiga (which flowed within the precincts of the present city of Minsk), in which Vseslav was defeated by an alliance from the house of Yaroslav (Izyaslav, Svyatoslav and Vsevolod). Yaroslav is probably Yaroslav the Wise who reigned for a time in Novgorod, and Dudutki the name of a place near Novgorod.
"Vseslav Prince.../From Kiev he raced before cock-crow to Tmutorokan,/And cut across great Khors's path like a wolf" (lines 415-419). As already mentioned above, Vseslav was reputed to be a magician, and the author of the Tale in this phrase and later on describes Vseslav's unusual abilities. There is no information about Vseslav visiting Tmutorokan, and most likely this town is mentioned here as a very remote spot to which Vseslav ran in a single night, rivalling the sun itself. Khors is the Old Russian pagan god of the sun.
"They rang for martins for him at Polotsk.../ And he in Kiev heard the sound" (lines 420-422). Vseslav was imprisoned in Kiev (see note to lines 399- 403 in the Commentary), but thanks to his magical powers he heard the bells of the patron church of his native town, of which he was still the prince.
"That Vladimir of old could not be nailed down to the hills of Kiev" (line 430). A reference to Vladimir I, son of Svyatoslav, who carried out many campaigns against the external enemies of the Russian land.
"And now also the standards of Rurik have risen,/And others - those of David./But at variance their banners flutter..." (lines 431-433). A reference to the following episode. Svyatoslav, son of Vsevolod, and Rurik, son of Rostislav, set off to fight the Polov-tsians who invaded Russia after defeating Igor. Ru-rik's brother, David, who had at first intended to join the princes, refrained from taking part in the campaign. Vladimir's standards, which streamed victoriously in his struggle against the external foes of Russia, are now under his descendants fluttering in different directions, i.e., the concord essential for a successful struggle is lacking.
"On the Danube Yaroslavna's voice is heard" (line 434). As in the case of Vsevolod's wife (see note to line 148 in the Commentary), Igor's wife is called by the patronymic derived from her father's Christian name. She was Yefrosinia, the daughter of Yaroslav Os-momysl of Galicia. Yaroslavna's lament flies from Pu-tivl to the Danube, because the most remote border of Galicia, Yaroslavna's homeland, ran along the Danube.
"I will wet my beaver sleeve..." (line 437). A sleeve trimmed with beaver fur. But as the specialist on the Tale N. A. Meshchersky has established, it may mean a silken sleeve: in one Old Russian translated work the words of the Greek original "in silken robes" are translated as "in beaver robes."
"...in Putivl..." (line 440). Yaroslavna is in Putivl and not in Novgorod-Seversky because Putivl was less vulnerable and better protected.
"You have rocked on your waves... the galleys of Svyatoslav" (lines 453-454). A reference to Svyato-slav's campaign to the Polovtsian steppe in 1184.
"Ovlur has whistled beyond the river..." (line 535). The Polovtsian Ovlur (called Lavr or Lavor in the chronicle) helped Igor escape from captivity.
'"Not such,' he said, 'is the river Stugna...'/And closed over Prince Rostislav" (lines 505-508). The Stugna is a small river that flows into the Dnieper on the right-hand side, south of Kiev. Rostislav is the younger brother of Vladimir Monomakh. During the battle of the Russians against the Polovtsians at Trepol in 1093, the Russians were defeated and began to retreat. As they were crossing the Stugna Rostislav drowned before the eyes of his brother who tried in vain to save him.
"If the falcon flies to its nest,/Let us ensnare the young falcon with a beautiful maiden" (lines 525- 526). Igor's son Vladimir married the daughter of Khan Konchak while he was in captivity. He returned to Russia in 1187 with his wife and child where a Christian marriage rite was performed.
"Igor rides up Borichev hill to the towered Ikon of the Holy Virgin" (line 541). Borichev Hill was a rise from the Dnieper landing-stage up to the centre of Kiev. The icon of the Virgin, which had been brought to Russia from Byzantium, was kept in a church (founded in 1132) in Kiev.
© Злыгостев А.С., 2001-2019
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