The Zadonshchina

[From Anthology of Russian Literature From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, Leo Wiener, ed. and Tr. Pt. 1 (New York, 1902), pp. 58-63]

The Zadonshchina, i. e., The Exploits beyond the Don, has come down in two versions, and is an interesting poetical account of the battle at Kulikovo (1380). The Word of Igor's Armament had taken a strong hold on the author, who seems to have been a certain Sofroniya of Ryazan. Not only are there many parallels in the two poems, but whole passages are bodily taken from the older test, with corruption of some phrases, the meaning of which was not clear to the author of the Zadonshchina.

Let us go, O brothers, into the midnight country, the lot of Japheth,1 the son of Noah, from whom has risen the most glorious Russia; let us there ascend the Kiev mountains, and look by the smooth Dnieper over the whole Russian land, and hence to the Eastern land, the lot of Shem, the son of Noah, from whom were born the Chinese,2 the pagan Tartars, the Mussulmans. They had defeated the race of Japheth on the river Kayala. And ever since, the Russian land has been unhappy, and from the battle of the Kalka3 up to Mamay's defeat it has been covered with grief and sorrow, weeping and lamenting its children. The Prince and the boyars, and all the brave men who had left all their homes, and wealth, and wives, children, and cattle, having received honour and glory of this world, have laid down their heads for the Russian land and the Christian faith.

Let us come together, brothers and friends, sons of Russia! Let us join word to word! Let us make the Russian land merry, and cast sorrow on the eastern regions that are to the lot of Shem! Let us sing about the victory over the heathen Mamay, and an eulogy to the Grand Prince Dmitri Ivanovich and his brother,4 Prince Vladimir Andreevich ! . . . We shall sing as things have happened, and will not race in thought, but will mention the times of the first years; we will praise the wise Boyan, the famous musician in Kiev town. That wise Boyan put his golden fingers on the living strings, sang the glory of the Russian princes, to the first Prince Rurik, Igor Rurikovich and Svyatoslav, Yaropolk, Vladimir Svyatoslavich, Yaroslav Vladimirovich, praising them with songs and melodious musical words.ÑBut I shall mention Sofoniya of Ryazan, and shall praise in songs and musical words the Prince Dmitri Ivanovich and his brother, Prince Vladimir Andreevich, for their bravery and zeal was for the Russian land and the Christian faith. For this, Grand Prince Dmltri Ivanovich and his brother, Prince Vladimir Andreevich, sharpened their hearts in bravery, arose in their strength, and remembered their ancestor, Prince Vladimir of Kiev, the tsar of Russia.

O lark, joy of beautiful days! Fly to the blue clouds, look towards the strong city of Moscow, sing the glory of Grand Prince Dmitri Andreevich! They have risen like falcons from the Russian land against the fields of the Polovtses. The horses neigh at the Mosliva; the drums are beaten at the Kolomna; the trumpets blare at Serpukhov; the glory resounds over the whole Russian land. Wonderfully the standards stand at the great Don; the embroidered flags flutter in the wind; the gilded coats of mail glisten. The bells are tolled in the vyeche5 of Novgorod the Great. The men of Novgorod stand in front of St. Sophia, and speak as follows: "We shall not get in time to the aid of Grand Prince Dmitri Ivanovich." Then they flew together like eagles from the whole midnight country. They were not eagles that flew together, but posadniks6 that went out with 7000 men from Novgorod the Great to Grand Prince Dmitri Ivanovich and to his brother Vladimir Andreevich.

All the Russian princes came to the aid of Grand Prince Dtnitri Ivanovich, and they spoke as follows: " Lord Grand Prince! Already do the pagan Tartars encroach upon our fields, and take away our patrimony. They stand between the Don and Dnieper, on the river Mecha.7 But we, lord, will go beyond the swift river Don, will gain glory in all the lands, will be an object of conversation for the old men, and a memory for the young."

Thus spoke Grand Prince Dmitri Ivanovich to his brothers, the Russian princes: " My dear brothers, Russian princes! We are of the same descent, from Grand Prince Ivan Danilovich.8 So far we brothers have not been insulted either by falcon, or vulture, or white gerfalcon, or this dog, pagan Mamay."

Nightingale! If you could only sing the glory of these two brothers, Olgerd's sons,9 Andrey of Polotsk and Dmitri of Bryansk, for they were born in Lithuania on a shield of the vanguard, swaddled under trumpets, raised under helmets, fed at the point of the spear, and given drink with the sharp sword. Spoke Andrey to his brother Dmitri: " We are two brothers, sons of 01gerd, grandchildren of Gedemin, greatgrandchildren of Skoldimer. Let us mount our swift steeds, let us drink, O brother, with our helmets the water from the swift Don, let us try our tempered swords. "

And Dmitri spoke to him: " Brother Andrey! We will not spare our lives for the Russian land and Christian faith, and to avenge the insult to Grand Prince Dmitri Ivanovich. Already, O brother, there is a din and thunder in the famous city of Moscow. But, brother, it is not a din or thunder: it is the noise made by the mighty army of Grand Prince Dmitri Ivanovich and his brother Prince Vladimir Andreevich; the brave fellows thunder with their gilded helmets and crimson shields. Saddle, brother Andrey, your good swift steeds, for mine are ready, having been saddled before. We will ride out, brother, into the clear field, and will review our armies, as many brave men of Lithuania as there are with us, but there are with us of the brave men of Lithuania seven thousand mailed soldiers."

Already there have arisen strong winds from the sea; they have wafted a great cloud to the mouth of the Dnieper, against the Russian land; bloody clouds have issued from it, and blue lightnings flash through them. There will be a mighty din and thunder between the Don and the Dnieper, and bodies of men will fall on the field of Kulikovo, and blood will flow on the river Nepryadva, for the carts have already creaked between the Don and Dnieper, and the pagan Tartars march against the Russian land. Grey wolves howl: they wish at the river Mecha to invade the Russian land. Those are not grey wolves: the infidel Tartars have come; they wish to cross the country in war, and to conquer the Russian land. The geese have cackled and the swans have flapped their wings,Ñpagan Mamay has come against the Russian land and has brought his generals.

What is that din and thunder so early before daybreak ? Prince Vladimir Andreevich has reviewed his army and is leading it to the great Don. And he says to his brother, Grand Prince Dmitri Ivanovich: " Slacken not, brother, against the pagan Tartars, for the infidels are already in the Russian land, and are taking away our patrimony ! "

The falcons and gerfalcons have swiftly flown across the Don, and have swooped down on the many flocks of swans: the Russian princes have attacked the Tartar might, and they strike with their steel lances against the Tartar armour; the tempered swords thunder against the Tartar helmets on the field of Kulikovo, on the river Nepryadva. Black is the earth under the hoofs, but they had sowed the field with Tartar bones, and the earth was watered with their blood, and mighty armies passed by and trarmpled down hills and fields, and the rivers, springs and lakes were turbid. They uttered mighty cries in the Russian land . . . and they vanquished the Tartar horde on the field of Kulikovo, on the river Nepryadva.

On that field mighty clouds encountered, and in them lightnings frequently flashed, and terrible thunders clapped: it is the Russian brave warriors who were engaging the pagan Tartars for the great insult, and their mighty gilded armour glistened, and the Russian princes thundered with their tempered swords against the Tartar helmets.

At that time neither soldiers nor shepherds called in the field near the Don, in the land of Ryazan, but only ravens croaked for the sake of the bodies of the dead, so that it was a terror and a pity to hear: for the grass was watered with blood, and the trees were bent to the ground with sorrow, and the birds sang pitiful songs. All princesses and wives of the boyars and generals wept for the slain. Fedzisya, the wife of Mikula Vasilevich,' and Mary, the wife of Dmitri, wept early in the morning at Moscow, standing on the city wall, and spoke as follows: " Don, Don, you are a swift river, and have cut through stone walls, and flow through the land of the Polovtses! Bring back my beloved one to me! "

All over the Russian land there spread joy and merriment: the Russian glory was borne through the land, but shame and destruction came on the pagan Tartars, evil Mussulmans. . . . The Grand Prince by his own bravery and with his druzhina10 vanquished pagan Mamay for the sake of the Russian land and the Christian faith. The pagans deposited their own arms under the Russian swords, and the trumpets were not sounded, their voices were silent. Mamay galloped away from his druzhina, howled like a grey wolf, and ran away to the city of Khafest.11