Old Russian Text English Text















Then Igor gazed up
At the bright sun
And he saw a shadow from it
Overcasting all his host.
And then said Igor
To his men-at-arms:
"O brethren and warriors!
"Better be slain
"Than taken captive!
"Let us mount, my brethren,
"Our fleet-footed steeds,
"And let us behold
"The blue Don!"
The prince's mind was overcome
With ardent longing
And his desire to drink of Don water
Overcame the portents of Heaven.
"I will," said he,
"Break my spear to splinters
"At the far end of the Polovets plains
"With you, o Russians!
"I will either lay low my head,
"Or drink a helmetful
"Of Don water!"

O Boyan,
Nightingale of old!

Were you to sing this warfare,
Fluttering, o nightingale,
In the tree of thought,
Soaring up to the clouds in musing,
Entwining with glory
Both halves of this time,
Speeding along Troyan's trail
Over hill and dale,
Thus would you have sung
The lay of Igor,
Grandson of Oleg:
"No storm is this
"That has blown the falcons
"Beyond the rolling plains:
"The daws are fleeing in flocks
"Towards the great Don!"
Yet it should rather thus be sung,
O wise Boyan,
Grandson of Velles:
"Steeds neigh beyond the Sula,-
"Glory resounds through Kiev,
"The bugles blow in Novgorod -
"The banners fly in Putivl!”

Igor awaits
His dear brother Vsevolod.
And then said Vsevolod,
The furious bull:

"One brother have I,
"One bright light-
"You, o Igor!
"We two are sons of Svyatoslav!
"Saddle, my brother,
"Your fleet-footed steeds:
"Mine stand ready,
"Saddled beforehand at Kursk!
"My men of Kursk
"Are all tried warriors,
"Born to the blare of bugles,
"Rocked beneath helmets,
"Nurtured at the point of the spear!
"The paths are known to them.
"The gullies are known to them.
"Their bows are taut,
"The quivers open,
"Their swords whetted,
"They scour the field
"Like hoary grey wolves,
"For themselves seeking honour,
And for their prince-glory!"

Then sprang Prince Igor
To his golden stirrup
And rode forth over the open plain.
The sun then crossed
His path with darkness.
Night awakened the birds
With its stormy moaning,
The whistling of marmots arose.
The Div has started up,
He calls from the tree-top,
Bidding strange lands hearken-
The Volga, and the coastlands,
And the banks of the Sula,
And Surozh and Korsun,
And you, Idol of Tmutorokan!
And the Polovtsi sped
By untrodden trails
Towards the great Don.
Their wains screamed at midnight
Like suddenly startled swans-
Igor leads his host to the Don!
And now the birds in the oaks
Gloat over his misfortune to come.
The wolves howl in the gullies
Raising a storm,
The eagles call the beasts
To glut upon bones,
The foxes bark
At the scarlet shields.

O Russian land!
Far are you now beyond the hills!




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