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Запевка

July 5, 2010
Ох, пора тебе на волю, песня русская,
Благовестная, победная, раздольная,
Погородная, посельная, попольная,
Непогодою-невзгодою повитая,
Во крови, в слезах крещенная — омытая!
Ох, пора тебе на волю, песня русская!
Не сама собой ты спелася — сложилася:
С пустырей тебя намыло снегом — дождиком,
Нанесло тебя с пожарищ дымом — копотью,

Намело тебя с сырых могил метелицей…

This poem has the title “Zapevka” in Mei’s 1857 and 1861 collections, though at lib.ru it appears without a title.

Lev Mei

Dobroliubov praised this poem in his review of Mei’s Стихотворения (1857): “He [Mei] also has poems written in the manner of Russian songs, in folk meter, that are not without melodiousness. Their motifs are mostly taken from folk songs and are increasingly on the theme of old husbands with young wives.  Certain passionate scenes and expressions come out rather well for Mr. Mei. We liked a poem of a different sort, ‘Zapevka.'”  The radical critic then quotes the entire poem.

Given that emancipation was not far off, Bukhmeier is no doubt right to say that Dobroliubov liked Mei’s poem because “he interpreted it as a veiled assertion that the peasants must be liberated.”

I’m not sure that’s wrong.  The poet is talking to and about the “Russian song” itself, but the point seems to be that that song’s aesthetic qualities are bound up with the difficult lives of those who sing it.

I’m also not sure, though, that it’s possible to separate lack of freedom from material poverty and a hostile natural world here.  That is, the constraints on the song and its singers go well beyond the political and legal.

Is there a word for a poem designed to resemble what it describes (and in this case addresses)?

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