Skip to content


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 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)?

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: