stepan razin’s dream (Казачья Притча)

Oy, to ne vecher” (Ой, то не вечер) is the incipit of a Russian folk song, also known as “The Cossack’s Parable” (Казачья Притча) or as “Stepan Razin’s Dream” (Сон Степана Разина). It was first published by composer Alexandra Zheleznova-Armfelt (1870–1933) in her collection Songs of the Ural Cossacks after her fieldwork in the Ural District during 1896–1897.

The original lyrics were in seven verses, with verse six making explicit that the dreamer is 17th century cossack rebel Stepan Razin. Razin has a dream, and his captain (esaul) interprets it as an omen of their defeat.

The song has been performed in several variants, sometimes expanded to up to eleven verses, but in the most common variant as sung by modern interpreters, it is reduced to four verses, removing the mention of Razin, and reducing the three omens in the dream to a single one.These lyrics may be translated thus:

Ah, it is not yet evening but I have taken a little nap, and a dream came to me. In the dream that came to me, it was as if my raven-black horse was playing about, dancing about, frisky beneath me.  Ah, and evil winds came flying out of the east, and they ripped the black cap from that wild head of mine.

And the esaul* was a clever one, he was able to interpret my dream: “Ah, it will surely come off”, he said, “that wild head of yours”.

Source of information: Wikipedia.

*Esaul: a post and rank in prerevolutionary Russia in the cossack hosts after 1576.

chris marker - staring back

Photo: Chris Marker, “Staring Back”