Igor's Campaign


The discourse on Igor's campaign, Igor son of Sviatoslav, grandson of Oleg.


It was never fitting, brothers, for us to begin the story
        of Igor's campaign, Igor Sviatoslavich,
Using the ardent words of vexing tales.
This song should begin in accordance with the events of our own time
        and not as a fantasy of Boian.

For Boian was a wizard; when he wished to create a song,
He would move in all directions through the tree as a squirrel--
        as a grey wolf along the ground,
        as a dusky eagle beneath the clouds.
He remembered, he said, the wars of the first times.
He would free ten falcons to attack a flock of swans;
The first swan seized sang the first song
        to old Iaroslav, to brave Mstislav who slew Rededia
        as Cherkess troops looked on, to fair Roman Sviatoslavich.


But Boian's ten falcons, brothers, attacked no flock of swans.
His own magic fingers struck,
        and strings alive pulsed glory to the princes.


We shall begin then, brothers, this tale from old Vladimir
        down to the present Igor,
Who tensed his mind with battle-strength, quickened his heart
        with valor, and, swollen with the spirit of war,
Led out his brave troops
        into the Polovtsian steppe for the land of Rus.


Then Igor looked up at the bright sun and saw all his warriors
        darkened from it by a shadow.
And Igor said to his retinue:
"Brothers and companions! It is better to be slain than taken captive.
Mount, brothers, your swift horses that we may glimpse the Blue Don."
In his fervor, the Prince's foresight ebbed from him,
        and his zeal to taste the great Don veiled the omen from him.
"I wish," he said, "to break my lance at the end
        of the Polovtsian steppe with you, men of Rus;
I wish to lay down my head, or drink with my helmet from the Don."


O Boian! Nightingale of a former time!
If you were to chirr the glory of these...