Songs of the Serbian People: From the Collections of Vuk Karadzic / Edition 1

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In the early nineteenth century, Vuk Karadzic, a Serb scholar and linguist, collected and eventually published transcriptions of the traditional oral poetry of the South Slavs.  It was a monumental and unprecedented undertaking.  Karadzic gathered and heard performances of the rich songs of Balkan peasants, outlaws, and professional singers and their rebel heroes.  His four volumes constitute the classic anthology of Balkan oral poetry, treasured for nearly two centuries by readers of all literatures, and influential to such literary giants as Goethe, Merimee, Pushkin, Mickiewicz, and Sir Walter Scott.

This edition of the songs offers the most complete and authoritative translations ever assembled in English.  Holton and Mihailovich, leading scholars of Slavic literature, have preserved here the unique meter and rhythm at the heart of Serbian oral poetry, as well as the idiom of the original singers.  Extensive notes and comments aid the reader in understanding the poems, the history they record and the oral tradition that lies beneath them, the singers and their audience.

The songs contain seven cycles, identified here in sections titled: Songs Before History, Before Kosovo, the Battle of Kosovo, Marko Karadzic, Under the Turks, Songs of the Outlaws, and Songs of the Serbian Insurrection.  The editors have selected the best known and most representative songs from each of the cycles.  A complete biography is also provided.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Commentaries to each translated poem are expertly done, useful and informative. They abound with cultural detail and historical observations, helping the reader, who does not know the Serbian language and who is not familiar with the historical and social context, to better understand the folk songs which make up the soul of the Serbian people.”
American Srbobran

"In their native culture, the songs have particular resonance on several levels: the ritual nature of their presentation, their highly formulaic language, their function as a repository of popular belief all create a mental world which is consciously different from the every day reality of the listeners' lives.  Some translators have endeavored to convey something of this 'otherworldly' stylized quality . . . Others have sought to render the sense of the songs in metric patterns closer to English folklore tradition.  In their collection, Milne Holton and Vasa D. Mihailovich have chosen to try to reproduce accurately the songs' compelling rhythm, in a form as close to the original as possible. . . . The value of the Holton and Mihailovich volume is enhanced by a useful introduction, notes and a select bibliography, increasing its interest for both the student and the general reader. . . . the Holton and Mihailovich explanation is a model of balance and restraint."

“This voluminous translated selection represents a joint labour and scholarly accomplishment. It is a work of very high competence, broad and multifaceted erudition, a meticulously orchestrated variety of technical skills and expertise, absolute integrity and impartiality, even-handed benevolence, invariable respect for the facts, and balance and objectivity. . . . There is no doubt that this large and formative collection of 44 poems will be of great and lasting value and interest to everyone concerned with the folk traditions and oral literatures of the perplexing and psychologically intriguing Southern Slavs.”
South Slav Journal

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822956099
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 4/17/1997
  • Series: Pitt Russian East European Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Milne Holton is professor of English and comparative literature at the University of Maryland.    Among his books are The Big Horse: Stories of Modern Macedonia, Reading the Ashes, The New  Polish Poetry, Austrian Poetry Today, and with Mihailovich, Serbian Poetry from the Beginnings to the Present.

Vasa D. Mahailovich is professor emeritus of Slavic languages and literature at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. His many books include Introduction to Yugoslav Literature, White Stones and Fir Trees: An Anthology of Slavic Literature, Contemporary Yugoslav Poetry, Serbian Poetry from the Beginnings to the Present, and Dictionary of Literary Biography: South Slav Writers Before World War II.

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Table of Contents

Pronunciation Guide
Introduction 1
The Vila Builds a Town 15
The Shepherd Who Was Devoured 16
The Sun and the Moon Woo a Maiden 17
The Wedding of the Shining Moon 18
The Tsar and the Girl 19
Jovan and the Leader of the Giants 21
The Brothers and Their Sister 32
God Leaves No Debt Unpaid 37
The Wedding of Tsar Dusan 49
Uros and the Mrljavcevices 70
The Building of Skadar 78
The Wedding of King Vukasin 86
The Wedding of Prince Lazar 96
The Building of Ravanica 102
Banovic Strahinja 106
Fragments of Various Kosovo Songs 134
Tsar Lazar and Tsaritsa Milica 140
The Fall of the Serbian Empire 147
The Death of the Mother of the Jugovices 150
The Kosovo Maiden 153
Marko Kraljevic Recognizes His Father's Saber 163
Prince Marko's Plowing 167
Marko Drinks Wine at Ramadan 169
A Maiden Outwits Marko 173
Marko Kraljevic and Alil Aga 176
Marko Kraljevic and Mina of Kostur 182
Marko Kraljevic and the Twelve Arabs 193
Marko Kraljevic and Musa the Robber 195
Marko Kraljevic and the Vila 204
The Death of Marko Kraljevic 209
Radul Bey and the Bulgarian King Sisman 217
The Death of Duke Prijezda 223
Porca of Avala and Vuk, the Fiery Dragon 227
The Division of the Jaksices 232
The Wife of Hasan Aga 236
Janko Jurisic 240
Predrag and Nenad 248
Old Novak and Knez Bogosav 255
The Captivity of Stojan Jankovic 258
The Wedding of Ljubovic's Sister 263
The Death of Ivo of Senji 267
Old Vujadin 271
The Beginning of the Revolt Against the Dahijas 278
The Battle on Misar 298
Selected Bibliography 307
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