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Songs of the Serbian People: From the Collections of Vuk Karadzic (Pittsburgh Series in Russian and East European Studies)

by Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic, Milne Holton, Vasa D. Mihailovich

Buy the book: Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic. Songs of the Serbian People: From the Collections of Vuk Karadzic (Pittsburgh Series in Russian and East European Studies)

Release Date: April, 1997

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic. Songs of the Serbian People: From the Collections of Vuk Karadzic (Pittsburgh Series in Russian and East European Studies)


This book is a must for anyone who is interested in Slavic epic poetry. Unfortunately, I am unable to read these works in the Serbian. However, the editors have translated beautifully. There is no awkward attempt to catch the rhyme or meter, which so often ruins poetry in translation. Of all the translations of the Serbian epics which I have encountered (and I look for them diligently. . .), this one is the best. The translators' sensitivity to nuance and meaning allows you, the English reader, to experience these works as best as you possibly can without reading Serbian. Highly recommended.


The poetry of common people that even Goethe admired.

I haven't read this edition, but I have grown up reading these poems in my and their native language. The poems were collected from the oral tradition by a great Serbian ethnographer and linguist Vuk Karadzic who also reformed Serbian spelling system and grammar and wrote first big Serbian Dictionary in 1818. Hence, the expert has chosen the best from the oral tradition that withstood through centuries. Since Karadzic new German, these poems made their way into a German translation first, and many German authors, including Goethe, admired their precise 10-syllable metric, emotions, and vivid depiction of characters. One of the specific literary techniques, persistently used at the beginning of many poems, has a special name --- Slavic Antithesis.

The poems can be compared to big national epic poems as Beowulf taken in their entirety. However, all are independent, and as a boy I used to think of them as good fairy tales. The characters are sometimes capable to do improbable things, and some of the poems have a fairy in them, but good always wins over evil.

I still remember the achievements of Marko Kraljevic (his surname means The Prince) who was able to do amazing things due to his strength, and how he drinks half of his wine and gives the other half to his horse. But he also asks God to forgive him for killing better knight than himself in "Marko Kraljevic and Musa the Robber". The other characters are more earthly, just as their destiny. I remember the courage of Old Vujadin who after being tortured with broken legs and arms refuses to tell where his friends are hidden, even if the torturers take out his eyes. He says: "I didn't say for my arms that were able to break any lance, I didn't say for my legs faster than any horse, I won't say for my lying eyes that forced me to my deeds, watching from the highest mountain on your caravans, full of treasure." Some of the heroes are driven by their love that is utterly unselfish as in "Banovic Strahinja".

These poems w! ere giving me a completely new world when I was a boy. A world of heroes and pride. A world of honesty and truthfullnes. Of course, a world of exaggeration, created by a nation that was suffering four centuries of occupation and desperately needed heroes from the past like Marko Kraljevic. And of course, the world of reality, created by a nation proud enough to resist all these four centuries through rebells like Vujadin, who died for their ideals. Finally, some of the poems are lyric poems and they show us that a folk poet was able to create highly emotional poetry.

Children can find in this book an amazing set of characters similar to the best fairy and hero tales in the world. Scholars can find in this book a lot just as Vuk Karadzic and Goethe did. This book reminds us on almost forgotten values. I hope the translation is good. Highly recommended.

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