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A Great mediaeval epic poem

 

Dmytro Paliy, deputy curator of the Museum of Books and Book Printing of Ukraine, reviews the exhibition Slovo o polku Ihorevim  Tale of Ihors Host, at which were shown books and illustrations devoted to this medieval epic, that had been published in the last 200 years.

 

The Song of Ihors Host is a great Kyivan Rus-Ukrainian epic poem which was written by an anonymous poet at the end of the twelfth century. The poem describes a military campaign of Prince Ihor Svyatoslavych from the Land of Novhorod-Siversky, which took place in 1185, against the Polovtsi, a nomad tribe that made regular incursions into the Ukrainian lands. In a decisive battle the Ukrainian troops were badly defeated. These actual events inspired the author to the creation of an epic poem which is unique in the Ukrainian medieval literature and is one of the great medieval epics of world literature.

The twelfth-century original was lost in the turbulent centuries of the Mongol invasion and disintegration of the Kyivan state. A sixteenth-century copy was discovered in 1795 by Count O. Musin-Pushkin, a Russian collector of antiquities, who had it published in 1800.

The poem was thoroughly studied by philologists and translated into many languages, modern Ukrainian among them. One of the literary critics who read and studied the poem described his impressions of it in this way: It seemed to me the poem was written with fire in the skies.

The number of scholarly works, papers and essays devoted to The Song of Ihors Host continues to grow. At the exhibition held at the Museum of Books and Book Printing in Kyiv were shown exhibits from the collection of the museum and from the private collection of over 15,000 collectors items of Svyatoslav Voynov. In addition to many books, connected with The Song of Ihors Host  scholarly monographs, literary works based on The Song, which were published in the past two hundred years, works of art inspired by The Song were shown as well as scores of music were written on the theme of The Song of Ihors Host.

 

Photos by Yuriy Prystayetsky

 

The title page of the first edition
of The Tale of Ihors Host. 1800.

 

An illustration for The Tale of Ihors
Host by Heorhiy Yakutovych.
Etching, 19791982.

 

An illustration for The Tale of Ihors
Host by Heorhiy Yakutovych.
Etching, 19791982.

 

The Tale of Ihors Host was
translated into many languages
and at various times.

 

Illustrations for The Tale of Ihors
Host by Ivan Holikov (in the so-called
Palekh style). 1930s.

 

Illustrations for The Tale of Ihors
Host by Ivan Holikov (in the so-called
Palekh style). 1930s.

 

Prince Ihor. An illustration for The Tale
of Ihors Host by Volodymyr Semenov. 1971.

 

Yaroslavna. An illustration for
The Tale of Ihors Host
by Viktor Penzin. 19851986.

 

An illustration for The Tale of Ihors
Host by Vasyl Lopata. Linoleum
engraving in color. 19811982.

 

Book covers of editions The Tale
of Ihors Host of the first half
of the 19th century; now these
books are a great rarity.

 

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