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The Song of Igor

edited by: Edgardo T. Saronne
original title (in Italian): Il Cantare di Igor'
pp: 228

Book's frontpage

This new edition of The Song of Igor done for the web is the result of a total revision and a partial adaptation of the third edition from April, 1991 (1st edition, December, 1988; 2nd edition, February, 1989), printed for Pratiche Editrice of Parma, which already contained an index of historical and geographical names. When the «Biblioteca medievale» series, of which The Song is the seventh volume, was taken over by Luni publishing house in Milan, the latter reprinted the 2nd edition rather than the latest, most up-to-date one. Today all the editions of The Song have been sold out, in spite of numerous requests for reprinting. For this reason the editor decided to undertake the task of creating a new version that could be at least accessed on the web. Compared to the 3rd version, this one has been completely revised and various notes have been added to the introduction, the text and the translation, in addition to the appendix on the historical context of the Slovo. Several corrections have been made to the translation, resulting from various readers’ impressions and especially students who studied the Old-Russian text. And in some cases the translator simply changed his mind.  
The paging, due to the fact that it has been done in the A4 format, is necessarily a bit different from the last print edition, which was smaller in size. A partial exception is the central part of the book, in which the Russia text appears next to the translation: in this section the editor has actually tried to maintain as much as possible the paging from the 1991 edition, in an attempt to not break up the verses, which sometimes – in previous editions – were spread out over two subsequent pages.
For these reasons some pages appear to the reader to have too much white space, an aesthetic effect that is not always appreciated. In any case, no edition made for the web can rival the printed version, which is generally created by a team of experts.

Some improvements have been made in the presentation of the Old-Russian text, which is given in double version: the reproduction of the printed edition by Musin-Pußkin from 1800 and Jakobson’s reconstruction, with the accentuation proposed by Kolesov. The
Musin-Pußkin version has been printed using a more elegant typographic font (Method), generally used by today’s Slavists and already used in the reproduction of the Slovo o
p%lku Igorevê (the «Song of Igor») in Saronne–Pepe, Grammatica e testi dell’antico
russo (Grammar and texts in Old Russian), Bologna: CLUEB (Heuresis, Strumenti), 2006. In addition, the text from 1800 and the reconstruction are given in two columns side by side, this time - in my opinion – more aesthetically pleasing. Finally, Appendix II – lacking in the previous editions – provides useful indications for an acceptable reading of Russian names on the part of non-specialists.

The editor hopes that Slavist colleagues and students (including those he fondly remembers) will appreciate his work, which has become solitary, and will let him know of any imperfections or errors they run across in this small book.


Table of contents


1. The history and nature of The Song of Igor
2. Antiquity of the Song
3. Contents of the Slovo
4.1 Thematic structure
4.2 Practical aspects of the Slovo
5. The Song’s pagan-archaic stratum
6. The current edition

Bibliographic Notes

I A: Preamble – The Song’s subject, language and epic tradition (1-7)
I B: Preamble – Narrative preview: eclipse and discussion of Igor (8-13)
I C: Preamble – Invocation to Boyan and evocation of his style (14-18a)
II: Igor and Vsevolod's encounter - the Russians' attack and crushing victory (18b-39) 
III: Russian’s satisfied rest – Cumaean counterattack and Russian defense (40-56)
IV A: New and ancient times – Oleg Svjatoslaviç (57-59)
IV B: New and ancient times – Jaroslav the Wise and Vladimir Monomax (60-62)
IV C: New and ancient times – Internal strife and war today (62-66a)
V: Surrender of Igor’s ranks – Separation of Igor and Vsevolod (66b-74)
VI A: Discord between the princes caused by the Cumaean reaction (75-78)
VI B: Choral lament of the Russians’ defeat (79-87)
VI C: Igor’s campaign and those of Svjatoslav III – Igor’s capture (88-92)
VII A: Svjatoslav III’s dream (93-99)
VII B: The boyars ask Svjatoslav III for help – Lament of the defeat (100-110)
VIII A: Svjatoslav III condemns Igor and Vsevolod’s actions (111-114)
VIII B: Svjatoslav III laments the lack of help from his brother Jaroslav (115)
VIII E: The boyars lament the fate of Russian territory and ask for revenge (136-139)
VIII F: Svjatoslav III appeals to the southern princes (140-142)
IX A: Tragic effects of internal strife on the western front (143-148a)
IX C: Vseslav of Polotsk, wizard-prince and first war-monger (152b-163)
IX D: Regret for Vladimir Monomax’s great coalitions (164-167)
X: Igor’s wife’s lament-invocation (168-183)
XI B: Contrast between the benevolent Donetz and the malevolent Stugna (192-199)
XI C: Cumaean leaders follow Igor in vain (200-208)
XII A: Rejoicing Igor’s return to the homeland (209-212)
XII B: Igor’s homage in Kiev – Final jubilation (213-218)

Appendix I: The historical context of the Slovo

Appendix II: Pronunciation of the characters used in Russian names

Index of historical and geographical names


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