Meet Bulgaria,
R.H. Markham

Romance in the village


The Bulgarians are still a singing people but many of the songs they use now are not from anonymous authors. They sing in the woods and mountains, they sing at work and at play and professional troubadours with little portable organs still sing a± the fairs and markets to crowds of villagers who reward them by buying their collections of sad ballads.


Beneath stolid Bulgarian exteriors often burn fierce fires of romance. Youthful love is frequently vehement. Bulgarian village women grow old early and on marriage always have to go to live in the houses of strangers, that is of "in-laws", so it is not strange that girls like to sing flaming songs of youth and freedom, before the blight of mothers-in-law come upon them.

        N e d a

The kind sun shone bright at Neda's —
Though 'twas not the sun from heaven —
It was Ned' herself a-shining.
Flashing eyes as black as ravens,
Silken lids as fine as rose leaves,
Pearly teeth as white as jewels,
Graceful form as lithe's a fairy's.

Many maidens gathered round her,
There to dance upon the meadow,
Flowers pick and weave gold garlands.
To these maidens whispered Neda:
"Oh my friends, you little maidens,
"Warm yourselves now in the sunshine,
"Ere the heat's consumed and stifled,
"Ere cold winds blow fierce upon you,
"Bringing winter, grief and strangers".

* * *

Once there grew a slender willow —
'Twas no tree beside a river —
It was little maiden, Neda.
Her white hands were tense and rigid,
Her high brow was drawn and wrinkled,
Her black eyes were wan and troubled.

Flaming youth assembled round her,
Snatching leaves from off the willow.
To them Neda wisely whispered:
"Flaming youth, aglow with ardor,
"Seeking love and sweet adventure,
"Tear off leaves and break off branches;
"Squeeze them dry of all their fragrance,
"While there's sap within the willow,
"Ere the leaves as yet have withered,
"Ere your Neda's lost her beauty".

The little maidens always liked to taunt the boys with not knowing "how to make love", and this dull apprentice surely deserved it. The Bulgarians say that God doesn't like too good a saint so he probably couldn't stand such a good boy as this. I'm sure this girl won't put up with him much longer either, if he doesn't turn up at a village bee now and then.

        Is Your Heart of Stone?

"Sweetheart, sweetheart, my first sweetheart,
"What's the cause of your long absence?
"Hearts of stone would be more tender,
"Stone would break, would fly asunder".

"Sweetheart, sweetheart, my first sweetheart,
"You know well I'm but a servant,
"All day long I'm in the workshop,
"Nights I watch my master's pony".

"Oh, you sweetheart, silly sweetheart,
"What d'you know of tending horses?
"Find a post and tie him to it,
"Then come here and join my party".

Widowers are not held in high esteem by maidens in Bulgaria even to this day. But they almost always get married for they're better than nothing in a world full of disagreeable economic realities. And after all such a stalwart widower as this wouldn't be so bad!

        The Youth and the Widower

There was a match, of youth against wid'wer,
Throwing of sticks way up in the heavens.
Who threw the highest, got pretty Anka,
Got pretty Anka as his bethrothed.
Youth took his turn, but made a poor showing,
Wid'wer then threw, outdoing his rival,
Winning fair Anna, prize of the contest.

* * *
But Ann refused him, spurning the wid'wer.
"Can't stand him, Mama, how shall I take him?
"Frost of cold autumn, that's an old wid'wer,
"Falls on the garden, kills all the flowers.
"Dew of the springtime, that's a young bach'lor,
"Touching the flowers, makes them all blossom".

Such songs as this abound. The little maidens placed an exceedingly high value on kisses. And I guess you would too if grandpa, grandma, pa, ma, uncles, aunts and a number of brothers were hourly watching you to see that you never got any from your "flaming youth".

        Kisses Last Forever

He two fences high leaped over,
Landing in a garden verdant,
Where he spied a little maiden,
Sound asleep on grassy cushion,
Deep in dreams of handsome "younacks".

* * *
In her hand she pressed a rosebud;
Snowy white her smooth arms glistened;
Her bare feet were two twin lambkins.
Fragrant vines served as her pillow,
Covered o'er with hand stitched kerchief.

* * *
By her head a jug of water
From which smiled fresh, blushing roses.
Little maiden deep in dreamland,
Glittered bright with pearly dewdrops,
As a luscious morning melon.

* * *
Flaming youth stooped low and wondered
What to choose from all those treasures.
"Shall I snatch away her kerchief ?
"Shall I seize her blushing roses ?
"Shall I kiss away the dewdrops?

* * *
"Flimsy kerchief — worth five pennies!
"Blushing roses — fade at noontide!
"Blissful kisses last forever!"
So he bent, bent low and kissed her!

        The Maiden's Dream

A maiden slept beside the sea,
Beneath a spreading olive tree.
A strong wind blew from off the sea
And broke a branch from off the tree,
Which fell upon the maiden's breast.
It roused her from alluring sleep
And anger to her lips did leap.
"O, wicked wind", she fiercely cried.
"Before your birth you should have died
"And let me finish my sweet dream".

* * *
"O, what a dream passed through my mind
"I saw three boys, young, gay and wild,
"Though one of them was far too mild.
"He me a juicy apple threw —
"'Twas awfully green as he is, too.
"Then stole the next youth by my place
"And dropped a ring before my face, —
"I would the devil pulled him through it.
"The third wild youth filled me with bliss,
"For in my dream I felt his kiss —
"I hope he'll take me for his bride".

        Wild Dream

Mad their love for one another,
E'en from childhood's first remembrance.
Comes the time for them to marry;
Mother doesn't give the maiden,
Father picks for son another.

* * *
"Maiden dear", the youth then asks her,
"Lovely maiden, mine own darling,
"Shall I go and take another,
"Take another for my sweetheart?"

* * *
"No, indeed", the maiden answers,
"Take no other for your sweetheart".

* * *
"Then let's leave, let's fly together
"To some wild and distant forest,
"Where no bird so much as flutters,
"Flutters not and never twitters.
"I'll grow up a great green oak tree,
"You a tall and slender poplar.
"Then will come the master workmen
"With their sharp and curving axes.
"They'll cut down the great, green oak tree,
"By the oak the long, thin poplar.
"Boards they'll saw out, white and narrow,
"Build from them cool, shaded bowers,
"In gay gardens midst the flowers;
"Placing white boards one by th'other,
"First an oak and then a poplar;
"So we'll always be together,
"You by me and I by you, dear".

The Bulgarians are as frugal with flattery as with most other luxuries but they do like to tell the girls occasionally that they're pretty. And it would appear that the girls don't shun such a topic of conversation either.
        Where Girls Get Their Beauty

"Georgie, maiden, blithe and pretty,
"May I ask you just one question?
"Please, I pray, give truthful answer".
"Yes, wild youth, I wait your query.
"If I know, I'll tell you truly,
"If I don't, I'll have to parry"

"Georgie, maiden, blithe and pretty,
"Tell me from where is your beauty?
"Came it down from out the heavens?
"Grew it here in some one's garden?
"Was it fashioned by a goldsmith?
"Or bestowed by some strange charmer?"

"Flaming youth, so wild and curious,
"Who has heard of or imagined :
"Maids that grew up in a garden,
"Maids that fell down out of heaven,
"Maidens fashioned by a goldsmith,
"Maidens drawn through rings by charmers ?"

"Born was I here of my mother,
"Bright and early Easter morning.
"Christened was I on a saint's day,
"With the pretty name of Georgie.
"She in sweet milk always bathed me,
"Fat lambs only did she feed me,
"Rich red wine she ever. poured me.
"A fine mother — she who bore me,
"Fine the way that she upbrought me —
"That's why I am blithe and pretty".

        Beautiful Girls Need no Family

"Sweetheart, oh Sweetheart, Yourdanka,
"Come let us take one another.
"'Like are we two as twin brothers.
"'Like as two wheat stalks at harvest".

"Silence, Boy, such words are folly;
"Well do you know I've no family".

"Trees that are tall are not measured,
"Stones that are fine are not counted,
"Streams that are deep are not sounded,
"Beautiful girls need no family".

This love was hard on sidewalks, which is really very regrettable for, even as it is, too many of the sidewalks in Bulgarian villages are in need of repair. Still if you're in love you can't afford to be over considerate of the condition of the street in front of your mother's house.

        Stamp Sweetheart, as You've Been Stamping!

"Why does your mother scold every evening?
"Scold and find fault, whenever she sees you?
"Don't you get up, dear, ere the night's finished,
"Start the fire burning, let out the cattle,
"Clean up the house and bring in the water?

"How could my mother keep from such scolding,
"With you parading right by our house here?
"Ever a-walking past our front doorway,
"Jingling your big keys, making the dogs bark,
"Stamping your new boots, loosening our sidewalk?"

"That then's the reason why your ma's angry!
"Well I shall wander 'long other pathways;
"But I shall sweetheart with other maidens".

"Walk, sweetheart, please walk, just as you've walked before,
"Stamp, my dear, please stamp, just as you've stamped before.
"My mother's old now, that's why she scolds now.
"She has forgotten days that have vanished,
"Days of her maidhood, words full of sweetness".

Bulgarian maidens believe in freedom of speech and song.

        Little Maiden Defies the Judge

Handsome Todor builds a lower,
Little maiden saunters past it;
Sauntering past she sings a love song.
Handsome Todor turns to see her,
Turns to see the little maiden;
And he falls clear off the scaffold.
Hits the ground as crashing mountains —
Breaks both legs above the knee joints
And his arms right at the shoulders.

* * *
When he hails to court the maiden,
Bold she stands before the justice,
Faces Todor and this tells him:
"Crazy mason, mind your business,
"Don't make googoo eyes at maidens.
"What I want to say, I'll say it!
"What I have to sing, I'll sing it!"
"Still", said judge, though very kindly,
"Keep your songs for boys on ground work!"

        A Youth’s Dream

Dream, don't peeve me, dream don't leave me,
Dream, where are you lurking?
"Bring me back that lovely maiden,
In my yard a-working. S
leeves rolled high and bare arms glowing,
Fresh as cherry blossoms.
Open blouse and full skirt flowing,
Chipper as a piper.
Sell would I my coal black charger,
If I could but swipe her.

* * *
Heard she this, the sweet dream maiden
And sent him a message:
"Crazy boy, please keep your pony,
"And cut out your fretting.
"Should the maiden share your ardor,
"She would come a-flitting.
"Walk would she on your veranda,
"Like a peacock strutting,
"Sing would she before your window
"Like a pigeon cooing,
"Nestle would she on your bosom
"As a robin wooing".

When a boy gets it is badly as Katy's did he is not usually so nice and kind about it. As a matter of fact in real life there might be some killing. In such cases there are always two victims. A lover never cares to outlive a sweetheart whom he has shot.

        Hopeless Love

Katy, Katy, lithesome Katy,
Wheresoe'er you cast your eyes
Every boy falls sick or dies.
Some you stifle, some you craze,
Some last two weeks, some two days.

Here am I now sick three years,
Racked with pains and crushed with fears.
Three whole years right here I lie,
Can't get well and cannot die.

Tress are oft by lighting shattered,
Even boulders vast are scattered;
But since I'm born of a mother
I can't die and can't recover.

I shall tell you, pretty maiden,
How my pains you now can deaden:
Seize this sword, asunder cleave me,
Build two altars, on them leave me,
Pan the fire till I am ashes,
Till there're neither sparks nor flashes.

Then my dust back home please carry,
In your garden gay to bury,
From it there will grow red roses.
Give your suitors them each morning —
Let me serve as their adorning.

"A little maiden" the anonimous subject and authoer of the best love songs composed during the dark centuries of slavery Elizabeth Bagriana, the most inspired and gifted living Bulgarian poet, whose sweeping songs of love and profound songs of sorrow are the best being written in the Bulgarian language

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