"Residence in Bulgaria", St. Clair and Brophy



Spurious literature - Bulgarian language - Deli Marko's match with the Evil One - Philip Junak's boasting - Deli Marko's performance - Joanczo Krym Pelilivanczo - Preparations for the encounter - The Czar's bear overcome - King Marko - Arrival at Philip the Magyar's - A long swim - Combat with a Lomota - The hero's return - Seferina rejected - Legends of other races compared.

LIKE all people who have neither a literature nor even a perfectly formed language, the Bulgarians have preserved but vague traditions of bygone ages, and if a Bulgarian History founded upon these and their songs were written, it would be a remarkably eccentric one, as may be judged from the specimens of poetry given in this chapter. The Servians and even the Montenegrins, as well as the Bosniacs, in preserving an aristocracy have preserved their history, for in the Court or amongst the followers of the Servian and Montenegrin prince or noble, and of the Bosniac bey, there were always men who, like the Celtic bards, transmitted from generation to generation the deeds of the families to which they were attached, and amongst Slavonic nations the deeds of the nobles formed the history of the people.

The old Bulgarian language was never a written one, and it is only in our own day that a few works have appeared, printed in characters which are a pleasing mixture of the two alphabets respectively used in Russia for lay and ecclesiastical books. and which are self-styled Bulgarian; a critique of these works would probably be of little general interest, and we confine ourselves to stating that the language in which they are written is not understood by the people, even if it be intelligible to the 'literary men' of Bulgaria. They consist for the most part of school-books, in which Russian and Sacred History are inextricably entangled, books of prayer, and a large volume of Bulgarian songs, traditions, manners and customs, printed in Servia; from this last volume we borrow one line

'Deli Marko,' 'Mad Marko,'

changed into 'Dimny [Critics may tell us that 'Dimny' means 'proud,' but according to our knowledge of Slavonic idioms, we fancy that the epithet' magnificent' is more applicable; 'Dimny' is (to coin a word) a Cossackism for 'dumny,' the Cossacks always changing u into i; still severer critics may possibly derive the word in question from Dym, smoke, in which case they can translate Dimny Marko as Smoked Marko.] Marko,' 'Marko the Magnificent,' which will be sufficient to show the alterations made in the old songs.

Our chief reasons for not troubling our readers with any extracts from this collection are, that there are plenty of original and unadulterated songs amongst the Bulgarians, and that the people themselves deny the authenticity of the Servian versions, saying when they are read to them 'Toi Arnaoutskie Piesni,' these are Albanian songs;' and we shall therefore have the honour of introducing some songs 'never before published,' either in England or elsewhere, and which are translated exactly word for word. [Even for those who thoroughly understand Slavonic languages and there is a great difficulty to be encountered in Bulgarian, for an number of Slavonic words, while retaining their original form, have an entirely different signification, e. g.: -
Bulgarian words. Meaning in Slavonic.  Meaning in Bulgarian.
Dumat To think. To speak.
Czy if And.
Pravit To say. To do.
Na pravit  To mend To make.

In Polish however, na prawic is used for 'to mend.']

A word upon the Bulgarian language and traditions; the language as spoken and sung is by no means that of the books newly invented; it is a strange mixture of Turkish and Persian with Slavonic, and contains many words of Italian and Greek origin, and from other European languages: the most curious peculiarity is that not only Turkish adjectives and substantives are used, but also verbs, and the Turkish inflections of tense, mood, &c., are used with verbs of purely Slavonic origin; those who are acquainted with Oriental and Slavonic tongues may find some instances of this in the song given in Bulgarian in the Appendix: it is constantly done when the singer wishes to render his style peculiarly elegant.

The Bulgarian historical traditions, except in the form of songs, are not numerous; the following is one of the most curious: -

Once upon a time the world was peopled only by heroes and Zmieje (dragons), and of all the former Deli or Kral (King) Marko was by far the stoutest and strongest. One day the Devil was amusing himself with his great mace of wood bound with iron, of the weight of 100 okes (280 lbs.), throwing it up into the air and catching it again with one hand. Deli Marko found him thus employed and wished him good morning very politely.
“Hosh geldin,” 'Welcome,' said his Majesty.
“Hosh bouldouk,” 'Well found,' replied the hero.
After these and other necessary compliments, Deli Marko asked the Devil what he was doing there.
“You see, I am practising throwing this mace into the air and catching it: it's for the Pehlivanlik (Championship).”
“Let's try together,” suggested Deli Marko.
“With all my heart, go and take your place.” And the Devil hurled his mace 100 yards, but Deli Marko caught it in the air like a cricket-ball.
“Bravo indeed,” cried Satan, clapping his hands, “it's your turn now, throw the mace for me to catch."
But Deli Marko let the Devil's mace lie on the ground and took up his own, which was also of wood and iron and weighed 300 okes; this he pitched with a good swing, and the poor Devil, trying to catch it, was knocked down, and a good deal bruised. Deli Marko took up the mace of his unlucky competitor, threw it up to the sky, where it stuck, and walked quietly away from the Bulgarian Beaufort House, whistling an air.

The Devil went back to his own dominions, very sore from his bruises and his defeat in the Athletic Sports, and set about forging an iron tube, which he loaded with a little dust from the infernal smithy, and a leaden bullet. When these were ready 'he appeared upon earth again and called upon Deli Marko.

“Good morning, Deli Marko.”
“Hosh geldin.”
“Hosh bouldouk.”
“Come, Deli Marko," quoth the Devil, you beat me the other day. and you caught my mace which weighs 100 okes; do you think you can catch this little ball which weighs two drachms?”
“There's my hand,” said Deli Marko, laughing very disdainfully; “throw your little ball, and let's see whether I can't catch it!"
Then the Devil took his tube, lit the powder (perhaps with a spark from his tail), and the bullet struck Deli Marko in the palm of the hand, perforating it completely; Dell Marko looked sadly at the wound, and sighed out, “Now that guns are invented, this earth is no place for heroes any longer!” and as there was a dragon passing he called him up, got on his back, and flew away for ever; the same day all the heroes followed his example, and that is the reason that there are now neither dragons nor heroes in the country.

Here we see Deli Marko, the hero par excellence of Bulgaria, giving utterance to a sentiment very like that of Bayard and many other preux chevaliers; but we shall see him immediately in his true character, in his affair with Hero Philip.

Many of the Bulgarian songs are translated from the Turkish, and in these the original is much injured and disfigured. Those we have chosen are genuine Slavonic and such as best depict the character of the Bulgarians and their ideas as to the attributes of a hero.



[Deli means mad in Turkish and is not an opprobrious term, being applied to persons of rash and fiery courage. Junak is Bulgarian for hero.]

A SONG SUNG DURING THE KULADA. [The Kulada is the feast of the winter solstice; see Superstitions.]

Philip Junak is boasting,
        Hey Kulada moy Kulada!
At the Siedanki [Nocturnal festivals, when the young girls dance around large fires.] before the maidens,
        Hey Kulada moy Kulada!
At the Bielanki [Where the women sit spinning.] before the women,
        Hey Kulada moy Kulada!
At the Tukhan [The public-house; the men's usual club.] before the young men,
        Hey Kulada moy Kulada!
That he has chained up three monsters. [*]
        Hey, &c.
This Deli Marko learns,
        Hey, &c.
And he seeks for him
        Hey, &c.

[*] In Bulgarian, three 'Zmieje,' a name wrong given by the Bulgarians to all dragons; the Zmieja of Polish legends is an enormous and hideous blind serpent which darts fire and smoke but cannot fly like the dragon who is called 'Smok.' The Bulgarians do not appear to distinguish between the two; but as in all their traditions the dragon is the friend and often the favourite steed of their heroes, it is possible that it was three 'Zmieje' that Philip Junak chained up and not three 'Smoky,' unless lie wished to break in some of the latter for riding ; or the three monsters may have belonged to the stud of dragons of Deli Marko, which would explain that hero's wrath ; but the story seems to negative this hypothesis, and to show that the whole account given by Philip Junak was a vain boast.

At the Siedanki before the maidens,
         Hey, &c.
At the Bielanki before the women,
         Hey, &c.
In the Tukhan before the young men.
         Hey, &c.
What the young men say to him:
         Hey, &c.
Where is Philip Junak?"
         Hey, &c.
He is staying there on the mountain
         Hey, &c.
Towards the setting of the sun (the West)
         Hey, &c.
The gates of Dzym Dzyr." [Dzym Dzyr is a species of wood unknown to us.]
         Hey, &c.
And he goes there, Deli Marko,
         Hey, &c.
And the Conac [Palace.] of Philip Junak
         Hey, &c.
Deli Marko finds it.
         Hey, &c.
He finds it, and calls,
         Hey, &c.
Deli Marko calls him,
         Hey, &c.
He calls him and knocks at the gates.
         Hey, &c.
Philip Junak his gates of Dzym Dzyr opens not,
         Hey, &c.
And he pushes them, Deli Marko, the gates of Dzym Dzyr of Philip Junak,
         Hey, &c.
And he gives a kick to the iron [Here demir (Turkish), iron, is substituted for dzym dzyr.] gates
         Hey, &c.
And he sends them up to the blue sky
         Hey, &c.
When he gives them his kick.
         Hey, &c.
And into the palace of Philip Junak Dell Marko enters, [The literal translation would be “crawls in;” see the original Bulgarian of this song as given in the Appendix C.]
         Hey, &c.
But Philip Junak comes not down.
         Hey, &c.
But the wife of Philip comes down,
         Hey, &c.
Comes down straight towards Deli Marko,
         Hey, &c.
And she wears a plume;
         Hey, &c.
And he snatches it, Deli Marko;
         Hey, &c.
Then Philip Junak comes down
         Hey, &c.
And he claps his hands for the wrestling. [Signal is still used in Bulgarian wrestling]
         Hey, &c.
They seize one another and they wrestle,
         Hey, &c.
With Deli Marko Philip Junak,
         Hey, &c.
And he seizes him (does) Deli Marko, Philip Junak
         Hey, &c.
And ties his hands behind him. Deli Marko,
         Hey, &c.
And brings him to the Siedanki before the maidens
         Hey, &c.
“Is it thou, Philip, who boastedst
         Hey, &c.
“Before the maidens at the Siedanki
         Hey, &c.
“Where then hast thou chained up, the three monsters?
         Hey, &c.
And from there he takes him out and brings him
         Hey, &c.
To the Bielanki before the women,
         Hey, &c.
And asks him, "Is it thou, Philip,
         Hey, &c.
“Who boastedst
         Hey, &c.
"Of having chained up three monsters?
         Hey, &c.
And from there he takes him, Deli Marko, and bring him
         Hey, &c.
To the Tukhan before the young men,
         Hey, &c.
And asks him, " Is it thou, Philip Junak,
         Hey, &c.
“Who boastedst in the Tukhan
         Hey, &c.
“That thou hast chained up tight three monsters ?
         Hey, &c.
Philip Junak begs and prays Deli Marko,
         Hey, &c.
“Let me go, please, O Deli Marko!"
         Hey, &c.
But Deli Marko does not let go Philip Junak,
         Hey &c.
Did not let him go - hung him!
         Hey Kulada moy Kulada!

We see that the Bulgarian legendary hero is tolerably conceited and cruel by nature, not to mention his unknightly manner of behaviour towards ladies; perhaps he snatched the plume from Mrs. Philip to make her husband fight, but he might have obtained this result in a different manner. We shall see in another song that he is decidedly gluttonous, and not more gallant than in this one; but before that allow us to present to you, our readers, a gentleman who yields in nothing to Deli Marko, and who is even more of a Bulgarian, as he appears to have lived at an earlier period; we beg to present Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo.




[** Joanczo is the diminutive of Joan, John; Pehlivan (Turkish) is a champion wrestler, the termination -czo being added probably to enable them to pronounce the whole title ore rotundo; how Jack or Johnny became Champion of the Crimea is unknown both to us and the Bulgarians.].

Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo to his mother he says,
Oh mother, oh my mother, my reputation is declining
So tell the furrier to make me a Kalpak  [A Bulgarian cap, - usually made of sheepskin.]
Of nine wolf-skins and the tenth (skin) of a bear.

And she goes, the mother - the mother of Joanczo,
To the furrier that he might make the Kalpak
Of nine wolf-skins and the tenth (the skin) of a bear.

Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo to his mother he says,
“I am going to the furrier, that he may make me
A pair of trousers for wrestling; for a firman from the Czar
Is come to me, and commands me to wrestle with his Pehlivans;
And I am going to wrestle with the Pehlivans of the Czar,
And the Pehlivans of the Czar are bloodthirsty bears."

The mother says to Joanczo, "Do not go, my son,
Nine Pehlivans have gone to the Czar
And the nine were eaten by the bears!

Joanczo to his mother he says, “Open the Hungarian trunk
And look there for a handsome suit of clothes,
In order to set out for the Czar's, and to fight his bears;
In order that the bears may not kill me,
And that I may not be ashamed before the Czar."

And Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo to his mother he says,
"Bake me nine ovenfuls of bread, And kill me nine fat cows,
And knock me in the heads of nine barrels of wine."

And Joanczo eats the nine ovenfuls of bread,
And he eats the nine fat cows.
And he drinks the nine barrels of wine,
And he will set out for the Czar's to wrestle.
And he eat the nine ovenfuls of bread.
And he eat the nine fat cows,
And he drank the nine barrels of wine,
And he set out for the Czar's to wrestle.

Joanczo arrives at the Czar's.
The Czar sends his black Chinguine [Chinguine, gipsy] to announce,
By sound of trumpet, the combat.
And he cries and proclaims
Three days and three nights,
“Let great and small assemble
On the fields or the mogil, [Mogil, tombs; the tumuli or barrows so abundant in European Turkey.]
For a great wrestling will take place
Between Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo
And the bloodthirsty bear of the Czar!

And great and small they assemble
On the fields and on the mogul
And the regiment of black gipsies is there.
And nine black men guard (the bear) with the curved steel,
And nine black men with chains of steel
Conduct him, the terrible bear!
And the chains were loosened,
And the bear utters a cry,
At this cry the earth trembles.
And the heavens thunder as he utters it.

Joanczo Krym. Pehlivanczo was afraid when he saw this bear,
But he hid his tears from the Czar
That the Czar might not laugh at him.

And they catch hold of one another, the bear of blood
And Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo.
Three days and three nights they wrestle,
Neither the bear falls, nor Joanczo falls;
Where Joanczo holds the black blood flows,
Where the bear holds the white flesh flies.
Three days and three nights they wrestle,
Neither Joanczo falls, nor the bear falls.
The Czar says to Joanczo, " There you are, then,
Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo,
Thou wilt die of thy wounds, And my bear will not!"

Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo is very angry.
He catches a good hold of the bear,
Lifts him up to the blue sky,
And dashes him against the earth
And in four he breaks him,
And the four pieces bury themselves
In four holes in the ground.

Then the Czar was afraid of Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo.
“In future, Joanczo,
If you kill a man
You are absolved beforehand
From all guilt of murder."
And he commands his regiment of blacks,
"Bring directly to Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo
Nine heavy mule-loads of gold
As a bakshish for Joanczo."
And directly were brought
The nine heavy mule-loads of gold
As a bakshish to Joanczo,
And were given
To Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo.

And he goes off, Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo,
With his nine heavy loads of gold;
And he arrives, Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo,
At his dearly-loved mother's.
And he calls his mother,
Joanczo Krym Pelilivanczo,
"Come down then, mother, and take
These nine heavy mule-loads of gold."

And the mother of Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo comes down,
And she sees the nine heavy mule-loads of gold.
"Bre! [Bre, a Turkish exclamation of astonishment.] Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo!
Thou hast not been to the Czar's to wrestle.
But thou hast been at some Haydutluk, [Haydutluk (Turkish), brigandage, highway robbery.]
And thou hast robbed the Czar
Of these nine heavy mule-loads of gold!”

The Czar gave them to me," says Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo,
“And more than that, he has allowed me
To kill any man
That I choose.
Such is the permission he has given to Joanczo Krym Pehlivanczo,
That is to say, to me."

The Czar in this song is probably some Czar of Byzantium, and Joanczo is doubtless some big barbarian Bulgarian who really existed; as for his enormous appetite, those who know the Slavs will agree that their bards have not much need to exaggerate this point, to make it seem monstrous or heroic. After all, poor Joanczo is a very material hero.



King Marko the foreigner
Throws up his grey falcon
In the Palace of Philip the Magyar.

It perches on the knee of Philip the Magyar
And sees seventy-seven Kings
Who are eating and drinking.

And King Marko stops on the threshold
And whistles his grey falcon from the knee of Philip the Magyar.
It perches on the knee of King Marko,
And says to King Marko,
"In the Palace of Philip the Magyar
There are seventy-seven Kings eating and drinking."

King Marko stays on the threshold
And says, "Give me the grey horse."
And he mounts the grey horse.
The King Marko gives a battle horse.
(There are evidently some verses wanting about here, but no one in this neighbourhood knows of their existence)
Let us go to the Palace of Philip the Magyar,
And the fair Seferina, daughter of Philip the Magyar, we will take.

The King Marko says to his comrade,
“We will go to the Palace of Philip the Magyar,
And we will take of Philip Magyarina
The lovely daughter Seferina.[This is the only rhyme in the song, and seems to be much admired, for it is repeated on every possible occasion.]
(Here again verses appear to be missing.)

King Marko goes to the Castle of Philip Magyar;
Philip Magyar says to the seventy-seven Kings,
"When King Marko arrives
And dismounts, stand on the threshold
And take his horse from him, but do
Not salute him, King Marko;
You do nothing but eat and drink,
You are only a set of blackguards” [It seems difficult to account for this sudden burst of unparliamentary language on the part of Philip, unless the seventy-seven kings were all Bulgarians, in which case he probably found he was being eaten out of house and home.]
King Marko arrives at the gates of Philip Magyar;
King Marko calls aloud at the gates of Philip Magyar;
Seventy-seven heroes are eating and drinking
And do not allow King Marko to pass.
King Marko gives a kick to the gates of Dzym Dzyr,
Breaks them, and enters.
The seventy-seven Kings place themselves on the threshold,
And say to him 'Bouyour,' ['Boujour,' a Turkish expression of politeness, 'pray enter.'] and take his horse, and walk it up and down.
King Marko sits down near the Sofra (table)
And he eats and drinks.
King Marko sees the fair maid Seferina,
She comes, but she does not give him wine.[A girl's giving wine to a suitor is a sign that he pleases her.]
Philip Magyar from his Palace he says,
“When you go, King Marko, across
The sea three hundred hours, and you
Disembark in the island of Kierspiezensk,
And you take from the tree of Kierspiezensk
Three apples, and bring them
And place them on the table for dessert,
Then you will have done. ['Then you will have done' something worth talking about.]
If you wish to have my daughter Seferina,
Mount your horse and let us see if you arrive
At the island of Kierspiezensk."
This hero, King Marko, springs upon his horse
And he swims the three hundred hours of sea
And lands in the island of Kierspiezensk.
A Lomota [The Lomota is a kind of monster half dragon and half whirlwind.] attacks him, and swallows
The half of his horse.
The horse says to him, to the King Marko,
"If, O King Marko! Thou hast any wit, thou wilt hit
The Lomota on the head."
King Marko hits the Lomota on the head,
And chains him with a chain behind the horse.
And drags the Lomota behind him.
Then he tears up the tree by the roots,
Puts it under his arm, and swims
The three hundred hours of sea,
And arrives at the Castle of Philip Magyar.
Philip Magyar from his Castle
Looks over the boundless plain
Through the mist, and he says,
“Will King Marko be drowned
In swimming the three hundred hours of sea?
But behold! he is not drowned.
And behold! he brings the tree under his arm
And the Lomota he drags behind him.
Philip the Magyar then says, “Go to meet King Marko
And tell him not to bring the Lomota here,
In order that fear may not seize upon the seventy-seven Queens,
And that the seventy-seven little Kings may not die."
But King Marko does not listen to them,
Does not listen to them, and drags the Lomota.
“Let King; Marko tie the Lomota to the gates,
That the seventy-seven Queens may not be afraid."
But King Marko does not hear what is said to him,
And drags the Lomota into the court.
And the seventy-seven Queens are afraid,
And the seventy-seven little Kings die.
King Marko sits down by the sofra,
And he eats and drinks;
He looks for the maiden Seferina,
And she comes to the sofra and gives him wine
And dessert; she gives wine to all,
But the Queens drank no wine-they were afraid
And they refused the dessert.
King Marko says to them,
“Why do you not drink,
And why do you not eat?”
The Queens answer King Marko
“We have been frightened."
"Haida! [Haida! (Turkish), all right! off with you!  Who makes this remark it is not easy to conjecture.] take the fair maid Seferina
Philip Magyar says, “Bring the carriage of gold
And harness two good horses to it,
And put the fair maid Seferina into the carriage,
And let him take her, King Marko.”
They bring the carriage of gold
And they put into it the fair maid Seferina with King Marko.
Philip Magyar remains in the Palace of Philip Magyar, [The simple but poetic beauty of this line must strike even the most prosaic reader.]
And they went away, King Marko and the fair maid Seferina,
And King Marko brings her to his Palace,
And ninety-nine Kings are assembled,
And a splendid marriage is prepared.
Then Philip Magyar arrives with nothing on but his shirt,
"You know it and you remember it, King Marko
King Marko sees him, but leaves him on the threshold,
But the fair maid Seferina
Goes towards Philip Magyarina.
“You go towards him to the threshold!
I am angry!"
And he gave back, and he (Philip) took back,
The fair maid Seferina,

In these three heroic poems of the Bulgarians we see the great deeds of two of their heroes; one is a formidable wrestler, but he eats, drinks and dresses in (or rather out of) proportion - in short he is but an enormous animal, and even his mother has no great opinion of his morals, since she says

"Thou hast been at some Haydutluk."
Kral Marko, by far the most famous hero of Bulgaria, is but little better; he too has an immense appetite and immense strength, but he is, to say the least, most impolite to ladies.

What strikes us most is the entire absence of anything like poetry; there is no sentiment, except that of chronic hunger. Kral Marko obtains the fair Seferina (probably Seraphina) after an exploit of which the success is chiefly due to his horse, who has certainly more presence of mind than his rider, since, though “half swallowed," he advises him to strike at the head of the monster. But there is neither love nor any other sentiment of the heart or soul in anything which Kral Marko does; nor has he the least spark of generosity, for he hangs poor Philip Junak simply because he boasted falsely of having enchained three monsters. All that is sung of is merely animal prowess, and well fed bears would have done as much.

These remarks are worth noting, for in heroic songs we generally find the ideal of the perfect man which is formed by the nation; the Bulgarian people of the present day greatly admire Deli Marko and Joanczo, and in doing so they pass judgement on themselves.

In the traditions, legends and songs of all half savage peoples (except the Bulgarians) there is a great deal of poetry and generosity of feeling; an Indian chief would not have killed Philip Junak, nor have sent away the fair Seferina for behaving dutifully to her father. The heroes of Walhalla are dark and terrible, their feast is gigantic almost as the dinner of Joanczo; but they are giants, and their deeds, their vices, and their virtues are proportionate to their stature.

What a difference between these legends and songs and the poetry of the Turks! Needless to take the written works of Arabian or Persian, or even Turkish authors, but listen to the first peasant you meet who pours forth some “unpremeditated lay;" what vivacity in its sentiments, what poetic colour in its imagery, what simplicity, and yet what strength !

No doubt the education of the people does much; but since Christianity, grafted on the Norse and Teutonic Deli Markos and Joanczos, has produced a noble literature, why has it failed with the Bulgarians? Perhaps its Spiritualism cannot penetrate the gross hide of the Bulgarian, or perhaps Oriental Christianity has caused a reaction.

In any case it is not oppression nor slavery which is the cause, for the Polish and Lithuanian peasants possess songs which find an echo in the heart, because they come from the heart, the source of all true poetry: the source of the ballads of Bulgaria seems to be, alas! - the stomach.

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