The poem “The Lay of Igor’s Host” was written in Old Russian by an unknown author, a contemporary of that time. He talks about the campaign of the Russian princes against the Polovtsians in 1185, about the rout of the Russian army. The author seeks to explain to his compatriots his reasons and tell about the military valor of Russian soldiers.
Igor is a Novgorod-Seversky prince. He marched against the Polovtsians, his army was defeated by the enemy.
Vsevolod – Igor’s brother, who participated in the campaign.
Svyatoslav – the Grand Duke of Kiev, a cousin of Igor and Vsevolod, their feudal head, experienced commander, statesman.
Yaroslavna is the wife of Prince Igor. Asks the forces of nature to protect her husband from death.
Ovlur – Polovets, helping Igor escape from captivity. Mother Ovlura was Russian. Hiding for some reason the insult to the Polovtsi, Ovlur helps escape from captivity to Igor.
The author begins the story of the campaign of Prince Igor “for the epic times of this”, following historical, objective events. He says that he is not going to “spread his thoughts over the tree” – to lead the narrative in a high-spirited and ornate poetic manner, as always the “old nightingale”, the narrator Boyan.
Prince Igor with his retinue
On the day of the Russian troops’ appearance in the campaign, Igor looked at the sun and saw that it was covered by a shadow. Neglecting the “banner of the heavens” – the eclipse of the sun – and only hearing his desire “to break a copy in the Polovtsian field by an unknown person,” Igor decides to go with the soldiers to the Don.
On all the way, the army is accompanied by bad signs: birds are screaming anxiously, awakened by a thunder-storm, wolves howl, everywhere one hears a “moan and gnashing in the dusk of the night.”
They stopped for the night in the steppe, and at dawn they began a battle with the enemy. “Crumpled army Polovtsy pagan,” Rusich captured Polovtsian girls and took a rich booty.
Igor’s army again spent the night in the steppe, and in the meantime the Polovtsian khans Gzak and Konchak “with their horde of their wild” “with shouts and howl” went to fight with Igor’s squad. But the Russians, full of strength, blocked the fields and prepared to repel the onslaught. The bloody color of dawn portended misfortune.
Retreating for a while from the image of the battle, the author of the “Words” recalls the history of Rus, laments that “the terrible threatening campaigns” of Oleg, the ancestor of Igor, “forgot the great-grandsons.” In the struggle for power, Oleg began internecine wars that brought ruin of the Russian land and death.
A lot of battles were seen then by the Russian land, says the author, but such as this, was not yet.
The battle of Igor’s army with the Polovtsians was terrible: “Far from the blood, blackened, the field was smoking underfoot.” Two days the Russian soldiers fought against the enemies, the third were defeated. At the river Kayala, near which the battle was, Igor and Vsevolod were captured by the Polovtsian khans.
Nature herself sympathized with the defeat of the Russian army: the steppe sagged sadly, the trees lowered branches.
A difficult time came for the Russian land. A lot of Rusich died on the battlefield, “Russian wives fell, sobbing” over the death of their “dear lad”. The time for plenty has passed, because the princes ceased battles with the enemy – “foe”, now they “call the small great and forge sedition brother to brother.” Using intestine strife, from all sides attack Russia and enemies.
Troubles and sorrows were discovered by the princes of Svyatoslavichy road to the Russian land, the author says, “woke the filthy for the war.” But Svyatoslav, “their father”, recently, in his successful campaign against the Polovtsi, “did not spare pagan wars,” “frightened them,” “chopped off his swords,” captivated Khan Kobyak and “stepped on the Steppe with his foot.” Now the Polovtsians again without fear made raids on Russia, gaining victories.
In Kiev, Grand Duke Svyatoslav had a disturbing, “vague” dream, the explanation of which he did not have. After gathering the boyars, he told them about the dreamer and heard from them the interpretation of sleep: in the battle with the Polovtsi, Igor and Vsevolod were defeated.
With sadness and bitterness, Svyatoslav uttered his “golden word”, referring to the younger princes. He reproached them for not sending the enemy in time, and “without honor” shed blood, deciding to seek glory for themselves and not seek help from other princes. Svyatoslav himself “will not give anyone a nest for insult,” will be able to protect him. In one misfortune: “the princes do not want to help” him – they are engaged in the struggle for power, and there is no use in their strength and military ability. Igor’s defeat brought Russian Polovtsians to the ground, and “Rusichi shouted under the sword of Polovtsian”, and Vladimir is wounded, defending Pereyaslavl.
The author continues the appeal of Svyatoslav and calls on princes to protect their land.
“You and the Volga will paddle the oars, you’ll scoop up the Don with your brow,” he addresses the words to Vsevolod, and Rurik and David ask if their regiments are now dying “at the hands of a warrior of an unknown land.” He calls for revenge “for the Russian land and for Igor’s wounds.”
The author of the Prince of Galicia Yaroslav also calls for the Russian land, because he has the strength, the mind, and his power is great.
And to Mstislav with the brave Roman, whose idea “the mind rushes to the feat” and under whose banners the “violent chapter” was inclined, many opponents, the author turns, but does not finish the call.
He returns bitterly in his thoughts to Igor’s defeat:
“But the former glory is no more with us.” The
siege army shared the hail
, and according to Rosa, there is no enemy in the score… “
The princes of Ingvar and Vsevolod and three Mstislavoviches, the princes of Volhynia calls “for a long journey” the author, he does not understand why they have not yet begun to defend Rus.
Speaking about the fact that the borders of the native land are not protected, the creator of the “Word” describes the desperate attempt of Prince Izyaslav Polotsky to independently secure them from external enemies. Izyaslav died on the battlefield – none of the Russian princes came to his aid.
The author passionately calls on Yaroslav and the descendants of Vseslav to stop enmity and understand that in the internecine wars all were defeated – as a result, “the fagots got into trouble with Russia and drove them to Russia.” Continuing his idea of the disastrous consequences of internal strife for the state, he narrates about the fate of Vseslav, who lived at the end of paganism. Vseslav feuded with different principalities, many fields in Russia “did not sow well, but with Russian bones”, but he himself learned many different troubles.
Remembering the former and former princes, as an example of the protector of the motherland, the author calls the old Vladimir, contrasting it with his contemporaries Rurik and Davyd, between whom there is no agreement.
In Putivl Yaroslavna cries on the city wall, and her voice is heard even on the borders of the Russian land, it reaches the banks of the Danube.
In deep sorrow, she turns to all the forces of nature. He talks to the wind, saying that he has forever dispelled her joy. Sobbing, talking with the Dnieper, the main Russian river, asks him: “keep on the far side” of the beloved husband. Weeping, he asks the sun, how could the star, with whom “everyone is warm and welcome,” turn away from the prince’s army.
As if hearing Yaroslavna’s entreaties and crying, nature responded. The sea shook, the whirlwind rushed towards Igor’s house – “the Lord himself from the Polovtsian countries” pointed to the prince’s way home.
At midnight, when Igor did not sleep, thinking about returning, he suddenly heard a conditional whistle. This Polovets Ovlur, preparing the horses for escape, called Igor. Ignoring Igor from the Polovtsian captivity, “turning into an ermine-squirrel”, then “swam like a gogol, on a wave, flew like a wind on a horse,” and with him, and Ovlur. When the fugitives drove their horses, Igor flew a falcon to the Donets, and Ovlur ran a gray wolf.
Galki, crows, magpies did not shout in the fields and forests, only the nightingales sang, distracted, nightingales, and the woodpeckers pointed to Igor the right direction.
The author tells about the conversation between Igor and the Donets River. He called the prince great and said that by his return from captivity Igor brought a lot of joy to the Russian land. Igor, in return, thanked the river for giving him shelter on its shores and warning about the danger while he was resting.
Finding the disappearance of Igor, Gzak and Konchak “looking for a fugitive.” Gzak suggested that the “falcon”, Igor’s son, Vladimir, who remained in captivity, be shot down with a “golden arrow”. Konchak believed that you can “entangle his girlfriend,” marry a Polovchanka. Gzak also objected: “he will wither with the girl in his tower,” and then “any bird in the Polovtsian field will start beating us” – again the Rusichi will start fighting with the Polovtsians.
Prince Igor returned from captivity. His return is compared with the appearance of the sun in the sky. Russian land rejoices: the joyful “songs from the far Danube” are heard to Kiev, and Igor “daring” walks along the Boricheva ascent to the church of the Blessed Virgin Pirogoshcha.
The author praises princes who took part in the campaign, and Igor’s squad.
Coming to us from the depths of centuries, “The Lay of Igor’s Host” always remains modern. The author tries to convey to the reader the main thoughts of his work – love of his native land, a call for unity of the country, admiration for the courage of the defenders of the Motherland
This brief retelling of The Lay of Igor’s Host conveys the key points of the events described by the author, and it is possible to get acquainted with the peculiarities of their figurative presentation by reading the full text of the work.