Although the same ballads are not heard every where, yet the poetical feeling and productiveness seem to be pretty equally distributed over all the region inhabited by the Servian race. The heroic ballads originate mostly in the southern mountains of Servia, in Bosnia, Montenegro, and its Dalmatian neighbourhood. Towards the North-East the productiveness diminishes; the songs are still known in the Austrian provinces, but the recitation of them, and the Gusle itself, are left to blind men and beggars. Pirch heard, nevertheless, the ballads of Marko Kralyevitch in the vicinity of Neusatz, in Hungary. On the other hand, the amatory Servian ballads, and all those comprised under the name of female songs,—although by no means exclusively sung by women,—originate chiefly in those regions, where perhaps a glimpse of occidental civilization has somewhat refined the general feeling. The villages of Syrmia, the Banat, and the Batchva, are the home of most of them; in the Bosnian towns also they are heard; while in the cities of the Austrian provinces they have been superseded by modern airs of less value, perhaps, and certainly of less nationality.
It remains to remark, that while in all the other Slavic popular poetry, the musical element is prominent, it is in the Servian completely crowded into the background. Even the little lyric pieces, or female ballads, are not only in a high degree monotonous, but even without the peculiar sweetness of most popular airs. They also are chanted rather than sung.
The Bulgarian language is said to be particularly rich in popular ballads; and it would hardly be credible, that the numerous nations with which they mixed for centuries, should not have influenced their poetry as well as their language. Nevertheless, those ballads we have met with are not distinguished in any way from the Servian; especially from those Servian ones sung in the provinces where intercourse with a Turkish population is more frequent. One specimen will be sufficient.
THE SLAVE GANGS.
O thou hill, thou high green hill!
Why, green hill, art thou so withered?
Why so withered and so wilted?
Did the winter’s frost so wilt thee?
Did the summer’s heat so parch thee?
Not the winter’s frost did wilt me,
Nor the summer’s heat did parch me,
But my glowing heart is smothered.
Yesterday three slave gangs crossed me;
Grecian maids were in the first row,
Weeping, crying bitterly:
“O our wealth! art lost for ever!”
Black-eyed maidens from Walachia
Weeping, crying in the second:
“O ye ducats of Walachia!”
Bulgar women in the third row,
Weeping, crying, “O sweet home!
O sweet home! beloved children!
Fare ye well, farewell for ever!”