Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Struga. Pictures of our Landscape.

The River Struga, Saxony

I sometimes wonder how much interesting writing on landscape in other literatures remains inaccessible to a monoglot English reader.  Consider, for example, the poetry and prose of Lusatia, written in Upper and Lower Sorbian (Slavonic languages also known historically as Lusatian or Wendish). The work of Kito Lorenc sounds intriguing: he wrote Struga. Wobrazy našeje Krajiny (The Struga.  Pictures of our Landscape) in 1967 while employed at the Sorbian Ethnological Research Institute (and more recently a volume called Ty porno mi (1988) in which, according to Gerald Stone in the Everyman Companion to East European Literature, 'erotic themes predominate'). You can read a few of Lorenc's poems, translated by Robert Elsie, in the anthology, A Rock Against these Alien Waves; 'Painting Easter Eggs', for example, which funnily enough is exactly what my sons are doing as I write these words.

Map of the Lusatians, c. 1715-24

The 'father' of modern Sorbian literature was Hendrij Zejler, a Lutheran pastor who wrote a long sequence, Počasy (The Seasons), inspired by James Thomson's work of the same name (the first volume appeared in 1847).  Apparently these poems 'embody the peasant's unsentimental view of Nature and found great favour with the common people', but I'm not clear whether they convey any particular sense of the Lusatian landscape. After Zejler's death, the Sorbian composer Korla Awgust Locor set 'The Seasons' to music and it would be interesting to know the extent to which it uses sound to evoke the natural world.  The Sorbian poem I'd most like to know more about was written by a contemporary of Zejler, another pastor, Kito Fryco Stempel.  Te tśi rychłe tšubały (The three lively trumpets), written between 1859 and 1863, is decribed by Geoffrey Stone as consisting 'of 522 syllabic sestine representing the world as an acoustic phenomenon.'

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