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The Great Bear: A Thematic Anthology of Oral Poetry in the Finno-Ugrian Languages Hardcover – September 22, 1994

ISBN-13: 978-0195210927 ISBN-10: 0195210921

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Hardcover, September 22, 1994
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"Ten Windows" by Jane Hirshfield
Hirshfield explores how poetry’s world-making takes place: word by charged word. By expanding what is imaginable and sayable, Hirshfield proposes, poems expand what is possible. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 816 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (September 22, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195210921
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195210927
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 1.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,893,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Lovitt HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on August 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
There are 450 poems, songs, charms, prayers, and laments in "The Great Bear," organized in thematic sections such as "The Cosmos," "Hunting," and "Healing." All of the entries are presented in both the original language and English, with a scholarly introduction to each thematic section. This collection from the Oxford University Press represents the oral tradition of fifteen peoples scattered across Northern Europe from Scandinavia, deep into Russia and beyond the Urals, and of the Hungarians in Central Europe.
There are extensive footnotes that illuminate the tradition and meaning of the entries, some of which are fragments of larger, lost works. It is interesting to read a poem such as "To the Coffin-Makers," and then turn to the commentary that explains Karelian burial traditions:
"...The need to use timber from trees in which birds had not rested or sung (cf. II. 9-10) reflects a belief in soul-birds. It was essential to avoid upsetting the deceased---should he or she return in the form of a bird---by felling trees in which the soul might one day wish to rest."
One of the more recondite marriage traditions among the Finnish, Karelian, and Estonian peoples involved teasing the prospective bride and bride-groom: "The theme of seeking the best bride and finding the worst is a central feature....of the bride-teasing poems [that] were customarily sung by the groom's relatives at his home." Here are a few lines from "Teasing the Bride:"
"Listen, precious brother's son/ if you could but have taken an apple from higher boughs/ from the top of other trees!/...Attendants, you maid's brothers:/ take this away when you go/ the one you brought when you came!/ Don't take her along the road--/ take her over the big swamp!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Lovitt HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on August 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover
There are 450 poems, songs, charms, prayers, and laments in "The Great Bear," organized in thematic sections such as "The Cosmos," "Hunting," and "Healing." All of the entries are presented in both the original language and English, with a scholarly introduction to each thematic section. This collection from the Oxford University Press represents the oral tradition of fifteen peoples scattered across Northern Europe from Scandinavia, deep into Russia and beyond the Urals, and of the Hungarians in Central Europe.

There are extensive footnotes that illuminate the tradition and meaning of the entries, some of which are fragments of larger, lost works. It is interesting to read a poem such as "To the Coffin-Makers," and then turn to the commentary that explains Karelian burial traditions:

"...The need to use timber from trees in which birds had not rested or sung (cf. II. 9-10) reflects a belief in soul-birds. It was essential to avoid upsetting the deceased---should he or she return in the form of a bird---by felling trees in which the soul might one day wish to rest."

One of the more recondite marriage traditions among the Finnish, Karelian, and Estonian peoples involved teasing the prospective bride and bride-groom: "The theme of seeking the best bride and finding the worst is a central feature....of the bride-teasing poems [that] were customarily sung by the groom's relatives at his home." Here are a few lines from "Teasing the Bride:"

"Listen, precious brother's son/ if you could but have taken an apple from higher boughs/ from the top of other trees!/...Attendants, you maid's brothers:/ take this away when you go/ the one you brought when you came!/ Don't take her along the road--/ take her over the big swamp!
Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I cannot express the depth that this Anthology has illuminated the beliefs, rituals, cultural understandings and the inner selves of a set of nations with a common proto-language and their physical connections, genetic connections and myriad of other connections to many of the more established nations of Hungarian, Finnic and Balitc, Siberian, to the lesser known Karelian, Mansi, Komi, Khanty, Udmurt, Vespsian and Ingrian, Lapp, Livonian, Mordvin, Vote, Ob, Mari, and Estonian cultures.

Each of the poems are translated into English alongside their original tongue. Included, beyond just the translations and and historical context is a valuable Commentary on each section and establishes each 'provenance' of the poem, tale, charm, ritual, or history; including its performer, date of known origin, place of performance, the collector and the source of the text. As a genetic descendant Uralic Finno-Ugric stock it is a must for my family library.

There are also several photos of rituals (the Bear-Feast, Hungarian Wedding and Tver'-Karelian Funeral) along with two valuable tables that highlight the Uralic Languages, the peoples, their populations and present locations and the evolution from generic group to proto-language to present day language and a map of these zones across the northern and central eastern expanse of Europe.
Subjects covered:
The Cosmos
Hunting
Agriculture
Animal Husbandry and Nomadism
Festivities
Love
Self
The Conscript
Marrying
Healing
Death
and the Epic

An essential read for numerous academic specialists as well as those like me who collect historical data for genealogical context.
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