The Motif of Nature in Macedonian and Chinese Folk Poetry

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The Motif of Nature in Macedonian and Chinese Folk Poetry

Analysis of selected songs from Macedonian and Chinese folk poetry

Selected songs from the Collection of Songs by the Miladinov Brothers

Hey Ljulje

This song belongs to the category of harvest songs, i.e. songs that had been sung while working in the fields, whereas the rhythm of the song also provided the rhythm for the work of the farmers. It has a pronounced rhythmical structure emphasised by the repetition of the chorus “Hey Ljulje” after every verse. However, the rhythm itself is an indicator of the ritual character of the song, having in mind that the main motif of the song is the fertility of nature. An accompanying motif is that of the metamorphosis of nature as an ancillary celebration of the vegetation cycle as one of the dominant themes in folklore. Moreover, the vegetation cycle is concurrent with the productive agricultural cycle of the community. The harvest represents a kind of end to the natural vegetation cycle, but at the same time it is also the beginning of food production that will help the community to survive until the next harvest. This contrast, but also interaction is reflected in the structure of the song, too. The first part of the song is devoted to the description of nature and the landscape of the field where nature bears its fruit, while the second part is dedicated to the “landscape” of the community: the barns, cellars and the house where the products derived from nature are stored.

The description of the natural landscapes is carried out by two different procedures. The primary description is done by enumerating the elements of the landscape where there is a symbiosis of nature and man, who of course is also part of nature. The landscape, which is the embodiment of the fertility of nature, includes man through the character of the ploughmen, the diggers and the cutters, while they are contrasted in nature with the dew, the field, the sea, the wine and the wheat. Due to the economic nature of the genre of the ritual song where rhythm and melody prevail, there are no long descriptions of nature except for verbs and adjectives indicating fertility such as ‘abundance’, ‘fruit’ and ‘fruitful’. At the same time, we have to note the fact that such songs are intended for an audience which leads a rural life and is well acquainted with its features, so the folk minstrel has no need to use additional descriptive markers to highlight the motifs.

The second important motif in the song is the flight of the butterfly. The butterfly is also connected to the motif of the metamorphosis in nature due to its transformation from larvae to a butterfly, thus going through all the stages of the vegetation cycle. Its flight is a substitute in this song for the frequent motif of the wind or the rain, which are used due to their cyclical nature to link the different stages of the vegetation cycle in nature. This time, it is the butterfly that flies “from ploughman to ploughman, from digger to digger, from cutter to cutter”, thus incorporating man in the overarching fecundity of nature. Finally, the butterfly’s flight also personifies the rhythm of the song, as well as that of the activity of the workers in the field.

The last portion of the song echoes the ritual aspect which once again helps to connect nature and the community of men through the stories about the barley, flax, wine and wheat in the houses and the barns of the village. The song ends with the ritual call to be charitable to the poor to ensure that next year will be bountiful too, thus completing the motif of birth and death, as well as of giving and sacrifice as a necessary act to appease the higher forces in nature to gift people with abundant harvest the following year.

„My Big Field is Crying “

This song, which is also part of the harvest cycle, pursuant to its themes and motifs also overlaps with the songs of family life because of its love theme. The landscape in this song serves the role to set up the stage for the main theme – wooing the girl, which then is linked to the theme of fertility, infusing the landscape and its elements with dual meaning. The field has a metonymic function to both represent nature and also to personify the character of the girl or woman as symbol of fertility. The association with the character of Mother Earth is further emphasised by the design of the landscape in the song, where it is described as a “big field” located on “top of the mountain” leading the reader to subconsciously sense the silhouette of the goddess Mother Earth. The position on the top of the mountain introduces the motif of adventure, the hero’s quest to brave the mountain to reach the field.

The motif of fertility is again intensified through the presence of nature, because the hero that shall win over the field, i.e. the girl should also plough it and sow white “wheat with black sheaves”. By completing his quest, the hero shall ensure the continuation of the vegetation cycle in nature, but at the same time also guarantee fertility in the community, consequently its future and continuity. The birth of the crop signifies economic prosperity for the family/community through the “nine barns breaming full”, but also represents the birth of new generations through the enumeration of the nine sons/daughters/grandchildren. The repetition of this collective cycle is indicated by the act of the marriage between the hero and the girl, as well as all the marriages of the coming generations. The ritual aspect is expressed through the repetition of the verses in both parts of the song, as well as with the act of baptism which introduces the Christian aspect overlaid onto the previous older pagan foundation.

AuthorElena Damjanoska
Translated byMilan Damjanoski
2019-10-21T10:13:05+00:00 October 1st, 2019|Categories: Reviews, Literature, Blesok no. 128|0 Comments