Monday, August 1, 2016

Early Sources for Songs and Music in the Baltic: Brand's "Reysen" (1702) and Weber's "Das Veränderte Rußland" (1721)

I. 

This is the third part of a series where I discuss early published examples of and notes about the music and songs of the Latvians and Estonians in Livonia. As I have tried to show there wasn't much. But the few available sources offer interesting and valuable information as well as some fragments of original songs (see also: Brambats 1982; Jaremko-Porter, pp 56-67; Bula 2008; Graf 1963; Kallas 1901, p. 58 & 1902, pp. 11-5). 

In 1588 German humanist Johannes Löwenklau quoted a line he claimed he had heard Livonian peasants sing several decades ago when he was there (see: "Jeru, Jeru, Mascolon" - The Remarks About a Livonian Lament in Löwenklau's Annales Sultanorum Othmanidarum, 1588). Friedrich Menius, professor in Dorpat, included three songs - one Latvian and two Estonian - including the tunes in his Syntagma de Origine Livonorum (1635, in SRL II, p. 525). Adam Olearius, member of the Duke of Holstein's embassy to Russia and Persia during the 1630s, brought back a verse of a strange "protest song" in German translation. We find this text in his Offt begehrte Beschreibung, first published in 1647 (pp. 94-5). The rhyming suggests that this was a more modern piece: 
"Dahero diese Rhytmi barbarici von ihnen erdichtet:
Ich bin ein Lieffländischer Baur,
Mein Leben wird mir saur,
[...]
Ich gebe dem Pastor die Pflicht,
Und weiß von Gott und seinem Worte nicht". 
A similar text was published two years later by Paul Einhorn in the Historia Lettica (1649, p. 55). Einhorn claimed that this was an old "Reim" from before the reformation. In that form it looks not like a song by the locals but about them: 
Du armer Curischer Baur,
Dein Leben wird dir saur,
Du steigest auf den Baum,
Und hawest dir Sattle und Zaum,
Du gibst den Pfaffen auch ihre Pflicht,
Und weist von Gottes Wort doch nicht, &c. 
Olearius included the song also in the later editions of his book, but for some reason in low German (see 1656, pp. 113-4). In the English edition this text was left out (1662, here 2nd ed., 1669, p. 33). Otherwise it would have been the first Baltic song published in Britain. One more complete text in Estonian with German translation can be found in Christian Kelch's Liefländische Historia (1695, pp. 14-5) but that was all until the end of the 17th century. 

At that time the German clergy was busy promoting Christendom among their flock and fighting against what they regarded as pagan practices and beliefs, but not always with success (see f. ex. Glück & Polanska 2005, pp. 19-28). Olearius reported in his book that "heydnische Abgötterei" was still popular among the indigenous peasants (1647, p. 92). 

Jan Janszon Struys, another traveler passing through Livonia some years later, remarked that they knew nearly nothing of religion and called them "unverständige Heyden" (1678, p. 66). Of course this was popular cliché but on the other hand the non-German population showed a considerable cultural resilience. Not at least many pastors were often not particularly competent in this respect. 

But there were also educated and committed clergymen who learned and studied the local languages. Hymns were translated - mostly from German - and taught to the people. Since the 16th century hymn books appeared (see f. ex. Tetsch 1751; Scholz 1990, pp. 28-30, pp. 34-39, pp. 44-48; Schaudin, pp. 93-5; Juška 1997; Kšaniene 2008). Heinrich Stahl's Hand- und Hauszbuch für die Pfarherren und Hausväter Ehstnischen Fürstenthumbs included a Gesangbuch with Estonian texts (1637, available at the Internet Archive). Others would follow, like the Neu-Eestnisches Gesangbuch in 1673 (at the Internet Archive). 

Hymns in Latvian language were already published in 1587 in Undeutsche Psalmen und geistliche Lieder oder Gesenge (see new ed., 1886, at the Internet Archive). In 1615 another collection appeared, Psalmen und geistliche Lieder und Gesenge welche in der Kirche Gottes zu Riga und anderen örtern Liefflandes mehr in Lieffländischer Paursprache gesungen werden and the sub-title explicitly noted that it was "Dem gemeinen Hausgesinde und Pauren zur erbauung nutz und fromen" (title from catalog SWB). Translated hymns for the Lithuanians in East Prussia were made available even earlier. Some could be found in Martynas Mažvydas Catechism (1547). Daniel Klein's Neu Littausches Gesangbuch (1666, at SB Berlin) became the most influential collection. 

This new repertoire - sung and taught by the pastors - was competing with the traditional songs of the Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians and at least partly replaced it. This also meant that the clergymen were not interested in documenting the indigenous music and songs. In fact they regarded them as obscene and as abhorrent relics of pagan superstitions (see Arbusow, p. 152). For example Paul Einhorn - whose works include a wealth of information about Latvian culture, all ex negativo of course - reserved some of his harshest comments in the Historia Lettica (1649, p. 41) for the songs performed at weddings and claimed that he was terribly shocked: 
"Darnach werden solche unflätige, unzüchtige und leichtfertige Lieder auff ihre Sprache gesungen Tag und Nacht ohn auffhören, daß sie der Teuffel selbst nicht unflätiger und schandloser erdencken und fürbringen möchte". 
One may assume that he exaggerated a little bit for educational reasons but attitudes like this of course left not much room for any collecting efforts. Only in the following century a few open-minded enlightened pastors showed more interest in the songs of the Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians and published some examples: Philipp Ruhig in his Betrachtung der Littauischen Sprache (1745, pp. 74-9), the legendary Gotthard Friedrich Stender in Neue vollständigere Lettische Grammatik (1761, pp. 152-7) as well as August Wilhelm Hupel in the second volume of the Topographische Nachrichten von Lief- und Ehstland (1777, pp. 158-61 & plate 1). These works then in turn inspired German intellectuals like Lessing, Goethe and then of course Herder to take note of the songs of the Baltic peasants. 

But for the time in between, the late 17th and early 18th century we have two interesting and informative travel reports, one by a young scholar and the other by a diplomat. They offer some valuable information as well as a couple of texts of Baltic songs: Johan-Arnold von Brand's Reysen durch die Marck Brandenburg, Preussen, Churland, Liefland, Pleßcovien, Groß-Naugarden, Tweerien und Moscovien (1702) and Friedrich Christian Weber's Das veränderte Russland (1721). 


II. 

Johan-Arnold von Brand (1647-1691; see AHL 1, 1722, p. 512; Dunkel, 1757, pp. 7-8; Gadebusch 1772, pp. 263-5; Gadebusch 1777, pp. 94-5; Recke 1, 1827, pp. 233-4; Adelung 1846, pp. 355-6) was born in Deventer but grew up in Kleve where his father made a career in the Brandenburgian bureaucracy. He studied law and in 1673 - at the age of 26 - joined a legation to Russia. The Czar had asked for Prussian support against the Turks and the Kurfürst sent out one of his best diplomats, Joachim Scultetus von Unfried, to tell him that he was not able to help (see Pufendorf 1695, Liber XI, § 109, p. 868). 

After his return Brand apparently didn't find the time to publish his findings. Instead he pursued his career. In 1680 he received a doctorate in law and became judge and member of the city council. Already in 1683 he was appointed professor at the university of Duisburg. But his academic career didn't last long . Only eight years later he died "von übermäßigen studiren" (AHL 1, 1722, p. 512). A decade later his notes about the journey to Moscow were edited and published by his friend and colleague Heinrich-Christian von Hennin, professor for Medicine, History, Greek and Latin in Duisburg. A Dutch translation appeared a year later: 
  • Johan-Arnold von Brand, Reysen durch die Marck Brandenburg, Preussen, Churland, Liefland, Pleßcovien, Groß-Naugarden, Tweerien und Moscovien: in welchen vieles nachdencklich wegen gemeldter Länder, wie auch der Litthauer, Lebensart, Gottesdienst, allerhand Ceremonien, Kleydung, Regierung, Rechtspflegung, und dergleichen angemercket: anbey Eine Seltsame und sehr Anmeerckliche Beschreibung von Sibirien. Alles nachgesehen; und mit nöthigen Übersetzungen, Anmerckungen und Kupferstücken gezieret und vermehret; auch mit der über des Hn. Urhebers seeligen Abschied gehaltenen Leich-reden herauß gegeben Durch Henrich-Christian von Hennin, von Wesel, Wesel, 1702
    at University of Tartu Repository [pdf], now also at the Internet Archive
    at ÖNB [= GB; plates are missing or mutilated] 
  • Johan-Arnold von Brand, Nieuwe En Nauwkeurige Reis-Beschryving van 't Mark-Brandenburg, Pruissen, Courland, Litthauwen, Lyfland, Plescovien, Groot-Naugardien, Tweerien en Moscovien ; Waar in de Levens-aart dier Volkeren, hunne Godsdienst, Kleeding, wijze van Regeering, byzonder net beschreeven, en veele tot nog toe onbekende stukken aan den dag gebragt worden. Als meede Een Aanmerkens-waardige Beschrijving van het Koningrijk Siberien, en den Zabel-Vangst door J. A. Brand, Schouten, Utrecht, 1703 [not yet digitized] 
Hennin added a preface - including a translation of the relevant part from Pufendorf's book (p. ivv-vv) -, his own funeral speech for Brand (pp. 472-95) - that offers an helpful overview of his life - as well as notes, illustrations and an index. In fact this was an excellent publication that made available a lot of interesting information that otherwise would have been lost. 

According to Hennin it was Brand's task to study "fremder Völcker art und Sitten" (p. 481) and he clearly had a kind of systematic approach. Everywhere they came he made notes about the local culture, the language, political organisation, geography and more as if he had a checklist to work with. In a chapter with the title "Kurtze Beschreibung Churlandes, der Einwohner Sitten und Leben wie auch Regierung" (pp. 62-83) Brand lists the important towns and villages and describes for example the economy as well as the clothes, the bath-house, wedding customs, relics of pagan traditions and even quotes the Lord's Prayer in Latvian. 

But he also heard some original Latvian songs and notes "welche gemeinlich alle kurtz sind, und werden etliche mahl wiederholet, schier alle auf einer arth und einstimmiger melodey": they were all short, repeated several times and sung to the same tune. Brand quotes three of them, all in their original language and in German translation (pp. 75-6). These were the earliest examples of Latvian dainas published for a Western readership. Of course there was one song in Menius' book in 1635 but that was a very obscure and rare publication.


The following chapter (pp. 90-116) is about "Etliche Litthauwische Sitten und gebräuche" and here he also seems to have worked with his checklist: there are remarks about raising children, clothes, wedding customs, funerals and more as well as some notes about the Lithuanian language. He once again quotes the Lord's Prayer (p. 102) but also some Lithuanian proverbs (pp. 108-9) and even adds "Etliche wörter der Litthauischen Sprach" (pp. 110-116). 

In between there are some songs (pp. 103-108), at first two well-known hymns: "Auf meinem lieben Gott" and "Christe der du bist Tag und Licht". He refers to Klein's hymnal (1666) as the source for the second one but in fact both can be found there (pp. 288-9, p. 392, at SB Berlin). It is not clear if these two pieces were actually sung by the Lithuanians or if they were included to illustrate their language. But thankfully he also quotes from two secular popular songs he had heard (pp. 107-8): two lines of an drinking song ("Der Litthauwer gewöhnliches Trinck-Lied oder Wiena karta") and one verse of a lament of a lover for untrue bride (""Klaglied eines Liebenden an Seine untreuwe Braut"). 

The next stop were the Estonians in Livonia (pp. 133-68). Once again he discussed many relevant topics, for example thegeography, clothes, "Speysen und Träncke", religion and wedding customs. Very interesting is a description of a wedding procession with a bagpiper (pp. 147-9) which is much more detailed than the one in Olearius' Vermehrte Newe Beschreibung (1656, pp. 107-8). Of course he was familiar with the latter's book - it is regularly referred to in Hennin's notes - and also quotes the curious "protest song" mentioned above ("Ick bin ein Liffländisch Bur [...]", here pp. 152-3), not the original version from the first edition but the one in low German used in Olearius' work since the second edition (1656, pp. 113-4). 

In the chapter about the language he also quotes some songs (pp. 164-8). There is first a "Liedlein" of only 5 lines that he had heard the peasants sing. In this case he doesn't include a translation but only notes that it was quite similar to the songs of the Latvians in Courland. Later this little piece was reprinted and translated into German by Neuss in his Ehstnische Volkslieder (II, 1851, No. 72B, p. 242 ). In fact this is a love song of the most direct kind and one may assume that either Hennin or Brand or already Brand's informant preferred to avoid a German text for moral reasons: 
Komm zu mir, o Mägdelein,
Neben mir die Nacht zu ruhen!
Gieb mir gieb - was sunst,
Gieb es, goldenes Jungfräulein! 
But there are also two hymns Brand had received from a pastor: "Christe der du bist Tag und Licht" and Martin Luther's "Gott der Vater steh uns bey". The first one was sung to the German melody but interestingly he notes that the latter used to be performed with an Estonian tune: "In eygner Melodey, welche gantz barbarisch war" (p. 167). Apparently the clergy's efforts were not completely futile and at least some hymns were adopted by the locals. On the other hand we can see that Brand - like other Western observers - was not really fond of their music. This may have been the reason he preferred not to note any original tunes. 

How did he get all this information and the songs? Brand was only there for a short time and he surely was not able to learn all the languages. One may assume that he relied heavily on the knowledge of the local pastors. At least some are acknowledged in the text as informants (see f. ex. p. 107, p. 164). But he was also clearly familiar with the relevant literature, especially Olearius' work that may have served as kind of guide for him. In fact Hennin in his notes remarked that this book may serve as a supplement to the latter's description of Livonia (p. 360). 

All in all Brand offers here a wealth of interesting remarks about the musical traditions of the indigenous Baltic peasants. The songs quoted by him are especially useful. Even if his judgment was not always positive he shows most of the time a considerable fairness. He describes here two song cultures living side by side. There are the imported and translated religious songs that the clergy taught the locals. They were intend on eradicating their subjects' traditional culture, particularly the old songs that were regarded as relics and expressions of pagan traditions. But this project never really succeeded completely. The non-German - "undeutsche" - population managed to preserve their traditional songs at least partly and when the real collecting began in the 19th century numerous pieces in the old style could be unearthed among the Latvians and Estonians.


III. 

Another observer who was there four decades later offers a similar picture. Friedrich Christian Weber, a Hannoverian diplomat, spent the years 1714 - 1719 in Russia. In 1721 he published - anonymously - his journal of his stay there, Das veränderte Rußland. This became a very influential and popular book. Translations into English and French appeared soon, in 1723 and 1725, as did further volumes and new editions in Germany. Weber, about whom we don't know much (see Wikipedia), also found some time to visit the Baltic and one day he happened to hear some Estonian rural workers singing in the fields during harvest time (pp. 70-1; see Engl. ed., p. 100; French ed., pp. 139-40): 
"Wie ich unterwegens in der Erndte-Zeit die Schnitter im Felde antraff [...] hörte ich allenthalben ein wüstes Gesänge, welches diese Leute bey ihrer Arbeit trieben, und vernahm von einem Prediger, daß es noch alte heydnische Lieder ohne Reimen wären, die man ihnen nicht abgewöhnen könte, wiewohl man doch nach gerade auch die Esthische Sprache in eine Reim-Kunst zu bringen sich bemühete, und schon viele Evangelische Gesänge in Esthische Verse gesetzet hätte". 
Weber had of course some problems with what he heard. For him it was "ein wüstes Gesänge" ["rude chanting"]. But this may be seen the usual kind of cultural dissonance experienced by Western observers. Already Sebastian Münster had reported in the Cosmographia (here 1550, p. 929) his informant's claim that the Livonian peasants' singing sounded like the "miserable howling of the wolves" (""sie heülen so jämerlich wie die wölff"). Even an open-minded visitor like Adam Olearius described a song - as quoted above - as "rhytmi barbarici". It would still take several decades until other educated observers from Germany like Hamann and Herder heard and understood this music in a completely different way (see Arbusow, pp. 129-147, pp. 157-160). 

Weber also talked to a pastor who told him that these were their "old pagan songs without rhymes". The clergy still hadn't managed to get their flock to give them up in spite of all the hymns that had already been translated into Estonian. Apparently the situation hadn't changed much since Brand's visit. But he also quoted an original "Bauren-Aria", not in Estonian but in Latvian, that he had received from a student. This was not a traditonal daina but a modern secular song in rhymes, what would later be called zinge (see Sneibe 1997). Popular songs in the Western style were also an important part of the singing traditions.


It took several decades until more original songs were collected and published. Stender's Grammatik with a chapter about Latvian poetry appeared in 1761 and Hupel's Topographische Nachrichten with some Estonian songs came out only in 1777. Therefore both Brand's and Weber's publications were of special importance as they offer very valuable information as well as original songs from a time for which there are - besides Kelch's Liefländische Historia (1695) - no other relevant sources. At least Weber's book also later had some influence on Herder who quoted his remarks in the Volkslieder (II, 1779, p. 23). 

Literature: 
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    at UB Göttingen; at Google Books [= NLN]