2023 Author: Leah Sherlock | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 12:28
Robert Stevenson, author of the world-famous books Treasure Island, Raja's Diamond, Black Arrow, is also the author of beautiful poetry, including the ballad "Briar Honey".
History of the work
Stevenson's ballad was born in 1875 in beautiful Scotland. Scotland is the land of the Scots. From English scot is translated as "Scots", land - land. In ancient times, Scottish land was inhabited by Scots, Britons and Picts. How the latter appeared, no one knows. For the first time they are mentioned in 257 as the enemies of Rome. It is known that they united into an alliance, and then into a kingdom. The heyday of the Pictish state came in the 8th century. At the beginning of the next century they were conquered by the Scots. The Picts lost their writing and language, but the images survived.
The poem "Heather Honey" is based on a medieval legend called "The Last of the Picts". It was told in the south of Scotland, in the county of Galloway, where, according to legend, the people of the Picts ceased to exist. According to legends and chronicles, the Picts were brave warriors. The conquerors were amazed at their courage and wondered why the short Picts had so much rebelliousness and courage?
Legend of the Picts
A long time ago there lived a people called the Picts. They were tiny people, with red hair and long arms. And their feet were so wide that when it rained, they could lie upside down and cover themselves with them like umbrellas. This people was a great builder, all the ancient fortresses in the country were built by their hands. They stood in a chain from the quarry itself and passed stones to each other to the place where they built.
These little people were also famous for the ale they brewed from heather. It was an unusually accessible drink, as heather has always been plentiful in this country. Other tribes living in the country coveted the recipe for this magical drink. But the Picts did not betray the secret, which was passed from father to son with a strict order: never to let anyone know it. One war after another was fought in the country, and soon only a handful of people remained from the once great people. The Picts must have perished, but the secret of heather honey was still a closely guarded secret.
Finally, it came to the battle with the Scots, in which the Picts suffered a complete defeat. From the great people only two remained - father and son. They brought these people to the king of the Scots. And now stood before him small and defenseless Picts, and the king demanded from them the secret of heather. And he directly said that he would torture them cruelly and mercilessly if they did not do it voluntarily. Therefore, it is better to give in and tell.
The old father said: "I see what's the pointno resist. But before I reveal the secret to you, you must fulfill one condition. "Which?" the king asked. "Will you fulfill it?" - the old man answered a question with a question. "Yes," said the king, "you can trust my word." The old Pict said: “I would never want to be responsible for the death of my son. But now I wish for his death, and I am ready to tell the secret of heather honey only after his death.”
The king was very surprised by the old man's behavior and request. Although he was cruel, it was hard for him to kill his son in front of the old father. But the king kept his promise. The youth was executed. As soon as the son fell dead, the father said, “Do whatever you want with me. You could force your son to tell a secret, for youth is weak. But you can never force me!” The king was amazed that he, the king himself, could be outwitted by a simple savage. The king decided that it was not worth killing the old man. The greatest punishment for a Pict will be if he is left alive. They took the old man as a prisoner. He lived for many years, to a ripe old age - he became blind and unable to walk.
…People would have long forgotten that such a person lived. But somehow the good fellows stopped in his house and began to boast of their strength. The old man said that he would test one of their wrists so that they could compare the strength of people who lived in the old days. Well done, for the sake of laughter, they handed him an iron rod. The old man just broke it in two like a stick. “A fair amount of cartilage,” said the old man, “but not at all what it is today.”
It was the last of the Picts.
This beautiful legend formed the basis of Stevenson's ballad "Briar Honey", the main theme of which was the death of the last Picts. The idea of the poem is the struggle against the enslavers for freedom and independence. Marshak translated this ballad into Russian at a difficult time for Russia - in 1942. Then the victory over fascism depended on each person, and Stevenson's ballad calls to love the Motherland, to be persistent.
The little Picts showed by their example that dying for the Motherland is a feat. To betray the secret of heather ale means to betray your people, their traditions. Love for the native land is more precious than life. The main character, the last of the Picts, proved that it is better to die than to live in dishonor. He is the personification of a brave and courageous people. The son, like the father, is indestructible and freedom-loving. The King of Scotland strives for absolute power, he is a cruel and ruthless person.
Analysis of a ballad
The work begins with a story about the Picts, singing the heather drink. Then the plot of the plot - "the king of Scotland came" and destroyed the people of the Picts. Further development of events - heather blooms in the country, but they don’t make a drink from it, but “it was sweeter than honey.” But the secret of honey died along with the owners of this land - the little Picts. "In the caves underground" found the surviving father and son. They know the secret of heather honey, and the king interrogates them for the secret. The culmination of the ballad - at the request of the old man, the son was thrown into the sea. And the denouement of the work - the father, after the death of his son, challenges his enemies.
The old man is ready to die, but not to betray his people, not to submit to the conquerors. In this regard, the ballad goes far beyond the Scottish theme. In a small episode, the author affirms the independence of the people and proclaims the right of every people to freedom, to traditions, to their land. Several times in the work the phrase “the secret of the drink” sounds. But this is not just a heather honey recipe. This is the secret of the resilience of little meaders, which lies in the desire to find freedom and love for their native land.
The tragedy of the work is that there is no choice between life and death. The father, wise in life, understands that they will be killed anyway, and chooses death for his son. He firmly accepts it. The father also dies, but does not betray the sacred secret. Conquerors can take life from an old man, but not love for his native land and not his will.
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