Harvest songs

Harvest songs. Class of ritual songs and lyric folk songs associated with the harvest period and divisible into three groups that coincided with the preparations for harvesting, the harvest itself, and the aftermath of the harvest.

Zazhynky songs accompanied the rituals at the beginning of the harvest (see Harvest rituals) such as the tying of the first sheaf. They bestow honor upon the master and mistress and ask nature to yield its fruits and grant the reapers strength to ensure an easy and successful harvesting period.

Harvesting (zhnyvarski) songs were not associated with any form of ritual. They were sung while working in the fields or walking to and from the fields. Most of them spoke of the reaper's hard work from sunrise to sunset. Besides field labor, they depict relations between the farmhands and the master. Harvesting songs often address the forces of nature: they rebuke the sun for rising too early and setting too late, or ask the moon to light the way home.

Obzhynky songs are related to the rituals that close the harvest. By theme they can be divided into several subgroups: (1) finishing songs, which are connected with the reaping of the last field (‘Oi, ty, nyvo, nyvon'ko’ and ‘Do kintsia, zhenchyky, do kintsia’); (2) songs for the tying of the ‘beard’ at the border of the mown field (‘Borodu pololy, ruchky pokololy’ and ‘Oi, chyia to boroda’); (3) songs for the tying of the last sheaf and obzhynky garland (‘Ziidy khmaron'ko z neba’ and ‘Kotyvsia vinochok po poliu’); (4) songs accompanying the procession to the master's cottage (‘Buvai, nyvo, zdorova’ and ‘Shchos' u seli dym kuryt'’); (5) songs for the arrival at the master's cottage (‘Vyidy, panochku, vyidy’ and ‘Kazala nam nyvka’); and (6) songs sung in the master's house (‘A v nashoho hospodaria toloka’ and ‘Sydyt' pan na pokuti’).

The composition of harvest songs is distinct. They are remarkable for their emotive language, colorful epithets, and hyperbolic comparisons. Psychological parallelism and the personification of natural entities are typical of these songs. Their melodies are archaic and closely related to wedding songs. In Soviet Ukraine the traditional harvest songs were being revived to some extent. They appeared with increasing frequency in the repertoire of amateur artistic groups. However, attempts to compose new ‘Soviet harvest songs’ were not very successful. Contemporary harvest songs accounted for only 12.5 percent of the total collection, and even these were essentially modifications of traditional songs incorporating the use of current terminology.

Krut’, Iu. (comp). Zhnyvars’ki pisni (Kyiv 1971)

Mykola Mushynka

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 2 (1989).]

List of related links from Encyclopedia of Ukraine pointing to Harvest songs entry:

A referral to this page is found in 6 entries.