Asian wedding with “Hero in Our Time” of Lermontov

“Once the old prince himself came over to invite us to a wedding. He was giving away his elder daughter and since we were kunaks [blood brothers] there was no way to say no, of course, Tatar or not.

So we went. A pack of barking dogs met us in the village. On seeing us the women hid themselves–the faces we did catch a glimpse of were far from pretty. ‘I had a much better opinion of Circassian women,’ Grigoriy Aleksandrovich said to me. ‘You wait a while,’ I replied, smiling. I had something up my sleeve.

“There was quite a crowd assembled in the prince’s house. It’s the custom among those Asiatics, you know, to invite to their weddings everyone they happen to meet. We were welcomed with all the honors due to us and shown to the best room. Before going in, though, I took care to remember where they put our horses–just in case, you know.”

“How do they celebrate weddings?” I asked the captain.

“Oh, in the usual way. First the mullah reads them something from the Koran, then presents are given to the newlyweds and all their relatives. They eat, and drink booza, until finally the horsemanship display begins, and there is always some kind of filthy clown dressed in rags riding a mangy lame nag playing the fool to amuse the company. Later, when it grows dark, what we would call a ball begins in the best room. Some miserable old man strums away on a three-stringed . . . can’t remember what they call it . . . something like our balalaika. The girls and young men line up in two rows facing each other, clap their hands and sing. Then one of the girls and a man step into the center and begin to chant verses to each other, improvising as they go, while the rest pick up the refrain. Pechorin and I occupied the place of honor, and as we sat there the host’s younger daughter, a girl of sixteen or so, came up to him and sang to him . . . what should I call it . . . a sort of compliment.”

“You don’t remember what she sang by any chance?”

“Yes, I think it went something like this: ‘Our young horsemen are strong and their caftan robes are encrusted with silver, but the young Russian officer is even stronger still and his epaulets are of gold. He is like a poplar among the others, yet he shall neither grow nor bloom in our orchard.’

M. Lermontov