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Whereas Funikov made use of the verbal art of the skomorokhs, the traditions of the wandering minstrels, showmen and jesters, a contemporary of his, the poet Evstraty, who was a supporter of Vasily Shuisky, borrowed from the poetic culture of Western Europe in his prayer in verse of 1621. This prayer, written in syllabic verse with alternate rhyme, is prefaced by the author with the Latin words serpenticum versus, i.e., “serpentine verse”. And Evstraty’s poem is indeed represented graphically in the form of a serpent. This is done as follows: the common elements (inflexions) are omitted from neighbouring lines and written between the lines. As a result the lines form a zigzag, or serpentine pattern, otherwise it is quite impossible to read them. Take, for example, the two consecutive quatrains: To God in God,/to the light from the light,/in plain words /in all time,/be praise and glory, honour, worship,/ extolling, power / and thanksgiving An Evstraty’s manuscript they appear like this (with a syllabic system of 4-5-4-Б; 8-6-8-6):


 All manner of “curious” verse was common in European poetry of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, for example, palindromes, which read the same from left to right and right to left. There was also a special genre of representational epigram in which the text was set out in the form of a cross, a star, a goblet, the sun’s rays or tongues of flame, a heart, and so on. Evstraty’s poem is a typical example of this “verbal alchemy”.

The poems of Ivan Funikov and Evstraty were at opposite ends of the extremely broad spectrum within which Russian poetry of the seventeenth century was to develop. From buffoon­like ridiculing of the world to the meditative lyric, from clowning to “theology in verse”, from the rayeshnik to strict syllabic verse, these were its thematic and metric possibilities, which can be seen already in the Time of Troubles. It was the realisation of these possibilities that Russian poets of the seventeenth century took upon themselves.

One constant factor was the influence of the poetry of the Ukraine, Byelorussia and Poland. As we know, the Pseudo-Dmitry introduced music and singing at his court and set up court posts in the Polish manner. He evidently did not forget the post of court poet (Polish poets of that period included many noblemen, because the art of composing verse was part of a Polish nobleman’s education). More likely than not he intended to bestow this post upon his favourite, Prince Ivan Khvorostinin.

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