Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"Rufinka": Bulgarian folk song about death in spring

One of the best known and beloved Bulgarian folk songs is Rufinka bolna legnala (Rufinka was lying ill), originated some 150-200 years ago in the Rhodopa mountain (although, similarly to other Rhodopean songs, it is very difficult to sing). It was created by Bulgarian Muslims and, as far as I know, is the only element of their culture incorporated in mainstream Bulgarian culture. Once I read an article about the background of the song. According to it, Rufie (informally Rufinka) was a real person, a girl from a well-to-do family. About age 20 and before getting married, she succumbed to a progressive fatal disease, probably tuberculosis. Before her death, she was asked what she was more sorry for - her wedding dress or the world. The historical Rufie reportedly answered, "For the dress, because I shall never put it on." However, the character of the song gives a different answer - see below.

The lyrics in Bulgarian (in the original dialect) can be found e.g. at this forum. The participant supplying the text writes, "This is perhaps the only folk song I truly admire and when I listen to it, everything in me bristles up." My opinion is similar. This song in a very simple way gives you the tragedy of being human, of having a self-aware spirit longing for existence but trapped within a mortal body. It is felt even more clearly because of the mentioned abundance of life in spring, and because Rufinka despite her religion does not seem to believe in afterlife.

Here is my (quite rude) attempt of translation:


Rufinka was lying ill / there in the high mountain.

No one was by her side / only her old mother.

She was telling Rufinka, / "Rufinka my dear daughter,

Are you sorry for your wedding dress, / your dress and your beloved?"

"My dear, my dear mother, / I am not sorry for my dress,

I am sorry for the world, / because spring has come now,

Everything's coming out of earth, / and I shall go into earth.

Mother, call Mizho's Fatma, / let her come, and I'll tell her

To marry my beloved, / to take my wedding dress.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This song and lyric are very nice.
Thank you, Maya