The sun rises and sets

My father says the Russian prisoner’s song he learned from Mensheviks in Mexico City at the time of the victory of Stalingrad is called “My window” but really I think it is called “The sun rises and sets.” Here are some lyrics for one version of it in Russian but there is a book Russian folk lyric from Indiana University, with a foreword by Vladimir Propp, that has a most beautiful version.

This last version appears in a play by Maxim Gorky called Lower depths, and according to Propp the song was very widely sung in 1905. The final stanza is an exact translation of part of Black raven, a very important song about war and death. Black raven will re-convince you of the horrors of war and the marvels of Russian culture. Our ancestor spoke twelve languages and I would like to learn Russian.

I learned looking for my father’s song that there is a whole genre of prison and criminals’ songs in Russia–as one might have guessed. I learned about the cantautor Mikhail Krug and the important neo-prison song Vladimirskiy central. I have seen photographs and videos of current Russian prisons and they resemble U.S. prisons very greatly.

I also discovered an amazing tenor, Dmitri Smirnov. There is a 1912 recording of him singing a Rachmaninoff song called “My window” and I wonder if it is related.


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