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The Legend Of St. Sophia Of Kioff



I.

[The Poet describes the city and spelling of Kiow, Kioff, or Kiova.]

A thousand years ago, or more,
A city filled with burghers stout,
And girt with ramparts round about,
Stood on the rocky Dnieper shore.
In armor bright, by day and night,
The sentries they paced to and fro.
Well guarded and walled was this town, and called
By different names, I'd have you to know;
For if you looks in the g'ography books,
In those dictionaries the name it varies,
And they write it off Kieff or Kioff, Kiova or Kiow.

II.

[Its buildings, public works, and ordinances, religious and civil.]

Thus guarded without by wall and redoubt,
Kiova within was a place of renown,
With more advantages than in those dark ages
Were commonly known to belong to a town.
There were places and squares, and each year four fairs,
And regular aldermen and regular lord-mayors;
And streets, and alleys, and a bishop's palace;
And a church with clocks for the orthodox—
With clocks and with spires, as religion desires;
And beadles to whip the bad little boys
Over their poor little corduroys,
In service-time, when they DIDN'T make a noise;
And a chapter and dean, and a cathedral-green
With ancient trees, underneath whose shades
Wandered nice young nursery-maids.

[The poet shows how a certain priest dwelt at Kioff, a godly
clergyman, and one that preached rare good sermons.]

Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-ding-a-ring-ding,
The bells they made a merry merry ring,
From the tall tall steeple; and all the people
(Except the Jews) came and filled the pews—
Poles, Russians and Germans,
To hear the sermons
Which HYACINTH preached godly to those Germans and Poles,
For the safety of their souls.

III.

[How this priest was short and fat of body;]

A worthy priest he was and a stout—
You've seldom looked on such a one;
For, though he fasted thrice in a week,
Yet nevertheless his skin was sleek;
His waist it spanned two yards about
And he weighed a score of stone.

IV.

[And like unto the author of 'Plymley's Letters.']

A worthy priest for fasting and prayer
And mortification most deserving;
And as for preaching beyond compare,
He'd exert his powers for three or four hours,
With greater pith than Sydney Smith
Or the Reverend Edward Irving.

V.

[Of what convent he was prior, and when the convent was built.]

He was the prior of Saint Sophia
(A Cockney rhyme, but no better I know)—
Of St. Sophia, that Church in Kiow,
Built by missionaries I can't tell when;
Who by their discussions converted the Russians,
And made them Christian men.

VI.

[Of Saint Sophia of Kioff; and how her statue miraculously
travelled thither.]

Sainted Sophia (so the legend vows)
With special favor did regard this house;
And to uphold her converts' new devotion
Her statue (needing but her legs for HER ship)
Walks of itself across the German Ocean;
And of a sudden perches
In this the best of churches,
Whither all Kiovites come and pay it grateful worship.

VII.

[And how Kioff should have been a happy city; but that]

Thus with her patron-saints and pious preachers
Recorded here in catalogue precise,
A goodly city, worthy magistrates,
You would have thought in all the Russian states
The citizens the happiest of all creatures,—
The town itself a perfect Paradise.

VIII.

[Certain wicked Cossacks did besiege it,]

No, alas! this well-built city
Was in a perpetual fidget;
For the Tartars, without pity,
Did remorselessly besiege it.

Tartars fierce, with sword and sabres,
Huns and Turks, and such as these,
Envied much their peaceful neighbors
By the blue Borysthenes.

[Murdering the citizens,]

Down they came, these ruthless Russians,
From their steppes, and woods, and fens,
For to levy contributions
On the peaceful citizens.

Winter, Summer, Spring, and Autumn,
Down they came to peaceful Kioff,
Killed the burghers when they caught 'em,
If their lives they would not buy off.

[Until they agreed to pay a tribute yearly.]

Till the city, quite confounded
By the ravages they made,
Humbly with their chief compounded,
And a yearly tribute paid.

[How they paid the tribute, and suddenly refused it,]

Which (because their courage lax was)
They discharged while they were able:
Tolerated thus the tax was,
Till it grew intolerable,

[To the wonder
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:41 min read
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William Makepeace Thackeray

William Makepeace Thackeray was an English novelist of the 19th century. more…

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