The Spreewald Wedding

Mato Kosyk was born in Werben in 1853 and died in America in 1940.  At first a railway worker and later a Lutheran pastor, he became a leading Lower Wendish poet.  He immigrated to America and concerned himself until his death with the Wendish immigrants to the country.  He penned the famous Lower Wendish epics The Treason of Margrave Gero and A Wendish Wedding in the Spreewald , and numerous shorter Lower Wendish poems. The middle school in Briesen is named after Kosyk. – translated by Charles Wukasch

Kosyk won a name for himself with his hexametrical written idyllic of “The Wendish Wedding in the Spreewald”, where he lovingly and warmly portrays in three songs the life of Wendish farmers.

George Adam, 1900 From: “Hartmut Zwahr: “The People of My Country.”  VEB Publishing House,  Bautzen 1984. Page 312

The Wendish (Sorbian) Wedding in Spreewald


The eve-of-the-wedding at the home of the bridegroom

The thoughts of the father and the mother

The father

Joy is giving me wings.  With joy I am young again, even though I also have a head of hair that is beginning to grow gray.  My veins are pulsating stronger; the fire of youth warms me up; new smooth skin and strength stream through the years of age.  My heart warmly feels the beauty and splendor of our earth.  My spirit soars heavenward, driven by happy excitement.  Peace of soul, you are the treasure above all earthly treasures, you fulfill my wish, it more than ever crowns all my wishes; see the greatest worry is gone, has disappeared from me, very soon this will be witnessed by the Word of the heavenly covenant.  It is happiness, nothing but happiness, who could ever bring one something more than this?   The world appears different to me, I myself have become different.  I could immediately sing the lusty pieces of youth, like the birds are able to chirp their song in the sky.  I could shed tears, which joyfully glow in my heart.  Thus I am filled with the feeling of inward happiness.

The dowry [or trousseau] for the bride

The narrator

It didn’t take long before things around became lively; immediately a dog, the poodle, barked, the rest followed.  All the wagons of the rich mayor of the village now came driving up, fully loaded with various household effects of the kind Lejna, totally and completely decorated with garlands, enclosed in wickerwork [baskets, etc., fresh flowers and plants.   The yard was full of people.  The men with great care carry and place the furnishings into the residential home, as the men emptied the horse drawn wagons!  And the room was big.  Carefully one carried the treasures to the right place inside and set them down.  Painted bright red, the clothing closet became impressive next to the room’s door; a person could see himself in it, for the color’s brightness shone like a mirror.  In front of the other wall stood the dish cabinet; the wife now lined it up into it with expensive plates and placed them so that the flowery decoration of this could always be seen by an observer.  Chairs stood practically in every corner of the room, firmly put together out of various kinds of hardwood.  Now boxes and chests were dragged into more rooms, all chests were decorated with wreaths and with flowers drawn on them.  The lady of the house could hardly wait to see for herself the linen that was in these chests, and with desire to look at it all piece by piece.  There, in the first chest, she found a big bale of linen, well spun by the mayor’s maids, yet woven by Lejna alone, the beautiful daughter.  Also the second chest held a bundle of linen, where it was white as snow, bleached and folded together.  Now the wife looked at the contents of the remaining boxes brightly and in a good mood, for she found the requirements for the beds.  Tightly stuffed into sacks there came along the feathers, in bed cover and also in pillows in great number; all feather soft from their own geese and chickens.  While the wife still was looking for this and that, with many hands of the coachman [the coachmen unloaded various kinds of kitchen equipment…] were brought in from the last wagon various kinds of kitchen equipment, and they made room for them.  There were earthenware pots, glazed over from inside and out, big ones as well as small ones – and each was necessary for a home.  In addition there also came in a beautiful number of iron pots, which clearly showed what a thoughtful, considerate mind Lejna had.  There followed in tubs, white and clean that of course were old, yet scrubbed clean.  The tub was grabbed and held in iron hoops.  There also appeared new tubs. And in a wash tub, look, there were laid bowls and spoons, straining cloths, stirring spoons, twirling stick, the coffee grinders and knives, big and little dishes [the Sorbian text actually makes clear that it holds not only dishes but also other equipment to be used on the table], whatever belongs in a kitchen, and last but not least yet a butter-tub was brought in.  After all of the boxes were unloaded from the wagon one by one, swallow after swallow of beer and also brandy flowed through their throats as gracious thanks from the busy housewife, along with the dispensing of bread and meat.  Then they hastily went back home, as they had been ordered to do by the mayor.

Discussions by the women on the-eve-of-the-wedding

The mother

I still wish very much that also the young woman might with wisdom hold sway in house and home and not lack in energetic pluck when at times it is appropriate to speak with sharp words; men obviously act shrewdly, they think that this is not necessary, that all advice from wives is empty nagging that is totally unnecessary.   However we experienced housewives know better!  Don’t we too often see right in our own homes how the husband leads and turns everything according to his own head, that he regards his married wife merely as a maid servant?  That however without ceasing drives towards a sad ending.  Blindly the husband rushes ahead and pushes himself into various corners, with power wants to do the impossible – naturally it does not happen.  Thereupon he drinks and guzzles in order to forget the household needs; without purpose, she becomes renewed, becomes twice as strong as she was before; but this is not enough, he blames his spouse for everything, so that the poor lady cries, in vain she weeps and laments.

 One woman

 Still amidst all this the blame could also be laid upon the young woman.  Sometimes there arises a quarrel, a repugnant dislike between the spouses.  This is actually possible even in the weeks of the honeymoon; then however the oversensitive young wife is afraid as well that the entire sky could topple down on her head.  Yet it is not all that bad, for such a small estrangement finally leads the hearts together, binds them closely together, and leads the thoughts of the two upon a common pathway.  Actually thereby the one comes closer to the other.  That’s why the strife in youth is not as bad as a later spat.  The latter gnaws its mark into the most inward bones.

 A second woman

I of course experienced something different and want to tell you about it: You of course know how poverty stricken we came together, having neither spoon or pot found in our house.  Despite all that we were happy at all times, at peace and blessed, for we were led by harmony in all areas of life.  Such a faithful covenant and bond had actually immediately required one to be diligent.  Frugality stepped up, and actually was expeditious and constantly guided us.  Thus heavenly blessings grew up out of the holy covenant.

Late in the evening

The father of the son

Yes, today I hand over the rudder into your hand; nobly turn yourself wherever you can, and wherever you end up, do not toddle like an unwise child at the break of day, for you have the strength for action and the sense for wanting what is necessary.  If of course someday the corrupt world ever pushes you into disorder (for the dangerous swamps misguide into countless ways), and even though distressed, you see no way out from the front or from behind, then don’t lose your head and let it hang down without advice so that that the water with a wild whirlpool does not bury and destroy you.  Lift your head up, only up, to the look at the Source of Light.  Thus you will know exactly where you are, where you are standing, even if you come up short.

 Part II

 In the home of the bride

The narrator

Still on that very same day the Schulz father frequently checked out his large home and examined with open eyes to see to it that everything was properly found to be in its appropriate place and that servant and maid servant were busy at work to motivate the members, to see to it that no stupid cooking-utensils or pots and pans had gossiping women chattering while spinning, as this of course was often done and practiced at a wedding.

The father of the bride

Garland wreaths give a lovely appearance to the spot; you have pretty flowers to choose from in our garden, well cared for up to now by my daughter, Lejna [Lena]: She planted them, watered them, promptly transplanted them and daily watched over their growth so that nothing hindered them, that no bad animal destroy their smart veins.  When then the rose finally was enfolded in Lejna’s hand, my child received it with joyful laughter, with kisses.

Lejna, the bride

Dear mother, this is the house in which you rocked me to sleep in your lap and again woke me from slumber, always with a kiss, as you are gifted with mother love.  Here I then grew up, guided and advised by father and with your protection, with your care, mother.  Here is a person’s greatest blessing, my kind mother, where one gets rocked in the cradle, where one is raised until grown, where one lay in the first dream and with heavenly peace.  When I will see the coachman drive away with the household effects, I know that I soon will have to forever travel away and leave behind what has so sweetly refreshed my heart.

 The father of the bride

  Don’t resist the tears, they sober up the light of your eyes; but don’t grieve forever, for that buries good health.

 Juro, the bridegroom

 Let me carry away half of the heart’s burden.  Nothing can disturb the nearing blessings of tomorrow’s day.

 The thoughts of the parents of the bride

The father

Nothing under the sun endures, nothing remains.  The commandment, which is always testified to, cries out: Accept departure!  Coming and going, going and coming, that is what destiny says; to resign oneself to it without worry, which cannot be called foolishness.  To be happy lightens every departure and manifests itself as wisdom, if the hope for it is thereupon steadfastly founded upon blessing.

The mother

We wives know better the hearts of our daughters; our husbands know better the nature of their sons.  Does anyone know for sure if Lejna still like previously is attracted to Juro, if she perhaps today might not have doubts about everything?  Time marches on differently, and the hours strike differently.  God grant that the coachman does not come back to us, that he does not say “Praise the stranger, but stay at home!’  Now-a-days there often comes to a person’s ears such happenings full of evil and sadness, confusion and tribulation.  Then the one statement drags up another; everyone looks for and gawks for strained relations out of dark gloomy corners, and it dexterously gabbles away so many naughty workings of the mouth word for word, bringing argumentation and strife, heaping lie upon lie.

Advice to the bridegroom

The father of the bride

That I meet you is a good thing.  Many things still move my heart that will be of benefit to you as well as teaching you something.  Don’t live in a dream world as if there is nothing more to learn, like when a cocky self-assured man always tries to stand on his own two feet; no, for as long as a man strives, he must allow himself to be properly taught.  May the bond of unity steadfastly guard the two of you in every situation; with one heart and mind fulfill your duties, a blessed reward then at last will crown the strenuous exertion of your labors.  Each part has its activity, its duty for every hour.  If one delays, and does not promptly and properly tackle the task, the other person grabs hold to help and despite the exhortation.  But a sour face is actually the beginning of being repugnant.  Work is our destined skill and simultaneously is the sparing of our existence.  What wants to conceive cleanliness has to be clean itself; so then may diligent obedience always bring you into sweating: If you eat bread without sweating, then you will become a miserable daytime thief.  Steadfastly keep things in order.  Let that be your command as well as your guiding plumb line.  Never squander your time; if you don’t have anything to do with your hands, do something with your brains.  Whatever is wholesome and good, research it, minutely investigate it, appraise it, try it out, and select the best.  In the evening think about the first thing that needs to be done in the morning, for the farmer’s banner flaps only through patient, enduring labor.  With acceptance of customs and activity learn to know people and know them through their spoken words; for these are the windows into a person’s inward thoughts.  Many are inwardly filled with poison with outward hypocritical innocence.  Believe me, a haughty proud person brags about his foolish actions.  He can be sure that the hour is lying in wait to see to it that sooner or later he’ll get what’s coming to him.  For all haughty pride fails and eventually stumbles.  Discipline yourself!  Denounce the evil of the world, for you are of course to stand and live as a role model to your own.  Once again: Discipline yourself!  That calls for success and good health; turmoil at home deceives, and it invites the hubbub of filling one’s glass to the brim.   Stay far away from places where loud boozers guzzle it down; also occasional visits can easily become a habit.  Drunkards tear down what the brave housewife has set up.  Listen to the old people, my son, their talk is rich with learned experience.


At early dawn

The narrator

Before the new day had yet arisen with its morning redness, everyone was already wide awake there at the big farmer’s home; agile quick hands were working on what was awaiting them today.  Immediately there arrived wagons at the roomy home.  Wedding guests stepped out in order to set their feet into the house.  In addition there came on horseback to the home all the young men.  Also with a lightening bright sword the [Hochzeitsbitter] Wedding Guest Inviter was at his station..  He had the power and authority to guide the conduct of a wedding.  Every guest had to listen to what he said.  Also two bridesmaids stepped down and the bridegroom’s brother (all of them being unmarried, as the custom and practice required) along with the wedding guest inviter with bold Wendish horses.  The head of the household kindly welcomed the guests, and the bridegroom did so likewise, followed by the house wife.  The wedding inviter invited them all to eat and drink.  After the guests had consumed the food and drink, the wedding inviter stood up and said the following words:

The wedding inviter

Friends, now that we have been satisfied, let us finish our snacking, and let us travel to the bride whom we have to properly recruit/woo, for the ample time to go court her lasts only for so long; the mother could ply us with sharp words.  Also others are capable of holding us up with roguish tongues.

In the home of the bride

The narrator

As the festive train all of a sudden came near to the Schulz’s, the wedding inviter sent as messenger the bride’s best man, for him to deliver the message that soon the bridegroom would arrive.  Within a short time the wagon train stood at the home of the Schulz’s, as young and old stomped down with their shoe soles shouting out.  Into the spacious house hosts of people came pouring in.  But inside the festive room already were sitting a great number of guests, with serene and lusty voices smartly chit-chatting with joyfulness.  And look, there also sat the bride, dressed up, at the end of the table.  However over her face there was of course tossed a veil.  At her side was the mother (who here had to give the directions).  A little later the Wedding Inviter stepped into the room. His greeting was kind and valiant:  He now wanted to woo the bride.

The wedding inviter

I am a servant of my master, who is virtuous, well-behaved and noble.  I am not asking for your food and drink, even though it is found to be magnificent here in these surroundings.  So then I come here to win you over for my master, for he has chosen you and has sent me to come get you.

The narrator

Praise be to the mother, she had for the longest had tried to refuse the bride!  A wrapped up picture appeared, requested by the mother.  As the wedding inviter showed the wife the picture of the bridegroom, she herself said: No, that is not the right one.  The guests broke out with laughter and began to wittily joke about it. – With the Schulz’s the wedding guests stepped into the chamber room.  Each one with fullness of joy shook the hand of the Wedding Inviter.  And the bridesmaids cried out: The Wedding Inviter, the bride!  For he with glory had overcome the refusing tongue of the mother.  She however cunningly backed off: He still had to redeem the bride for his master and sprinkle the table with silver coins.  Quickly the wedding inviter tossed the money upon the table’s four corners and onto the middle of the table.  The mother, well pleased, took the coins.

The Wedding

The narrator

 Thereupon he immediately escorted the proper bride out of the room.  Upon a wink by the mother, the bridesmaids began, in that they now were to attach cloths in front of the coats of the wedding guests, alike in beauty, also alike in color.  So then they pinned a small festive bunch of flowers on the left side of their chests: pinning on red ribbons with glorious flowers.  However the bridegroom’s bunch of flowers consisted of green flowers and of white ones; there was to be found no red flowers or ribbons on him.  See, the bride is standing by ready, nothing red on her dress and head-dress, and she is holding a long, snow-white cloth in her hands, with its artful creased frills falling down all the way to the ground.  Now the Wedding Inviter ordered all the guests to climb unto wagon and horse in order to drive to the church.

The wedding inviter

 Blessed is the house where such joyful wedding laughter resounds!  Let no one thoughtlessly break up this eternally binding ‘tying of the knot’.  For its strength is able to squeeze itself through the body into the heart’s blood.  Indeed this bond bestows harmony, however with its duties it then becomes harsh.

Sun and shadows take turns during the course of a day.  So likewise the laughter does not stay far away from the sadness.  There still comes like a thief in the night – practically unnoticed – many a tribulation, grief and sorrow.

Guests, we all want to affectionately bend forward our heart to the bridegroom and likewise to the bride.  We want to wish them much good fortune at all times!

The narrator

So spoke the Wedding Inviter and then he gave a quick signal for the music to begin playing; he himself jumped into the head of the festive train. Behind him one saw the bridegroom and the witnesses to the marriage trotting behind.  Behind them the brothers, each one ran to their horses.  Behind the riders, one’s eyes saw the wheels of the wagons.  From the first wagon rang the sound of music for entertainment, in the front of the second wagon was the mother, behind her the bride in the middle between the bridesmaids; in the back sat two bride servants.  Wedding guests found places in the remaining wagons.  Shortly in between one saw the trains stop at God’s house; in pairs they all walked into it for a festive action.  Soon afterwards one walked back out after the completion of the marriage service.

The festive meal in the house of the bride

The narrator

As the Reverend Pastor and the Cantor showed up with measured steps, the Wedding Inviter invited all the many guests to the table, and they lined up pair by pair as they had previously done in the church.  On one side sat the young men together with those who through their rank of office had to wait in line, while the Pastor and the Cantor sat at the other end.  Eagerly all the guests spooned up the luscious foods and poured beer with whiskey and then whiskey with beer.  Our Reverend Pastor did not participate in the eating and drinking and for a while observed the circular motion of the heartily eating of the good dinner feast.  This however to the disappointment of the Reverend Cantor – who was smacking his lips over the aroma of the roasted meat, in that he did not want to begin eating first, but instead wanted to reserve this honor for his higher ministerial brother.  When they all with good conversations had then eaten until they were full, a bowl with salt was passed around the table and a second one with water; the guests gave their mites into them.  The first bowl was to reward the labor of the lady who cooked the meal, and the other was remuneration for the weary work of the woman who washed the dishes.  Not only in the room however was there gratifying celebration; no, also outside in the yard by a host of village children, also for the poor there fell off some for celebrating from the dinner-table.  Immediately music was sounding forth from the persons blowing brass instruments, and the wedding guests deserted the room in pairs in order to enter into the bar-room to dance with the musicians.  Also the spiritual Reverend broke away with others to go home; older people stayed back in the house of the Schulz’s, for they wanted to chit-chat about keeping on farming.  Also the young couple stayed in the house with decorous conversation, he still had to obtain his secret fortune with dignity.   Nor could he desecrate the seriousness of the day by going out to seek pleasure.

On the third day

The narrator

When after the darkness of night the friendly sun began to shine, everything that moved was called to work.  Yet to the wedding quite joyful clanging sounds called out anew, and they were heard by the guests, who all too gladly came to the houses of the Schulz’s as well as the other farmers.  Suitors, this day serene clothing were allowed by custom.  Instead of the strict rules, the bride could again show red.  As one with shinning bright clothes gathered oneself by the Schulz’s, the Wedding Inviter told the young newlyweds and the guests that one should quickly want to now go into the homes of other farmers, where one could now still think about celebrating the wedding some more.  There the young wife was welcomed by everyone.  But already the dance now pulled  the new couple to the pub; once again the people whirled around in the seventh heaven, sheer joy and desire shouted for joy from every face.  Later the Wedding Inviter ordered a pause to the dancing, so that one did not amidst the tumult pass up eating lunch.  In the afternoon the guests continued to dance some more but now the long train was led by the young people.  The festival style of dressing decorated the young lady, the bride’s cap fell off, and the head cloth was pinned pale red to the ground.  The beginning of the first dance belonged to the bridal pair that very smartly turned about and around with great gyrations.  As the wedding happily came to an end towards midnight, the Wedding Inviter shouted out to bring it to an end and to saunter up to the farmer’s yard to eat an evening meal, in order to strengthen oneself with food and drink.  Then the Wedding Inviter stood up and said the following:

The wedding inviter

Behind us now are the hours of the wedding, its sounds have rushed away.  Joyfully we came, joyfully we go back.  With the married couple we take away the constant anxious feelings that our wishes for their good luck and blessings become reality!  A good night heartily came to an end from departing lips, and then the tired guests hurried home for sweet sleep.  As an afterthought the young couple stood in a cleaned up house.  So then, like a blessed dream it all at once came to them that they no longer were in the rushing tumult of the Festival; instead everything was a hushed silence.

“Behold, the golden star of good luck shines upon me;

Who knows if not perhaps in the wink of an eye!

I will get her [apparently a young girl, the next bride] and stride into battle.”

© Translation by the Rev. Dr. Elmer M. Hohle for free use by the TEXAS WENDISH HERITAGE SOCIETY, Serbin, Texas.

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