Kupava’s lament from The Snow Maiden by A. Ostrovsky
As a goddess of summer, which is much anticipated in northern areas, Kupava represented everything that was lively, fresh, genuine and bright in the pantheon of pagan Slavic gods. She was portrayed as an open and generous young woman with a warm beauty, just like the warmest season of the year. According to an ancient legend, Kupava did something special for people, which nobody else ever dared to do; when the first human was created, she gave up her immortality and became the wife of a mortal man, whilst preserving her unique femininity and warmth.
Kupava is a symbol of femininity and she is always portrayed as a beautiful, lively and pure maiden in folk songs and paintings. It comes as no surprise that a Russian playwright, Alexander Ostrovsky, chose her to represent the striving for intense and unconditional love. However, his folk story about Kupava is less well known than the main character of his fairy tale Snegurochka (The Snow Maiden). This story and the characters gained popularity thanks to Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera, which is performed all over the world.
At the very beginning of the fairy tale, Kupava appears as a bride of a rich merchant Mizguir, whom she is marrying for his money. Then she meets Snegurochka, a beautiful but cold young woman, and confides in her, sharing all her secrets and hopes. Kupava faces personal difficulties as her fiancée falls in love with her new friend. However, as a result, she finds true love and happiness with shepherd Lel, who was earlier rejected by Snegurochka.
Kupava was created for love. Ostrovsky adopted this character from ancient legends and reinvented it, emphasizing her lively personality through her development. The stone sculpture of Kupava combines contrasting green malachite of the base and her colourful red dress. Non-homogeneous texture of chalcedony with alternating deep-coloured and lighter semi-transparent patches, creates a fluid impression, as if the fabric moves along with the person’s movements. Remarkable yellow jasper was used to carve Kupava’s hair, glimmering in the sun.
Kupava: O tzar, my father!
The Tzar /Raising her, kindly: Speak, I am listening.
Kupava: May I tell all?
The Tzar: You must tell all!
Kupava: Deign to reply:
When a youth looks at one and speaks to one of love.
When one believes that one could live with him happily,
When, finally, one loves him, is one at fault?
The Tzar: No, my dear daughter.
Kupava: ’Tis my sole crime.
May I tell all?
The Tzar: You must tell all!
Kupava: For him I had forgotten all the universe.
The tenderest love possessed me, life and soul.
In the deepforest our two hearts were happy.
Lost in each other’s gaze, we were in ecstasy.
The Tzar: My heart is moved by this your honest grief.
Kupava: Great tzar, my father, tell me.
Happiness, is it naught but an empty dream?
The Tzar: O simple, hapless child!
Kupava: O great tzar, to the meadow...
The Tzar: Speak, I am listening
Kupava: I had gone, taking my comrades with me,
And there no more had Mizguir seen among us
The Tzar: Go on, go on!
Kupava: Than he rushed upto this fair thief of hearts;
Forgets me, mocks me and insults me, too!
All strength forsakes my body, which grows cold;
Suddenly, as falls a sheaf of grain
I totter; ah, look at me, I fall,
I fall, I fall, my senses flee...
She is about to fall, the Tzar supports her.