Certaine letters in verse, written by Master George Turberuile 235 out of Moscouia, which went as Secretarie thither with Master Tho. Randolph, her Maiesties Ambassadour to the Emperour 1568, to certeine friends of his in London, describing the maners of the Countrey and people.
My Dancie deare, when I recount within my brest,
My London friends, and wonted mates, and thee aboue the rest:
I feele a thousand fits of deepe and deadly woe,
To thinke that I from land to sea, from blisse to bale did go.
I left my natiue soile, full like a retchlesse man,
And vnacquainted of the coast, among the Russes ran:
A people passing rude, to vices vile inclinde,
Folke fit to be of Bacchus traine, so quaffing is the kinde.
Drinke is their whole desire, the pot is all their pride,
The sobrest head doth once a day stand needfull of a guide.
If he to banket bid his friends, he will not shrinke
On them at dinner to bestow a douzen kindes of drinke:
Such licour as they haue, and as the countrey giues,
But chiefly two, one called Kuas, whereby the Mousiket 237 liues.
Small ware and waterlike, but somewhat tart in taste,
The rest is Mead of honie made, wherewith their lips they baste.
And if he goe vnto his neighbour as a guest,
He cares for litle meate, if so his drinke be of the best.
No wonder though they vse such vile and beastly trade,
Sith with the hatchet and the hand, their chiefest gods be made.
Their Idoles haue their hearts, on God they neuer call,
Vnlesse it be (Nichola Bough) 238 that hangs against the wall.
The house that hath no god, or painted Saint within,
Is not to be resorted to, that roofe is full of sinne.
Besides their priuate gods, in open places stand
Their crosses vnto which they crooche, and blesse themselues with hand.
Deuoutly downe they ducke, with forehead to the ground,
Was neuer more deceit in ragges, and greasie garments found:
Almost the meanest man in all the countrey rides,
The woman eke, against our vse, her trotting horse bestrides.
In sundry colours they both men and women goe,
In buskins all, that money haue on buskins to bestoe.
Each woman hanging hath a ring within her eare,
Which all of ancient vse, and some of very pride doe weare.
Their gate is very braue, their countenance wise and sadde.
And yet they follow fleshy lustes, their trade of liuing badde.
It is no shame at all accompted to defile
Anothers bedde, they, make no care their follies to concile,
Is not the meanest man in all the land but hee,
To buy her painted colours doeth allow his wife a fee,
Wherewith she deckes her selfe, and dies her tawnie skinne,
She pranks and paints her smoakie face, both brow, lip, cheeke, and chinne.
Yea those that honest are, if any such there bee
Within the land, doe vse the like: a man may plainely see.
Vpon some womens cheekes the painting how it lies,
In plaister sort, for that too thicke her face the harlot dies.
But such as skilfull are, and cunning Dames indeede,
By dayly practise doe it well, yea sure they doe exceede.
They lay their colours so, as he that is full wise,
May easly be deceiu’d therein, if he doe trust his eyes.
I not a little muse, what madnesse makes them paint
Their faces, waying how they keepe the stooue by meere constraint.
For seldome when, vnlesse on Church or marriage day
A man shall see the Dames abroade, that are of best aray.
The Russie meanes to reape the profit of her pride,
And so he mewes her to be sure, she lye by no mans side.
Thus much, friend Dancie, I did meane to write to thee,
To let thee weete in Russia land, what men and women bee.
Hereafter I perhaps of other things will write
To thee and other of my friends, which I shall see with sight:
And other stuffe besides, which true report shall tell,
Meane while I end my louing lines, and bid thee now farewell.
If I should now forget, or not remember thee,
Thou Spencer might’st a foule rebuke, and shame impute to mee,
For I to open shew did loue thee passing well,
And thou wert he at parture, whom I loathde to bid farewell.
And as I went thy friend, so I continue still,
No better proofe thou canst then this desire of true good will
I doe remember well when needes I should away,
And that the Poste would licence vs, no longer time to stay:
Thou wrongst me by the fist, and holding fast my hand,
Didst craue of me to send thee newes, and how I liked the land.
It is a sandie soile, no very fruitful vaine,
More waste and wooddie grounds there are, then closes fit for graine.
Yet graine there growing is, which they vntimely take,
And cut or eare the corne be ripe, they mowe it on a stacke:
And laying sheafe by sheafe, their haruest so they dry,
They make the greater haste, for feare the frost the corne destroy.
For in the winter time, so glarie is the ground,
As neither grasse, nor other graine, in pastures may be found.
In coms the cattell then, the sheepe, the colt, the cowe,
Fast by his bed the Mowsike then a lodging doth allowe,
Whom he with fodder feeds, and holds as deere as life:
And thus they weare the winter with the Mowsike and his wife.
Seuen months the Winter dures, the glare it is so great,
As it is May before he turne his ground to sow his wheate.
The bodies eke that die vnburied lie they then,
Laid vp in coffins made of firre, as well the poorest men,
As those of greater state: the cause is lightly found,
For that in Winter time, they cannot come to breake the ground.
And wood so plenteous is, quite throughout all the land,
As rich, and poore, at time of death assurd of coffins stand.
Perhaps, thou musest much, how this may stand with reason,
That bodies dead can vncorrupt abide so long a season.
Take this for certaine trothe, as soone as heate is gone,
The force of cold the body binds as hard as any stone,
Without offence at all to any liuing thing:
And so they lye in perfect state, till next returne of Spring.
Their beasts be like to ours, as farre as I can see
For shape, and shewe, but somewhat lesse of bulke, and bone they be.
Of watrish taste, the flesh not firme, like English beefe,
And yet it seru’s them very well, and is a good releefe:
Their sheep are very small, sharpe singled, handfull long;
Great store of fowle on sea and land, the moorish reedes among.
The greatnes of the store doeth make the prices lesse,
Besides in all the land they know not how good meate to dresse.
They vse neither broach nor spit, but when the stoue they heate,
They put their victuals in a pan, and so they bake their meate.
No pewter to be had, no dishes but of wood,
No use of trenchers, cups cut out of birche are very good.
They vse but wooden spoones, which hanging in a case
Eache Mowsike at his girdle ties, and thinkes it no disgrace.
With whitles two or three, the better man the moe,
The chiefest Russies in the land, with spoone and kniues doe goe.
Their houses are not huge of building, but they say,
They plant them in the loftiest ground, to shift the snow away,
Which in the Winter time, eache where full thicke doth lie:
Which makes them haue the more desire, to set their houses hie.
No stone work is in vse, their roofes of rafters bee,
One linked in another fast, their wals are all of tree.
Of masts both long, and large; with mosse put in betweene,
To keepe the force of weather out, I neuer earst haue seene
A grosse deuise so good, and on the roofe they lay
The burthen barke, to rid the raine, and sudden showres away.
In euery roome a stoue, to serue the Winter turne,
Of wood they haue sufficient store, as much as they can burne.
They haue no English glasse, of slices of a rocke.
Hight Sluda they their windows make, that English glasse doth mocke.
They cut it very thinne, and sow it with a thred
In pretie order like to panes, to serue their present need.
No other glasse, good faith doth giue a better light:
And sure the rocke is nothing rich, the cost is very slight.
The chiefest place is that, where hangs the god by it,
The owner of the house himselfe doth neuer sit,
Unlesse his better come, to whom he yealds the seat:
The stranger bending to the god, the ground with brow most beat
And in that very place which they most sacred deeme,
The stranger lies: a token that his guest he doth esteeme.
Where he is wont to haue a beares skinne for his bed,
And must, in stead of pillow, clap his saddle to his head.
In Russia other shift there is not to be had,
For where the bedding is not good, the boalsters are but bad
I mused very much, what made them so to lie,
Sith in their countrey Downe is rife, and feathers out of crie:
Vnlesse it be because the countrey is so hard,
They feare by nicenesse of a bed their bodies would be mard,
I wisht thee oft with vs, saue that I stood in feare
Thou wouldst haue loathed to haue layd thy limmes vpon a beare,
As I and Stafford did, that was my mate in bed:
And yet (we thanke the God of heauen) we both right well haue sped.
Loe thus I make an ende: none other newes to thee,
But that the countrey is too colde, the people beastly bee.
I write not all I know, I touch but here and there,
For if I should, my penne would pinch, and eke offend I feare.
Who so shall read this verse, coniecture of the rest,
And thinke by reason of our trade, that I do thinke the best.
But if no traffique were, then could I boldly pen
The hardnesse of the soile, and eke the maners of the men.
They say the Lions paw giues iudgement of the beast:
And so may you deeme of the great, by reading of the least.
My Parker, paper, pen, and inke were made to write,
And idle heads, that little do, haue leisure to indite:
Wherefore, respecting these, and thine assured loue,
If I would write no newes to thee, them might’st my pen reproue.
And sithence fortune thus hath shou’d my shippe on shore:
And made me seeke another Realme vnseene of me before:
The maners of the men I purpose to declare.
And other priuate points besides, which strange and geazon are.
The Russie men are round of bodies, fully fac’d,
The greatest part with bellies bigge that ouerhang the waste,
Flat headed for the most, with faces nothing faire,
But browne, by reason of the stone, and closenesse of the aire:
It is their common vse to shaue or els to sheare
Their heads, for none in all the land long lolling locks doth weare,
Vnlsse perhaps he haue his souereigne prince displeas’d,
For then he neuer cuts his haire, vntil he be appeas’d,
A certaine signe to know who in displeasure be,
For euery man that viewes his head, will say, Loe this is he.
And during all the time he lets his locks to grow,
Dares no man for his life to him a face of friendship show.
Their garments be not gay, nor handsome to the eye,
A cap aloft their heads they haue, that standeth very hie,
Which Colpack they do terme. They wears no ruffes at all;
The best haue collers set with pearle, which they Rubasca call.
Their shirts in Russie long, they worke them downe before,
And on the sleeues with coloured Silks, two inches good and more.
Aloft their shirts they weare a garment iacket wise
Hight Onoriadka, and about his burlie waste, he tyes
His portkies, which in stead of better breeches be:
Of linnen cloth that garment is, no codpiece is to see.
A paire of yarnen stocks to keepe the colde away,
Within his boots the Russie weares, the heeles they vnderlay
With clouting clamps of steele, sharpe pointed at the toes,
And ouer all a Shuba furd, and thus the Russe goes.
Well butned is the Shube, according to his state,
Some Silke, of Siluer other some: but those of poorest rate
Do weare no Shubs at all, but grosser gownes to sight,
That reacheth downe beneath the calfe, and that Armacha hight:
These are the Russies robes. The richest vse to ride
From place to place, his seruant runnes, and followes by his side.
The Cassacke beares his felt, to force away the raine:
Their bridles are not very braue, their saddles are but plaine.
No bits but snaffles all, of birch their saddles be,
Much fashioned like the Scottish seates, broad flakes to keepe the knee
From sweating of the horse, the pannels larger farre
And broader be then ours, they vse short stirrups for the warre:
For when the Russie is pursued by cruel foe,
He rides away, and suddenly betakes him to his boe,
And bends me but about in saddle as be sits,
And therewithall amids his race his following foe he hits.
Their bowes are very short, like Turkie bowes outright,
Of sinowes made with birchen barke, in cunning maner dight.
Small arrowes, cruell heads, that fell and forked bee,
Which being shot from out those bowes, a cruel way will flee.
They seldome vse to shoo their horse, vnlesse they ride
In post vpon the frozen flouds, then cause they shall not slide,
He sets a slender calke, and so he rides his way.
The horses of the countrey go good fourescore versts a day,
And all without the spurre, once pricke them and they skippe,
But goe not forward on their way, the Russie hath his whippe
To rappe him on the ribbes, for though all booted bee,
Yet shall you not a paire of spurres in all the countrey see.
The common game is chesse, almost the simplest will
Both giue a checke and eke a mate, by practise comes their skill.
Againe they dice as fast, the poorest rogues of all
Will sit them downe in open field, and there to gaming fall
Their dice are very small, in fashion like to those
Which we doe vse, he takes them vp, and ouer thumbe he throwes
Not shaking them a whit, they cast suspiciously,
And yet I deeme them voyd of art that dicing most apply.
At play when Siluer lacks, goes saddle, horse and all,
And eche thing els worth Siluer walkes, although the price be small.
Because thou louest to play friend Parker other while,
I wish thee there the weary day with dicing to beguile.
But thou weart better farre at home, I wist it well,
And wouldest be loath among such lowts so long a time to dwell.
Then iudge of vs thy friends, what kinde of life, we had,
That neere the frozen pole to waste our weary dayes were glad.
In such a sauage soile, weere lawes do beare no sway,
But all is at the king his will, to saue or else to slay.
And that sans cause, God wot, if so his minde be such.
But what meane I with Kings to deale? we ought no Saints to touch.
Conceiue the rest your selfe, and deeme what liues they lead,
Where lust is Lawe, and Subiects liue continually in dread.
And where the best estates haue none assurance good
Of lands, of liues, nor nothing falles vnto the next of blood.
But all of custome doeth vnto the prince redowne,
And all the whole reuenue comes vnto the King his crowne.
Good faith I see thee muse at what I tell thee now,
But true it is, no choice, but all at princes pleasure bow.
So Tarquine ruled Rome as thou remembrest well,
And what his fortune was at last, I know thy selfe canst tell.
Where will in Common weale doth beare the onely sway,
And lust is Lawe, the prince and Realme must needs in time decay.
The strangenesse of the place is such for sundry things I see,
As if I woulde I cannot write ech priuate point to thee.
The colde is rare, the people rude, the prince so full of pride,
The Realme so stored with Monks and nunnes, and priests on euery side:
The maners are so Turkie like, the men so full of guile,
The women wanton, Temples stuft with idols that defile
The Seats that sacred ought to be, the customes are so quaint,
As if I would describe the whole, I feare my pen would faint.
In summe, I say I neuer saw a prince that so did raigne,
Nor people so beset with Saints, yet all but vile and vaine.
Wilde Irish are as ciuill as the Russies in their kinde,
Hard choice which is the best of both, ech bloody, rude and blinde.
If thou bee wise, as wise thou art, and wilt be ruld by me,
Liue still at home, and couet not those barbarous coasts to see.
No good befalles a man that seeks, and findes no better place,
No ciuill customes to be learned, where God bestowes no grace.
And truely ill they do deserue to be belou’d of God,
That neither loue nor stand in awe of his assured rod:
Which though be long, yet plagues at last the vile and beastly sort.
Of sinnill wights, that all in vice do place their chiefest sport.
A dieu friend Parker, if thou list, to know the Russes well,
To Sigismundus booke repaire, who all the trueth can tell:
For he long earst in message went vnto that sauage King.
Sent by the Pole, and true report in ech respect did bring,
To him I recommend my selfe; to ease my penne of paine,
And now at last do wish thee well, and bid farewell againe.
235 Born at Whitchurch about 1530; educated at New College, Oxford; supposed to have died about 1600. “Occasional felecity of diction, a display of classical allusion, and imagery taken from the customs and amusements of the age ate not wanting; but the warmth, the energy, and the enthusiasm of poetry are sought for in vain.” (_Drake_, Shakespeare and his Times, p. 456).
236 Probably the grandson of Sir Thomas Moore, and son of his second daughter, Elizabeth Dancy.
237 Moudjick, a servant.
238 St. Nicholas.
239 Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury. See an excellent account of him and his writings in Allibone’s Dictionary.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51