Spiritual Verses

Spiritual Verses


(in Russian, dukhovnye stikhi), old epic and lyrical folk songs with a religious content; one of the forms of the folklore of the Russian, Ukrainian, and Byelorussian peoples.

The material and plots of spiritual verses go back to literary (primarily religious) sources (the Bible, saints’ lives, church hymns, and legends and apocrypha), but they are simultaneously works of folklore, with its characteristic motifs, rhymes, and linguistic forms. Spiritual verses have been known since the 15th century (the poem about Adam). The wandering poor and blind—the “passing pilgrims”—sang spiritual verses while accompanying themselves on a musical instrument. Beginning with the 17th century, spiritual verses were especially widespread among the Old Believers, as well as among the sectarians. Typical of the 17th century are the spiritual verses which go back to written chants and the Psalms.

Along with strictly religious themes and ideas (the poems “On the Last Judgment” and “The Lament of a Sinful Soul”), the spiritual verses reflect in an original way on historical events and articulate folk judgments about good and justice, the origin of the world, and other topics (the spiritual verses “On the Dove Book” and “About Egorii the Brave”). Among the Old Believers there is a cycle of satirical spiritual verses.


Bezsonov, P. A. Kalikiperekhozhie: Sb. stikhov i issledovanie, vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1861-63.
Veselovskii, A. N. Razyskaniia v oblasti russkikh dukhovnykh stikhov, fasc. 1-6. St. Petersburg, 1880-91.
Fedotov, G. P. Stikhi dukhovnye. Paris, 1935.
Sokolov, Iu. M. Russkiifol’klor. Moscow, 1941.
References in periodicals archive ?
The company also launched a bedding and window treatment collection called In Good Faith that uses spiritual verses and symbols.
27 Montgomery makes the curious suggestion that the enslaved "improvised by applying secular interpretations to spiritual verses.
Havens's spontaneous, spiritual verses, "Sometimes, I feel like I'm almost gone," juxtaposed with suburbanites singing along to the Monkees' "I'm a Believer" made me wish that somebody would beat the Wiz, or burn it to the ground.