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February 5, 2005 by AK

Mysteries of the Varyag

The Russo-Japanese war was still in progress a hundred years ago from now. Tsushima, the greatest disaster the Russian fleet has been through, was still a few months ahead. It is remarkable that three musical pieces written during or shortly after that unfortunate war, and about it, are well-known even to this day: The Varyag, On the Hills of Manchuria, and Cold Waves are Lapping (this last one is less famous). It is often assumed that the lyrics of The Varyag is a translation of a German poem, namely the one composedby a certain Rudolf Greinz in 1904 under the impression of the Varyag’s seemingly unnecessary feat.

I have come across an interesting take on the history of the Varyag song by a Russian gentleman who has suggested some interesting connections. As I am not sure of his conclusions, I would like to ask three questions in the hope that a reader may have a hint of a clue.

First, is it true that a certain Rudolf Greinz published in 1904, in Jugend, a Munich journal, a poem beginning with this stanza:

Auf Deck, Kameraden, all’ auf Deck!

Heraus zur letzten Parade!

Der stolze Warjag ergibt sich nicht,

Wir brauchen keine Gnade!

If this poem indeed appeared at that time, I would consider it proven that the Russian text is a calque from German, for the Russian version starts:

To the upper deck, comrades, all take your places:

The last parade is coming.

Our proud Varyag is not surrendering to the enemy,

Nobody desires mercy.

Suppose that the answer to question 1 is a more or less decisive “yes.” Two more queries are forthcoming then:

2. What, if any, is the relationship between the author of the poem and Rudolf Greinz, the Austrian writer (1866–1942)?

3. What, if any, is the relationship among the two aforementioned Greinzes (who may be identical) and Rudolf Greinz, the author of Die eiserne Faust–Marterln auf unsere Feinde, a book of verse published in Leipzig in 1915 and ridiculed in The Good Soldier Schweik?

Many, many thanks in advance.


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