Page:Taras Bulba. A Tale of the Cossacks. 1916.djvu/30

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

settled, agricultural life, and the nomadic free-booter life of the plains.

The Falls or Rapids from which the actors in Gogol's story derived their name, Zaporozhtzi—the Kazáks of "Beyond the Rapids"—begin about ten miles below Yekaterinoslav (Katherine's Glory), on the Dnyeper, the worst of them, about half a mile in length, bearing the suggestive title of "Nenasýtetz," the Insatiable. In the tract below the Insatiable was situated the famous capital of Zaporozhe, the Syech—or, in the soft, Little Russian variant of Russia, the Sicha. Syech or Sicha means, simply, a cutting or clearing in the forest. Obviously, that was precisely the origin of the name. As there existed, at different times, at least eight Syechs (possibly ten), it is not surprising that the location of the capital should appear to the reader decidedly indefinite.

About one hundred and sixty-five miles below Yekaterinoslav, opposite Alexandrovsk, in the Dnyeper, lies the Island of Khortitza, where stood the first Syech. Originally—so the ancient Greek chronicles state—this beautiful island held a monastery inhabited by many monks. The Russians, it is said, had regarded it as a sacred place, and (before the introduction of Christianity) sacrificed there to their deities birds, and even the highly-prized dogs of the sort now known as