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Here is an excerpt from a poem by Valery Bryusov, a classic Russian writer:

Повлекутъ меня съ собой

Къ играмъ рыжіе силены;

Мы натѣшимся съ козой,

Гдѣ лужайку сжали стѣны.

Всѣмъ настанетъ череда

Выпить острый сокъ услады.

Лица скроютъ отъ стыда

Въ чащахъ бѣлыя дріады.

The poem is entitled "In hac lacrimarum valle" and is a part of Bryusov's book "Urbi et orbi," published in 1903. Here is a link to the corresponding page of the book: Page 65.

My question is this: What does "мы натѣшимся съ козой" mean in this poem?

The literal meaning seems to be, "We will have fun with a female goat," but I am unsure and also am highly puzzled as to what kind of fun could be implied. I do not know Russian idioms and subtleties of meanings of Russian words as good as native speakers do.

I am asking because a fellow student gave me this poem as evidence of prevalence of sexual perversity in Russia in that epoch, but I find it hard to believe what he says. It is a poem by a classic Russian writer, published in a book printed in Moscow in 1903. The book must have passed Tsarist censorship. At that time Russia was a highly religious country, and I think that if there had been anything pervert in the book, it would not have been openly published in Russia, in the first place. Moreover, Bryusov was a prominent figure in the literature world, and it is hard to believe that he would openly write any pervert things.

But I am really puzzled because the poem does appear to imply the pervert thing. In particular, this excerpt contains "лица скроютъ отъ стыда" ("they will hide their faces because of shame") and "выпить острый сокъ услады" ("to drink spicy juice of pleasure").

What adds to the mystery is that this particular line about a female goat caused the following responses by Russian writers:

Если взять стихотворение Брюсова «Мы натешимся с козой», то тут объект — коза, субъект — декадентский студент, а в общем — дрянь. (Vladimir Mayakovsky, link)

Пусть демоны измаялись в холере, твоя коза с тобою, мой Валерий (From "В море любви" by Innokenty Annensky, link)

А современная поэзия? - "Мы натешимся с козой, где поляну сжали скалы", а? Или же лучше - Крученых. А четвертьтоновая музыка? А живопись Давида Бурлюка? Ты забыл! Если в душе человека заложено "чувство прекрасного" - это обязывает. Пусть он нисколько не расположен "тешиться с козой", пусть живопись Бурдюка ему неприятна и даже противна. Но раз последняя глиняная собака Елизаветинской эпохи заняла свое место на полке - выбора нет. (From "Рассказы и очерки" by Georgy Ivanov, link)

I am puzzled as to why there have been such responses if there is nothing pervert in Bryusov poem. I am puzzled as to why the line about a female goat caught such attention by writers. And if the poem is pervert indeed, then I am puzzled as to how a classic Russian writer could so openly write and publish it.

I humbly hope that native speakers can shed light on this matter.

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  • i guess a more topical question would be how censors allowed this through, but then it has nothing to do with Russian language per se... as far as the actual question is concerned i'm perplexed by your puzzlement Jul 6 '19 at 6:33
  • @БаянКупи-ка : It just seems so unbelievable that I thought I was missing something. I do not know Russian idioms and subtleties of meanings of Russian words as good as native speakers do. So you confirm that in this context, this phrase indeed means "we will have sex with a female goat"?
    – Mitsuko
    Jul 6 '19 at 9:19
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    this is the interpretation which comes to mind first BUT if you dig deeper into the actual Greek mythology Cилены are deities associated with or identified with Satyrs, goat-legged deities keen on fornication and drinking, so although sex almost certainly is implied here, it's not necessarily the bestial one, it may mean that he will engage in sex with дриады along with a/the Satyr, where коза is a metonymy for Satyr, and why козой instead of козлом? probably because it rhymes with собой etc. Jul 6 '19 at 9:43
  • i noticed another interesting thing in this poem, the verb подарИт is accented on the last syllable, not the 1st as is common today, there're still some verbs which have such accent paradigm in normative pronunciation (but often not in colloquial) in present and future tenses, but it seems to be gradually giving way to the alternative Jul 24 '19 at 6:24
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They all the poets of the so-called "Silver Age of the Russian poetry", the 1890s–1920s, considered Bryusov a demonic figure, the "dark side", there's no surprise they ascribed pervert stuff to his poetry. The силены he mentions are sileni, satyr-like creatures, archetypal tricksters of the Greek sacred mysteries. The early 20th century obsession with the occult stuff is well-known, there's nothing strange about it. And the moral side of the Classic Greek culture has long been known to go right against the early 20th century traditional morals. Besides, you've got to always keep it in mind that even when the author writes "I" or "we" it doesn't necessarily mean him personally, it means the protagonist of his work. People often forget about it and associate the author with the protagonist, but it's the same fault as associating an actor with his character in the play, or shouting in the theater, "Turn around! There's a murderer behind you!"

And once again, do you really think this question is about the Russian language?

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    >> And once again, do you really think this question is about the Russian language? << I do. The question is about the precise meaning of a given phrase in a given context. The poem is highly idiomatic, and I do not know Russian idioms and subtleties of meanings of Russian words as good as native speakers do. You seem to have avoided answering the question itself and only made some general remarks about Bryusov and the poem. What is the meaning of the line about a female goat?
    – Mitsuko
    Jul 5 '19 at 23:22
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    @Mitsuko - What "precise meaning" can we talk about while discussing symbolist poetry? ))) It's not a Russian idiom, you're supposed to understand that phrase as it is and make your own conclusions as for what it means, that's how symbolism works. Your question sounds like asking which English idiom stands behind The daughters of Mne Seraphim in the first line of William Blake's poem "The Book of Thel". Interpretation of poetry is beyond the scope of linguistics.
    – Yellow Sky
    Jul 5 '19 at 23:46
  • @Mitsuko it sounds like a reference to bestiality, but what the author actually meant only he knows Jul 6 '19 at 6:39
  • @YellowSky : >> It's not a Russian idiom, you're supposed to understand that phrase as it is and make your own conclusions as for what it means. << So the answer to my question basically is that the phrase means "we will have fun with a female goat" and that the reader has to decide himself as to what kind of fun is implied, right? Is it correct? If so, do you see any possible interpretation other than sexual fun, in the given context? Could you answer these two yes-no questions?
    – Mitsuko
    Jul 6 '19 at 9:06
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    I think this is a kind of symbolism which "каждый понимает в меру своей испорченности"
    – Alexander
    Jul 8 '19 at 19:22
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I'm pretty sure that the implied meaning is to "fuck the goats". It's a common stereotype in Russia that people "from mountains" (from Caucasus, generally) are having sex with goats.

This would be my guess, however, maybe this stereotype comes from this particular poem, not the other way around. Anyway, the way critics talk about it implies that he was talking about sex with goats.

I've searched on the internet a bit and apparently this phrase made a huge boom back in 1903-1905. Everyone were criticizing the part about goats and even made some parodies.

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  • This would be my guess, however, maybe this stereotype comes from this particular poem — no, this poem is not a source at all. In Islam (professed by Caucasian people) a premarital sex is strictly prohibited by holy texts, so a call of hormones is released either via aggression or via still having a sex but with anything not explicitly forbidden. Jul 30 '19 at 18:20
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Это означает "получить наслаждение", "удовольствие или удовлетворение"

https://дословно.рф/значение/натешиться

Народ спешил натешиться за ярмарочный день, поскольку остальные дни года давали мало поводов для веселья.

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    Just wondering - Why all of your answers are linking to exactly the same site?
    – shabunc
    Jul 11 '19 at 8:24

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