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Croatia / Abbé Alberto Fortis







Abbé Alberto Fortis


Travels into Dalmatia.

London, Robson, 1778.





Kolo dance by the Morlacchi, Dalmatia, 1778-?


   Although the Morlacchi usually sing their ancient songs, yet other poetry is not altogether extinguished among them ; and their musicians, after singing an ancient piece, accompanied with the guzla, sometimes finish it with some extempore verses, in praise of the personage by whom they are employed, and some of them are capable of singing extempore during the whole entertainment ; always accompanying the voice with the guzla. There is also some written poetry among them, when the memory of a signal event happens to be preserved in that manner. The whislte, or flagelet, and a kind of pastoral bag-pipe, are the common musical instruments among the Morlacchi. These traditional songs contribute much to maintain the ancient customs ; hence, their rites, games, and dances are derived from very remote originals.


   Their games and diversions almost all consist in trials of strength, or agility ; such as, leaping, running, or slinging a large heavy stone. They dance to the sound of the bag-pipe, and the voices of their singers, a favourite dance, which they call kolo, or circle, which soon turns into skocci-gosi, that is, high dancing. All the dancers, men, and women, taking hold of each other’s hands, form a circle, and turn slowly round, to the harsh notes of the instrument. Then the circle changes its form, sometimes into an elipsis, and sometimes a square, according as the dance becomes more animated ; and, at last, transforms itself into the most violent springs and leaps, in which the women also join, and the whole becomes wild confusion. The Morlacchi have an incredible transport for this rude dance, for neither the fatigues of the day, nor a long journey, nor hunger itself can detain them from it, or from continuing several hours, with very little intermission, in such a violent exercise.


On the medical art among the Morlacchi


   It happens frequently enough, that inflammatory fevers are the immediate consequences of these violent dances just mentioned ; in which case, and in all others of the like nature, for the Morlacchi do not apply to the physician, because, happily for them, there is none of that profession among them, but cure themselves, after their own way. A large draught of a spirituous liquor, which they call rakia, is commonly their first medicinal potion ; and if that does nor effectuate the cure, they repeat the dose, together with a  large infusion of pepper, or gun powder. After this, they cover themselves up, in winter ; or lie down in the hottest rays of the sun, if in summer, to sweat the illness, as they express it.



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