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Hryhoriy Skovoroda is an 18th century Ukrainian poet and Christian mystical philosopher, the person of the top grade European education who has developed his original philosophical system. As the most valuable possession he considered his personal freedom, so finally he gave up usual career of a philosopher, avoided secular life and has chosen for himself a path of the wandering preacher. His wanderings around Ukraine became a part of the national myth. His two poems taken for this composition (written originally in old bookish Ukrainian language) glorify such important for Skovoroda vital values as unification with Christ on heaven and perfection of his own reason. The silence of the celestial dwelling-place is opposed to vanity of terrestrial life. In the second movement not only the text but also the melody composed by Skovoroda himself to this text is used. Simple tune in the style of Ukrainian songs of 18 century sounds here with numerous rests and much slower, as if through two century stratification – like a simple, somewhat naive, but surprisingly powerful message of the wise man, ethical maxim proved by his own life.
English translation of the text:
I, seeing this life's misery
Seething, like the Red Sea,
With a storm of sorrows, misfortunes, and perils,
Aghast, grew weak, paled.
O woe to those abiding in it!
In my feeble flight I turned hurriedly,
So as not to vanish with the pharaoh in the sea.
Lo, to the quiet haven I fly
And with a tearful howl cry,
Holding up my hands.
O Christ! Don't let me rot in hell!
Let me in your heavenly city dwell,
Let me not be lured
By the whore world, this dark light!
O deep of mercy!
translated by Richard Hantula
For every city its customs and laws;
For every head its mind;
For every heart its own love,
For every palate its own sense of taste.
But for me there is only one thought in this world,
Just one thing never leaves my mind.
But for me there is only one thought in this world:
How to die not without my mind.
translated by Michael Naydan
Hryhoriy Varsava Skovoroda.
Garden of Devine Songs.
Song 17. Song 10 (fragment).
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© 2011 by Alexander Shchetynsky