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Alexander Shchetynsky

A Song of the Philosopher
for tenor and orchestra

Text: Hryhoriy Skovoroda (in old bookish Ukrainian language)

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. He regarded his personal freedom as his most valuable treasure, so finally he gave up common 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. He played flute and composed several tunes to his poems, For every City its Customs and Laws among them. I have used both original text (written in old bookish Ukrainian language) and Skovoroda's melody. Simple tune in the style of Ukrainian songs of 18 century sounds here with numerous rests and much slower than it might have been performed by the author, as if heard at the two century distance like a simple, somewhat naive, but surprisingly powerful message of the wise philosopher, ethical maxim proved by his own life.

Alexander Shchetynsky

Original text

Всякому городу нрав и права;
всяка имѣет свой ум голова;
всякому сердцу своя есть любовь,
всякому горлу свой есть вкус каков.

А мнѣ одна только в свѣтѣ дума,
а мнѣ одно только не йдет с ума.
А мнѣ одна только в свѣтѣ дума,
как бы умерти мнѣ не без ума.

Григорій Варсава Сковорода
САД БОЖЕСТВЕННЫХ ПѢСНЕЙ. ПѢснь 10-я (фраґмент)



Fsyakomu horodu nrav i prava;
fsyaka imiyet svoy um holova;
fsyakomu sertsu svoya yest' l'ubov',
fsyakomu horlu svoy yest' fkus kakov.

A mni odna tol'ko f sviti duma,
a mni odno tol'ko ne ydet s uma.
A mni odna tol'ko f sviti duma,
kak by umerty mni ne bez uma.

Hryhoriy Varsava Skovoroda.
Garden of Devine Songs. Song 10 (fragment).


English translation

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.

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2012 by Alexander Shchetynsky