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JAN KOCHANOWSKI - Saint John's Eve Song About Saturday Festive Night
Saint John's Eve Song About Saturday Festive Night
When the sun's rays from Cancer
And the nightingale sings no more,
Saturday fires, at Time's behest,
Were lighted in the Black Forest.
Both visitors and the household
Rushed promptly towards the bright glow;
Three bagpipes played in unison
And the orchards echoed their song.
They all were seated on the grass,
Then six pairs stood up as is just
Of maidens who alike were dressed
And girt with artemisia
All the maidens were taught to sing
And had no equal in dancing;
And so in sequence they began,
The first of them took lead and sang:
Sisters, the fire is now ablaze
And for the dancers they've made space;
So why not join together hands
And in one voice begin our chants?
O fair night, grant us good weather,
Guard us from winds and flood water.
The time has come for us tonight
To wait outdoors for morning light.
This was passed on by our mothers,
They learned it in turn from others,
That on the feast day of Saint John,
Saturday fires were burning on.
Children, heed my admonitions,
Firmly keep the old traditions,
Let holy days be holy days,
Since it has been like that always.
In the past they kept holy days
And yet their work was done apace;
The earth produced abundantly,
For God rejoiced in piety.
We work this day without delays,
We disregard the holy days;
Although we work hard in the field,
We do not have much of a yield.
Sometimes we are smitten with hail,
Sometimes ruined by a hot gale;
Each year our harvests get poorer,
Bigger expenses then occur.
You work by day, you work by night –
All this in vain if God doesn't guide:
You need God, children, and Godhead,
If you want to have enough bread.
Let us entrust all to His grace,
And not alone the worry face:
The good years may even recur,
It's not yet the end of the world.
And at present this glorious night
Let's celebrate as an old rite:
Tending fires until early dawn,
With joyous music and with song.
Peaceful village, joyful village,
Who can speak of your advantage?
Who can recall your comforts, gain,
Who can recall them all again?
Man dwells in your care honestly,
Not engaging in usury;
His whole endeavour is righteous,
He's growing rich without distress.
Some people labor at the court,
Others sail to many a port,
Where man is driven by the winds
And death is waiting in the wings.
You find a man who rents his tongue
And sells his counsel by the pound;
Others pay for profit with blood,
Venturing their lives to hazard.
The ploughman thrusts his plough in soil;
From this he provides food for all,
For himself and for his whole flock,
For his hands and for his livestock.
For him the orchards their fruit yield,
For him the bees honeycombs build,
For him the wool from sheep is shorn
And flocks of lambs his fold adorn.
He mows the meadow and the field
And to the barn brings in his yield.
When sowing chores are all complete,
Around the hearth we'll take a seat.
There we will sing many a song,
There we will tell some riddles long,
With gracious bows we'll walk and prance
And do the blind and running dance.
At night the master takes his nets,
Out to the hunting site he sets
Or in the forest puts his springs
And always something home he brings.
He lays many traps in the brook,
Sometimes will use a pole and hook;
And the flocks of birds all around
Utter many a joyful sound.
The herds frolic by the water,
While the shepherd, in cool shelter,
Upon his pipe plays simple songs,
While close at hand dance forest Fauns.
Then the housewife, working with zeal,
Busies herself with evening meal,
She has at home such big supplies;
At market stalls she never buys.
She will also count the cattle,
When lowing homeward they amble;
And to milk she will lend a hand;
Does her best to help her husband.
All the grandchildren, not yet grown,
To their elders are bowing low,
They learn that a little will do,
Preserve modesty and virtue.
It is daytime, but the bright glow
Into the sea once more would flow,
Before my voice could tell again
Of village comforts and its gain.
Translated by Michael J. Mikoś
The night of festivities, an old pagan custom, took place before the day of Saint John the Baptist, celebrated on June 23.
The sun enters the sign of Cancer on 22 of June.
, the Black Forest, was the name of Kochanowski's estate.
Artemisia - a shrub or herb with strongly scented foliage of the aster family. Artemis was a Greek goddess represented as the virgin huntress.
The dance with bows is probably the polonaise, while the blind dance ('cenar') may be translated Blind Harry and the running dance ('goniony')
Hide and seek
. The last two were popular, frivolous and fast dances.