Tag Archives: Russian Orthodoxy

Kiev and Kievans, decked out in gold and sun and honey — summer 2010

15 Jan

In August of 2010 I was in Kiev for the first time since the fall of communism. I was lucky enough to stumble upon a honey festival — honey being one of Ukraine‘s and Russia‘s and wooded eastern Europe’s valuable trade product for centuries — that that year was held on the grounds of Kiev’s Pecherskaya Lavra – Києво-Печерська лавра, one of the most stupendous collections of churches and monasteries in the world and most sacred to both Russian and Ukrainian Orthodoxy (not a pretty dialogue these days): a farmers’ market from the countryside surrounding the city, and they all brought their honey and other bee-related products to sell.

Between the sun, the huge summer sky, the blinding gold of the church towers, the blue and gold of the flag, the dizzying array of hues of honey and honeycomb and honeycakes and beeswax and candles and sunflowers and between the hair, eyes, cheeks, smiles and the particular beauty of a Ukrainian farmer’s tan worn with that panache that only a Ukrainian farmer can wear it…. The whole thing was this gigantic fugue in gold!

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But tell me: how did gold get to be the highest value? Because it is uncommon and useless and gleaming and gentle in its brilliance; it always gives itself. Only as an image of the highest virtue did gold get to be the highest value. The giver’s glance gleams like gold. A golden brilliance concludes peace between the moon and the sun. Uncommon is the highest virtue and useless, it is gleaming and gentle in its brilliance: a gift-giving virtue is the highest virtue.

— Friedrich Nietzsche

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Огромное спасибо!!! to my friend Elias Hantula for taking these pictures and putting up with me that hot August day. Especially thanks to all these great folks. I took their names down in meticulous order so that I could label the photographs and then promptly lost them. And then promptly took ten years to finally post them. Maybe…maybe…weirder has happened…maybe, someone will recognize someone and however many degrees of separation these folks might have between each other…they were almost all from Poltava.

Mihail’skiy Sobor’ (above) unrelated to the Pecherskiy complex; completely, magnificently, painstakingly rebuilt in every glorious detail after the end of communism; it had been entirely levelled to the ground by the Soviets in the 1930s.

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“El niño divino, que está cansado de llorar en la tierra por su descanso…” — Lope de Vega

24 Dec

“The heavenly babe suffers distress, Ah, how weary He has grown with the sorrows of this world.”

“Der Himmels knabe Duldet Beschwerde, Ach, wie so müd er ward Vom Leid der Erde.”

I recently tweet-balled out an Anglican — I’m assuming — convert to Orthodoxy who had tweeted something about how Western influence on later Russian iconography had produced “softer” and in his opinion improved images of the Nativity with Mary leaning lovingly over the baby instead of the traditional Orthodox rendering where Mary is lying, turned the over way, lost in thought while nurses tend to the baby. I think I told him that if he wanted cute nativity images of cute babies he could post on YouTube, he should join the Franciscans. More on that later.

So maybe it’s weird for me to send this very sentimental lied as a Christmas message. But the quote above says enough.

This is originally a 17th century poem by Spanish poet and playwright Lope de Vega; translated into German by Emanuel Geibel and set to music in 1890 by Austrian composer Hugo Wolf in his Spanisches Liederbuch, a collection of lieder based on both religious and secular poetry of the Spanish Golden Age.

The full German translation, original Spanish, and English translation (last by Richard Stokes from a collection of lieder translations he did with tenor Ian Bostridge) is below. The singer in the YouTube video is, of course, the immortal Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.

Merry Christmas to all.

Die ihr schwebet – Lope de VegaEmanuel Geibel

Die ihr schwebet, Um diese Palmen, In Nacht und Wind, Ihr heilgen Engel, Stillet die Wipfel! Es schlummert mein Kind.

Ihr Palmen von Bethlehem Im Windesbrausen, Wie mögt ihr heute So zornig sausen! O rauscht nicht also! Schweiget, neiget Euch leis und lind; Stillet die Wipfel! Es schlummert mein Kind.

Der Himmelsknabe Duldet Beschwerde, Ach, wie so müd er ward Vom Leid der Erde. Ach nun im Schlaf ihm Leise gesänftigt Die Qual zerrinnt, Stillet die Wipfel! Es schlummert mein Kind.

Grimmige Kälte Sauset hernieder, Womit nur deck ich Des Kindleins Glieder! O all ihr Engel, Die ihr geflügelt Wandelt im Wind, Stillet die Wipfel! Es schlummert mein kind.

Pues andáis en las palmasLope de VegaPastores de Belén. Prosas y Versos Divinos

Pues andáis en las palmas,
ángeles santos,
que se duerme mi niño,
tened los ramos.

Palmas de Belén
que mueven airados
los furiosos vientos
que suenan tanto:
no le hagáis ruido,
corred más paso,
que se duerme mi niño,
tened los ramos.

El niño divino,
que está cansado
de llorar en la tierra
por su descanso,
sosegar quiere un poco
del tierno llanto.
Que se duerme mi niño,
tened los ramos.

Rigurosos yelos
le están cercando;
ya veis que no tengo
con qué guardarlo.
Ángeles divinos
que váis volando,
que se duerme mi niño,
tened los ramos.

You who hover

You who hover About these palms In night and wind, You holy angels, Silence the tree-tops! My child is sleeping.

You palms of Bethlehem In the raging wind, Why do you bluster So angrily today! Oh roar not so! Be still, lean Calmly and gently over us; Silence the tree-tops! My child is sleeping.

The heavenly babe Suffers distress, Ah, how weary He has grown With the sorrows of this world. Ah, now that in sleep His pains Are gently eased, Silence the tree-tops! My child is sleeping.

Fierce cold Blows down on us, With what shall I cover My little child’s limbs? O all you angels Who wing your way On the winds, Silence the tree-tops! My child is sleeping.

Translation © Richard Stokes, author of The Book of Lieder: The Original Text of Over 1000 Songs by Bostridge, Ian, Stokes, Richard (2005) Hardcover Hardcover – October 20, 2005

Lope de Vega 1562 – 1635
Elisabeth Schwarzkopf 1950
Hugo Wolf – Getty Images

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Photo: Russian priest with communion chalice and peasant in countryside

29 Nov

Unfortunately I know nothing else about this pic: where or when or who took it…nothing. I guess we can safely say it’s before the Revolution. It’s just really beautiful.

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Photo: Moscow, a perfect palimpsest of said city

22 Nov

Churches, Stalinist skyscrapers, new skyscrapers. According to legend, Moscow had 1,600 churches before the Revolution, so that the bells of 40 churches could ring for every 40 days of Lent, and all 1,600 on Resurrection Sunday.

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Write us: with comments or observations, or to be put on our mailing list or to be taken off our mailing list, contact us at nikobakos@gmail.com.

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