The Lazy Wife ~ Кисіль



“Ostap Veresai (1803-1890) was one of the best-known kobzari of the late 19th century. One of the first of the blind singers to make a mark in the urban world, Veresai often appeared in concert halls and on one occasion even traveled to St. Petersburg for a series of performances. During his stay, a member of the tsar’s family presented him with an engraved silver snuffbox, which helped him get out of trouble several times with the tsarist police once he returned to his usual circuit of country roads and small-town fairs. Veresai was much studied and written about. He met Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861), who seems to have used him as a model for a kobzar in several of his poems and art works. A selection of Veresai’s repertoire was transcribed and analyzed by the composer Mykola Lysenko (1842-1912).

For all his success in the world of the sighted, Veresai was not highly regarded by the blind brethren of the kobzar guild, who felt he was poorly trained and an inferior performer. At one point, they expelled him from the guild entirely. He also played an unusual instrument with only 12 strings – 6 basses and 6 prystrunky – in which the strings along the (unfretted) neck were stopped with the left hand, as on a lute. In recent years a number of players in Ukraine (including Volodymyr Kushpet, Taras Kompanichenko, and Jurij Fedynsky) have used the excellent Lysenko transcriptions to recreate this instrument and the implied technique and playing style.

This song, a shtuchka, is one of many folk texts featuring lazy wives. I play it here on the 21 string kobzarska bandura, requiring retuning F to F# and C to C#.  I was fortunate to hear it first in the unsurpassed recorded performance by Zynoviy Shtokalko. The tune has been a touchstone to which I have returned frequently over the years. I have performed it as a solo piece and created instrumental compositions on it for the Experimental Bandura Trio and the Paris to Kyiv ensemble.” ~ Julian Kytasty, 2015



(English translation by Julian Kytasty below)

А мій милий заболів, киселику захотів,
Ой рано, ранесенько, киселику захотів.
А як я то молода не лінивая була,
Ох і пішла по селу добувати киселю.

– Цить, милий, не вмирай, киселику дожидай!
Дожидай, дожидай, ти надьожда моя,
Не вмирай, не вмирай, радість дорога моя!

Не добула киселю, а купила овса,
Ой рано, ранесенько, та купила овса,
Ох і сох той овес руський місяць увесь,
Ой рано, ранесенько, руський місяць увесь.
– Цить, милий, не вмирай…

Зачинила кисіль на шістнадцять неділь,
Ой рано, ранесенько, на шістандцять неділь,
Зачинила кисіль у бездонній діжі,
Ой рано, ранесенько, у бездонній діжі.
– Цить, милий, не вмирай…

А вже кисіль на печі – а мій милий без речі,
А вже кисіль кисне – з милого дух тисне,
А вже кисіль клекотить – з милого дух виходить,
А вже кисіль закипів – а мій милий одубів.
Ой рано, ранесенько, а мій милий одубів.

Я казала зранку: «Бери, милий, дранку!».
Тебе чорт же напер, та у добрій умер.
Якби була знала, то б і тую зняла!



Oh my darling has fallen ill, he’s asking for porridge, Oh early-early in the morning he’s asking for porridge.


And since I, the young wife, was not too lazy, Off I went all through the village to find him some porridge.


Hush , darling, don’t you die, you’ll get porridge by and by. Wait and wait, wait and wait, oh my dearest hope! Don’t you die, don’t you die, o my precious joy!


Didn’t find any porridge, but I did buy some oats. Oh early-early in the morning, but I did buy some oats.
And I laid them out to dry for a whole month.


Hush, darling ….


Then I mixed up a batch that could last sixteen weeks, Oh early-early in the morning that could last sixteen weeks, And I mixed up that batch in a bottomless tub.
Hush, darling ….


Now the porridge is soaking – my darling’s barely alive.
Now the porridge is on the stove – my darling can’t speak.
Now the porridge is bubbling – my darling breathes his last.
Now the porridge has boiled – my darling is stiff as a board.


Hush, darling ….


Didn’t I tell you this morning to wear your raggedy shirt?
Now the devil took you in your Sunday best!
If I’d only known, I would have taken it off of you!