To Every City Its Customs & Laws (Skovorodyns’ka) ~ Всякому городу нрав і права (Сковородинська)


“The philosopher, writer, teacher, and musician Hryhory Skovoroda (1722-1794) wandered the length and breadth of the same territory – today’s Chernihiv, Poltava, Sumy, and Kharkiv oblasts – as the kobzari. This satirical song found its way into the kobzar repertoire and was very popular, known among the blind singers as “the Skovoroda song” – Skovorodynska.  My version draws on a recorded performance by Andriy Bobyr and a notated version by Andrij Hornjatkevyc. Both incorporate the instrumental introduction and basic musical arrangement from a version collected from a blind bandurist and published in Hryhory Skovoroda’s Muzykant (Kyiv: Muzychna Ukraina, 1972). However, both return to Skovoroda’s text rather than following the kobzar version, which is so corrupted by generations of oral transmission as to be almost unintelligible.” ~ Julian Kytasty, 2015



(English translation by Julian Kytasty below)

Всякому городу нрав і права,
Всякий іміє свой ум голова,
Всякому серцю своя єсть любов,
Всякому горлу свій вкус хоть каков.
В мене одна тільки в світі дума,
В мене одна тільки не йде з ума.

Петр для чинов угли панськії тре,
Хведор купець при аршині солже,
Той доми строїть на новий манір,
Той все в процентах – пожалуй провір.
В мене одна тільки в світі дума,
В мене одна тільки не йде з ума.

Строїть на свій тон юриста права,
З диспут студенту тріщит голова,
Тих безкпокоїт Венерин амур,
Всякую голову мучить свой дур.
В мене одна тільки в світі дума –
Якби умерти мні не без ума.

Смерте страшна, замашная косо,
Ти не щадиш і царських волосов!
Ти не глядиш, де мужик, а де цар,
Все жереш так, як солому пожар!
Хто на її плюне гострую сталь?
Той, чия совість, як чистий хрусталь.



To every city its customs and laws,
To each head its own thinking,
Each heart has its own love,
Each palate its own taste.
I have but one thought in this world,
Just one thought always on my mind.


Pete will kiss up to the nobles to gain status,
Ted the merchant will cheat on the measure,
One builds houses “in the new style,”
Another skims a percentage – just try to check the books.
I have but one thought in this world,
Just one thought always on my mind.


There the great jurist tunes the law to his key,
Here the student fills his head to bursting,
Another is troubled by Venus’s amours –
Every head is tormented by its own foolishness.
I have but one thought in this world:
That I may die still clinging to my sanity.


Terrible Death with your free-swinging scythe,
You won’t leave even the tsar’s hair unmussed.
You don’t look to see who’s a peasant, who is tsar –
You consume them all, like straw in the flame.
Who shall spit on her razor-sharp blade?
The one who’s conscience is clear as crystal.