The Last Lullaby – for Paderewski, 1941

In this posting, I’m offering theories with little proof. From my experience, though, their accuracy is probable.

I found an absolutely beautiful piece entitled Ostatnia Kołysanka (The Last Lullaby), with words and music by Mieczysław Oleszkiewicz (d. 1965). It was dedicated to Ignacy Jan Paderewski, eminent Polish pianist, composer and statesman, who died in 1941 – a time when few proper memorials were possible.

Kołysanki (Lullabies, from the verb kołysać, “to rock”, are a significant presence in Polish folk music. In Poland, and in other countries, folk tunes arranged as classical songs and dances often took on greater meaning than history lessons in national ethos. The Kołysanka is a great example; I’ve come across very many examples of lullabies in my research, in both song and instrumental settings. In Poland’s case in particular, I could easily imagine the appeal of a song devoted to rest and peace in chaotic times.

Mieczysław Oleszkiewicz was decidedly not a known figure in the history of Polish music; this is the only piece I can find from him. The only records I can find of a person with his name is a mathematician and inventor from Warsaw who taught in the faculty at the Warsaw Polytechnic University circa 1947. If this is true, he was also a director of a College Prep School in Piaseczno, a suburb of Warsaw 10 miles to the south.

There is also a record of someone with that name registering a patent with the Polish government for a pocket ashtray in May 1930… as well as writing a textbook on differential equations in 1947.

As I have no proof that these are one in the same person, only my personal instincts say that they are. The combination of a mathematical inclination with any kind of passion for music is somewhat common, I’ve found. I hope to post a recording soon.

I couldn’t find an example of Paderewski ever composing a Kołysanka, but still think the piece is striking, and fitting – especially given the era of horror.

Dziecinnych lat czarowny świat
wspominam dzisiaj znów,
jak obraz z dawnych snów,
w tęskniącem sercu mem
dawna piosenka wciąż brzmi,
którą, najdroższa moja mateńko,
do snu śpiewałaś mi:
The enchanting world of childhood years
I recall again today,
Like the image from old dreams –
in the longing of my heart
the old song still sounds –
the song with which you, my dearest mother,
sang me to sleep:

“Spij, mój maleńki,
cicho, cichutko,
niech ci się przyśni raj”…
“Sleep, my little one,
quietly, quietly,
May you dream of paradise”…

A gdy odeszłaś od nas zawsze,
do snu cichego, co wiecznie trwa,
chcę dzisiaj Tobie na Twoim grobie
tę kołysankę zaśpiewać ja:
But when you went from us forever,
to quiet, eternal sleep,
I want today to sing you
this lullaby at your grave:

Śpij, Matko moja, po ziemskim znoju,
śpij ci chuteńko w wiecznym spokoju,
śpij, moja Matko, śpij,
wiecznym snem, wiecznym snem…
Sleep, My Mother, from all the Earth’s toil,
sleep quiet one, in eternal peace,
sleep, my Mother, sleep,
in eternal sleep, eternal sleep…

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