The Rokosz

I found a six-part choral piece (SSATTB) that brings to light a fascinating piece of Polish history:  Zdzisław Jachimecki’s Pieśń Rokoszan z Roku 1606 (Song from the Rokosz of 1606) from 1936.

The Polish szlachta(nobility) comprised roughly 7% of the population at the time – and had more power than in many regions at the time when compared with the royalty.  A large group of nobles met in 1606 because they were dissatisfied with King Zygmunt III Waza’s efforts to limit their power as a group and to introduce a hereditary monarchy in place of the elective one.  The result was a rokosz (ro-kosh), a rebellion, that in 1607 became known as the Zebrzydowski Rokosz, named after the main leader of the effort.

In brief, the revolt failed after becoming armed in 1607, with around 200 casualties – but Zygmunt was kept from expanding his power in future years. Interestingly, Jesuits at the time compared Zygmunt’s reign with Christ’s Passion, and produced a pamphlet entitled Passio Sigismundi III (The Passion of Sigismund III), concluding with the words Qui tot passus es a Rocossanis, sancte Sigismunde, ora pro nobis! (So many rebels suffered, St. Zygmunt, pray for us!). An alternate version of the Lord’s Prayer was even produced at the time, which, translated from the Latin:

“Our Father, who art in Kraków or Warsaw, ungrateful be thy name, thy kingdom is far from us, thy will will not be as in Sweden and Moscow as it is in Poland; deliver us this day our daily bread and the money to pay our debts, lead us not into the temptation of Moscow, and we beseech Thee that after this, we may be delivered from this evil.”

The text of the choral piece, taken from a manuscript in the Polish Archives, reads:

Kto nam chce skarby wydrzeć!
Trwogi się bać! Nic nie bać!
Moc na moc, kto wykroczy!
Chcą gwałtem, nie ugrożą, chociaż się srożą!
Who wants to plunder our treasures?
Should we stand in awe? There is nothing to fear!
Force for force, to whoever infringes on us!
They want violence – don’t frighten, though they grow fiercer!

Nic nie dbać, nie dbać, bronić a skarbów swoich chronić.
Wygrają? – Nie wygrają!
Brońmy, niechaj nas znają:
Nas nie wiele, ich jest wiele; siec, bronić a nieprzyjaciół gromić!
Don’t give a thought to protect their treasures!
Will they win? – No!
Let us defend, and keep in mind:
We are few, they are many; hit hard, defend, and defeat the enemies!

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