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Boże, coś Polskę (God save Poland) is a solemn prayer for the nation, included in all Catholic Church songbooks, and sung in Polish churches. The hymn had a complicated history and in its creation at least three authors participated at different points in time.
The original version dates back to 1816. Alojzy Feliński wrote the
Hymn Commemorating the Proclamation of the Polish Kingdom Dedicated to the Polish Army
by the Order of the
Commander - in - Chief and Jan Nepomucen Kaszewski, asked by the Great Duke Konstanty,
set the words to music. The National Song to King's Good Fortune was the result of that
The text, which praised the
Tsar, was written under the impact of the contemporary political developments
(temporary liberial policy of
Tsar Alexander I, following the Congress of Vienna). The hymn's original refrain included
the words "God bless
the king" - referring to Tsar Alexander the First, who, after the defeat of Napoleon
became the first ruler
of the newly established Kingdom of Poland (1815). |
However, this "servile" hymn was soon rejected by the Poles who suffered as a result of the policy of Russification introduced by the occupants. The hymn was rarely sung and rather unpopular. A new version emerged when a poet associated with the Polish Legion (the Polish troops fighting on the side of Napoleon), Antoni Gorecki , revised Feliński's original to create The Hymn to the God for the Preservation of Liberty (1817). The pious refrain was changed to contain a prayer for God's blessings not for the "king" but for "homeland." That version spread among Poles at home and also among those who lived as emigrants abroad becoming a symbol of national resistance.
According to the research of Dioniza Wawrzykowska-Wierciochowa, the second melody of Boże, coś Polskę (ca. 1828), sometimes erroneously ascribed to Karol Kurpiński, or to a borrowing from a religious song, Beloved Mother, or to a quote from an aria by Jean Pierre Solie, was actually taken from a Cracow song, "Hail to you, Blessed Virgin Mary." As this devotional melody was widely known and easier to sing, it altogether replaced the Kaszewski's tune by the end of the year 1860.
It is interesting to compare the changeable parts of the refrain of God Save Poland as it envolved since the text's inception. The first strophe, describing the past blessings that God bestowed on the country remains unchanged as "eternal" as its transcendental addressee. It is "our" needs and requests expressed in the final line of the refrain that are modified to reflect the changing political situations and priorities:
O, God who, through so many centuries,As it is clear from the refrains, the original prayer on behalf of the King was soon replaced by a request to regain independence, sought in a series of unsuccessful uprisings (1830, 1848, 1863) but realized only in 1918. God Save Poland became the national and religious anthem that was heard during the insurrections, wars and foreign occupations. The contemporary versions of God Save Poland (1989-96) ask for God's blessings for free country, though there also exists another version popular in the 1980s (after the suppression of the Solidarity movement ): "Return our free homeland to us, Lord." The Polish People's Republic (1944-89) was officially an independent country, but the Solidarity supporters considered it an occupied zone of "Soviet influence" and prayed for its freedom. Until the present day God Save Poland has always been the most intense prayer for independence and peace.
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