Polonia’s Favorite Hymn
A haunting melody that brings back fond memories
By Robert Strybel
Polish/Polonian Affairs Writer
It is often at babcia’s funeral that a hauntingly familiar hymn revives a PolAm’s distant memories. Recollections of one’s childhood in an old Polonian neighborhood that is no more, of the time spent at a long defunct Polish parochial school or of that family as it was back then in what may appear to be have been better, simpler, kinder times. It’s no wonder that this melody actually chokes some people up and brings a tear to many an eye, especially when heard for the first time in years.
That religious work is “Serdeczna Matko“, probably our Polonia’s best-known hymn. It is often played during the funeral mass, In fact older relatives, particularly PolAm grandmothers, have been known to specifically request that it be sung at their requiem.
It is also heard at weddings, and not only during the nuptial mass. When the newlyweds-to-be meet at the bride’s home for the parental blessing, several musicians (or maybe a single accordionist) play “Serdeczna Matko” in or outside the house and often accompany the wedding party to church.
It was already a popular religious hymn in the early 1800s, and to its melody were set the words of Poland’s religious anthem “Boże coś Polskę”. The first stanza of both works goes as follows:
Serdeczna Matko, opiekunko ludzi,
Niech Cię płacz sierot do litości wzbudzi;
Wygnańcy Ewy do Ciebie wołamy:
Zmiłuj się zmiłuj, niech się nie tułamy.
“Beloved Mother” (Author’s translation)
Beloved Mother, guardian of the nation,
Hear orphans weeping in their supplication.
Eve’s exiles we all now to you we are praying.
Show us your mercy and keep us from straying.
Boże coś Polskę…
Boże! Coś Polskę przez tak liczne wieki
Otaczał blaskiem potęgi i chwały
I tarczą swojej zasłaniał opieki
Od nieszczęść, które przygnębić ją miały
Przed Twe ołtarze zanosim błaganie:
Ojczyznę wolną pobłogosław Panie!
God who’s surrounded… (Author’s translation)
God who’s surrounded Poland o’er the ages
With all the radiance of Your might and splendor.
And shielded her from history’s threatening rages
Which Poland helpless did intend to render.
Up to Your altars comes our supplication:
Lord, grant Your blessings to our sovereign nation!
Both selections can be heard at: