Three fragments from poems by Jan Kasprowicz op. 5 (1902)

Święty Boże
Jestem i płaczę
Błogosławioną niech będzie ta chwila

In selecting texts from Kasprowicz’s (opis osoby: Jan Kasprowicz (1860 – 1926). Polish poet, playwright, critic and translator; leading representative of the Young Poland movement.) Cztery poematy [Four Poems], also known as Hymny [Hymns], Szymanowski omitted the first two parts of the cycle – the apocalyptic Dies irae and the erotically intense Salome, which he adapted separately in 1904 as a song for voice and orchestra op. 6 (the manuscript of Salome deposited in 1938 in the Musical Department of the National Library was most probably destroyed by fire during the war).
Introducing the popular church song Święty Boże [Holy God] into Trzy fragmenty [Three fragments] op. 5 for voice and piano (1902) was highly significant in the development of Szymanowski’s work; it opened up to him the whole area of images and experiences associated with folk religious tradition, to which he kept returning in later works. In an aside when commenting on his Stabat Mater, he said: “For many years I have been thinking about Polish religious music; [...] Święty Boże sung in some little village church, or my favourite Gorzkie żale [Bitter sorrows] [...] have always touched my religious instinct a hundred times more than the most elaborate Latin Mass” (“Muzyka” 1926 Nos 11-12). The distinctive features of songs of this kind – rough simplicity, naivety, ardour and humility – in time became the indicator of a particular melodic-harmonic style in a number of Szymanowski’s vocal works (Stabat Mater, Święty Franciszek [St Francis] from Słopiewnie [Word-Songs], op. 20, Święta Krystyna [St Christine] from Rymy dziecięce [Children's Rhymes] {link} and others), creating a separate current of creative output, which has been called “Franciscan” (M. Tomaszewski 1984, p. 201).
The religious-folk perspective, introduced into Hymns op. 5 by the song Święty Boże, found its reflection in the “plagal harmony”, in the significant role of subdominant chords, in the modal colouring of the melodical lines (Phrygian, Aeolian, Lydian), and in the stylisation of the mazurka which appears in the third part of the cycle. Szymanowski used the supplication Święty Boże in two songs in op. 5: in the first – as thematic material, in the second – as the musical conclusion in the final bars. At the same time, the whole cycle could be characterised as consisting of the prayer part (song 1), dramatic part (song 2) and lyrical part (song 3). However, the elevated tone of the “nationalistic chorale” influenced the whole of the composition. It has left its mark on the modal nuances of the melody and harmony, affected the sound colouring of the accompanying part with too much use of the low and the lowest piano register, particularly in the first two songs, and influenced the selection of imitative effects, which imitate the sound of timpani (song 1, bar 86) and bells (song 2, bars 60-65, 83). This hymnic tone has been additionally strengethened – probably unconsciously – in the second part of the cycle, where in the exclamation “I am and I weep” one can discern the melodic contour of another popular national song Z dymem pożarów [With the smoke of the fires] by K. Ujejski and J. Nikorowicz.