A Conversation Among Five Travelers Concerning Life's True HappinessHryhorii (Gregory) Skovoroda(1722-1794)
Published in Russian Philosophy, Vol. I, The Beginnings of Russian Philosophy: The Slavophiles: TheWesternizers, edited by James M. Edie, James P. Scanlan, and Mary-Barbara Zeldin, with the collaboration of George L. Kline (The University of Tennessee Press, 1965). Translated by George L. Kline from "Razgovor pyati putnikov o istinnom shchasti v zhizni," in Gregory Skovoroda, Tvori v dvokh tomakh, Kiev, 1961, I, 207-214, 215-224, 226, 227, 229, 130-232, 232-258, 238-14:, 242-243, 244-245, 145-247. Variant readings (given in the criticalcommentary at the back of the volume cited) have been used in a few cases where they seemed to be required by thesense. All footnotes are the translator's; where identification was possible, Scriptural and other citations notidentified by Skovoroda have been identified in the footnotes.Transcribed into hypertext by Andrew Chrucky, July 30, 2004. I have substituted throughout the text colloquialEnglish expressions for archaic English pronouns and verbs. Thus, "you" instead of "thou," except where Biblical passages are quoted.
Athanasius.In their lives men labor, are troubled, and pile up treasures, but to what end many of them do notthemselves know. Upon reflection, all the thousands of varied human enterprises are seen tohave but a single end -- the heart's happiness. To this end we choose friends according to our inclination in order that we may take pleasure in sharing our thoughts with them; we achievehigh rank in order that our judgment may rejoice at the respect of others; we devise various kindsof food and drink to please our taste; we seek out different kinds of music, composing amultitude of concertos, minuets, dances, and contre-danses to delight our ears; we build finehouses, plant gardens and orchards, and weave gold-brocaded fabrics, embroidering them with pleasingly colored silken threads, and deck ourselves out in such garments -- which are soft anddelicate to the touch and give pleasure to the eye of the beholder; we concoct fragrant perfumes, powders, and creams to gratify our sense of smell. In a word, we try to gladden our spirits withevery means we can devise. Oh, how great is the gladness of the high-born and prosperous in thisworld! Men of open spirit live in their houses with joy and satisfaction. Oh, how precious areyou, joy of the heart!For your sake, tsars, princes, and men of wealth pay uncounted thousands. And we who are poor and not prosperous nourish ourselves, as it were, from the crumbs that fall from their tables. Justthink of the triumphant splendor of the renowned cities of Europe.James.It is truly great. I have heard that nowhere are there more diversions and delights than in Parisand Venice.Athanasius.True, they are many, but until you bring them to us from Venice we will perish here of boredom.Gregory.Stop talking nonsense, dear friends. High rank, a pleasant setting, games, diversions, and all of your many enterprises are powerless to bring joy to the spirit or to drive away the boredom thathas taken possession of you.James.What then can do it?Gregory.Only one thing, and that is to discover in what true happiness consists and then to acquire it.