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-   -   September (Září) by Karel Kryl (http://www.ablemuse.com/erato/showthread.php?t=30052)

Martin Rocek 09-10-2018 02:25 PM

September (Září) by Karel Kryl
 
September

August is bringing
........September from the west.
A tuft of asters
........blooms under the rowans--
the serrated sun
........beats without interest
on stands with papers,
........flowers, and ice cream cones.

ref:
Some fools are risking
........their necks to bear witness--
an early autumn
........vainly waits for the snow.
We don’t meddle in
........other peoples’ business.
As for our own, we
........know we don’t want to know.
........
And lazy clouds like
........caravels sail across
the various skies
........above various lands--
courage weighs and waits,
........weighs, above the abyss,
memories of those
........who remember mere remnants.

**************
Recording the song in the studio:
https://youtu.be/oGcLp0TKAjc

**************

Changes: (Thank you A. Sterling and Don)
The last two lines of S1 were:
on kiosks selling
........hot dogs and ice cream cones.
The last two lines of the refrain were:
as for our own, we
........don’t want even to know.
S2 was:
And lazy clouds like
........caravels sail across
varied skies and lands,
........crossing all September,
courage weighs and waits,
........weighs, above the abyss,
memories of those
........who barely can remember.

I have repunctuated the whole song after finding the correct original punctuation (see note below)*,
and some more following Don's suggestions; thank you Don.

Possible alternates:
S1L(6-8) (Thanks Aaron):
........beats on the shopfront glass—
on kiosks selling
........papers and ice cream cones.

S2:
And lazy clouds like
........caravels sail across
varied skies and lands
........with various laments.
Courage weighs and waits,
........weighs, above the abyss,
memories of those
........who remember mere remnants.
or, closer to the original:
And lazy clouds like
........caravels sail across
the various skies
........of various homelands.
Courage weighs and waits,
........weighs above the abyss
memories of those
........who remember mere remnants.

**************
Crib:

September

August brought September from the west.
A clump/tuft of asters blooms under the rowans--
a toothy/serrated/jagged sun beats on vitrines--
on stands with hotdogs, flowers, newspapers.

ref:
A number of fools carry [their] skin to the market [risk their necks]--
and early autumn waits futilely for the snow:
We don’t meddle in foreign affairs/others’ things--
and even less -- actually -- in our own.

And clouds like caravels drift/sail
from sky to sky of various nations/lands--
courage hesitates/weighs, hesitates/weighs above the abyss
memories of those, who barely remember.

[ref:]x2


Original:
Září

Přinesl srpen září od Západu.
Trs aster kvete pod jeřabinami—
zubaté slunce bije do výkladů—
do stánků s buřty, květy, novinami.

ref:
Několik bláznů na trh kůži nese—
a časný podzim marně čeká na sníh:
…Do cizích věcí nevměšujeme se —
a ještě méně — vlastně — do těch vlastních.

A mraky jako Karavely plují
od nebe k nebi přerozličných vlastí—
odvaha váhá, váhá nad propastí
paměti těch, kdo sotva pamatují.

[ref:]x2


Notes:

A short, late Kryl song with a light melody and playfully bitter words.

I have posted some possible alternates -- any comments would be much appreciated.

*I have repunctuated the Czech text, as I had originally taken the punctuation from a songbook, and now I have replaced it with the published text. I have also repunctuated the crib and my translation.

A. Sterling 09-10-2018 09:56 PM

Hi Martin,

I like this, and will attempt to come back to it later to say more. But the thing that strikes me right now, reading this, is that leaving out the “newspapers” in S1 also means leaving out the only hint in the first stanza that things are about to take a political turn in the second. I’m also a bit skeptical about “crossing all Septembers,” in S3, which doesn’t communicate a whole lot and also doesn’t reflect the subtle political dimension in the original—since each country doesn’t actually have its own separate sky, that part reads a bit ironically to me. The moreso because I was under the impression that “vlast” is more along the lines of “fatherland” than “country.”

Don Jones 09-11-2018 07:26 AM

Hey Martin,

An effective little song. Quite delicate but powerful.

Last line of the refrain has skewed syntax with the adverb. How about “don’t even want to know”?

Is the following from your crib—A number of fools carry [their] skin to the market [risk their necks]—a common idiom in the original like "neck" for "life" in English or is it a metonym particular to this song? If the latter I would somehow work it into your translation. An arresting image.

I agree with A. Sterling’s note on “crossing all September” in relation to the crib.

I favor the changes you suggest for the last two lines of S1.

Don

Martin Rocek 09-11-2018 05:15 PM

Hi A. Sterling,
Welcome to the ‘sphere and thank you for reading and commenting. I have adopted your suggestion and gone with my alternate ending for S1.

“September” is there just for the rhyme; I am playing with an alternative:

And lazy clouds like
........caravels sail across
varied skies and lands
........with various laments.
Courage weighs and waits,
........weighs, above the abyss,
memories of those
........who remember mere remnants.


or perhaps fragments instead of remnants.

“vlasti” does mean “homelands”, but I think the emphasis here is on “přerozličných”, that is “various”, so I don’t think that I am doing violence to the meaning by using simply “lands”.

Don,
Thank you for reading and commenting. As I said above, I have adopted your suggestion and gone with my alternate ending for S1. What do you think of my new idea for S2?

“Carrying one’s skin to the market” is an expression in Czech and in German, actually, and “risking one’s neck” is a pretty good translation, so even though the original is striking, it would be too opaque to translate literally.

The last line of the refrain is a tough nut to crack, being constrained by rhyme (with “snow”) and rhythm. Kryl pauses after the second syllable, so I cannot use “don’t even”:
- vlastně - do těch vlastních.
don’t want - even - to know.

I am hoping that when it is sung it is OK. Further thoughts would be most welcome.
Edited in:
about our own, we
even don't want to know.

works as far as the music goes, but is even worse in terms of syntax; I'll keep thinking!

Thank you again both for reading and for your helpful comments; I hope that you have something to say about my proposed S2.

Martin

p.s. Another idea, with a more slanted rhyme but closer to the original meaning, is:

And lazy clouds like
........caravels sail across
the various skies
........above various lands.
Courage weighs and waits,
........weighs, above the abyss,
memories of those
........who remember mere remnants.


or yet another variant:

the different skies
........of different homelands.


Thank you in advance for any comments.

Martin Rocek 09-12-2018 01:35 PM

I have put some possible variants up above--any comments, thoughts, etc. would be much appreciated.

Don Jones 09-13-2018 07:20 AM

Hi Martin,

I opt for:

And lazy clouds like
........caravels sail across
the various skies
........above various lands.
Courage weighs and waits,
........weighs, above the abyss,
memories of those
........who remember mere remnants.


I like the repetition of "various" along with "weighs."

A question about something I didn't previously notice. Your rewrite:

as for our own, we
........know we don’t want to know.


But your crib reads:

we don’t meddle in foreign affairs/others’ things
- and even less - actually - in our own.


Where is the idea of the absence of desire, "don't want to know," as reflected in your translation? The crib conveys the idea of simply not doing something (not meddling in our own affairs). I do like your rewrite in terms of English but now I'm not certain it's conveying the original. What do you think?

Also, I would place a period at the end of L2 in the refrain and start with a new sentence in L3. It would be a nice separation of thought. As for a semi-colon at the end of L6 of the refrain, I would place a period to complete the thought. Then the following statement, whose referent for "as for our own" would be understood, is more effective. Plus, semi-colons are terribly fussy and this is a lovely lyric. Less punctuation is always best.

Keep plugging. This is worth the effort.

Don

Added in: heard the recording. The song is gorgeous. Beautiful language too!

Jim Moonan 09-13-2018 08:32 AM

x
Chiming in to say thanks for the introduction to Karel Kryl and his poetry and music.

The translation to English reads beautifully, though I couldn't say, for example, if A Sterling's observation of the omission of the newspaper causes the translation to lose that layer of politic. From my cursory review of his (Kryl's) work it would seem to be important.

The song is beautiful and the voice/guitar reminiscent of Leonard Cohen's early songs. Though Kryl appears to speak less intimately and more to the broad population.
x

Martin Rocek 09-13-2018 11:31 AM

Don,
thank you for coming back; I will take your advice on most points.
“various” also echoes “caravels”.

I think what Kryl is saying in the refrain is that we are apathetic and afraid to get involved. Within the constraints of rhyme and rhythm, I hope that I have captured that general idea; not knowing (or pretending not to know) about your own business is a way of not being involved. One of his books critical of Czechoslovakia is called “The land of apathy”; I think this is the point here. The other point here is he plays a lot with sound and words that sound alike—that is really hard to translate, but I hope that my new version does some of that.

My only disagreement with you is the period after "business"; "as for our own" would become grammatically untenable IMO.

Thank you again! You have helped me out a lot.

Hi Jim,
thank you for reading and commenting. Kryl is a wonderful protest songwriter; I have been obsessed with him for a number of years, and have translated 24 of his songs. I am hoping to introduce him to the English speaking world (he is famous in Czechia, Slovakia, and Poland), and am looking for a singer or singers who would be interested in recording my translations.

Some more information about him is available in the note at the bottom of my translation of the “Gustapo March”:
Quote:

This is another of my translations of the Czech protest songwriter Karel Kryl; for those who haven't seem some of the other songs that I have posted here, I offer a brief blurb about him:

Karel Kryl was a great protest songwriter/singer/poet active from about 1966 until his death in 1994. He became famous after the Warsaw Pact invasion of 1968. His song "Bratříčku, zavírej vrátka” (Little brother, lock the gate) became a sort of anthem for those who opposed the invasion, and though after he went into exile in West Germany, his work was banned in Czechoslovakia, when he returned in 1989 after the Velvet Revolution, the audiences at his overflowing concerts that he gave, many of them young people who grew up after the invasion, all knew the lyrics to his songs and sang along. A brief account can be found here on wikipedia.
His songs are readily available on YouTube. He is unknown in the English speaking world. I have translated 24 of his songs, matching my lyrics to his melodies and trying to preserve his vivid images and sonorous rhymes.

As a footnote, let me note a few years ago, at a concert in Prague, Joan Baez sang his most famous song in very broken Czech, and admitted that her language skills were not up to the task.

Aaron Poochigian 09-13-2018 09:55 PM

Martin, this reads very smoothly.

I think the opening stanza needs semicolons or periods instead of commas.

Also, I still think you can improve on:

the serrated sun
........beats without interest
on stands with papers
........flowers and ice cream cones.

In particular the wordy "without interest" and the preposition "with" (instead of "selling").

Best,

Aaron

Martin Rocek 09-14-2018 12:49 PM

Hi Aaron,
thank you for reading and commenting. I discovered that I had the original punctation all wrong--it was taken from a songbook that was careless with it; I now used the published text of the song, and applied that punctuation as best I could to my translation--does that solve the problems or introduce new ones?

I kind of like "beats without interest", both as a rhyme for "from the west", and as anticipating the theme of the song--people's apathy; however, I have come up with an alternative for the line:
........beats on the shopfront glass—
what do you think?
"stands with" is a literal translation of the original; of course, in the original, "with" is "s" and doesn't actually take a syllable. I have come up with an alternative, but I have to sacrifice the flowers to fit the rhythm:
on kiosks selling
........papers and ice cream cones.
do you think that is better?
If you could come up with a better rhyme for rowans, that would give me much more flexibility, but all my efforts so far have failed.

Thank you again!

Martin


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