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Old 05-17-2018, 06:51 PM
Martin Rocek's Avatar
Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Default Proč nemohu spát (Why I cannot sleep)

rev. 1

Why I cannot sleep

(The) earth will turn and the weary sun will rise
before I’ll be able to close my eyes.
So I mope having lost all hope
that I’ll fall asleep.

No one would be surprised if they could
wear my skin a while, because then they would
understand me and they could see
why I cannot sleep.

As every evening I watch the sun go down,
and my eyes are open all night long,
everything is asleep
and I remain alone
and sing this song:

Why pay Paul by robbing poor Peter?
Why may just children play games here?
And why can’t the world just be sweeter?
All this keeps me from my sleep.

Why do the full bellies mistrust us
until they know how hunger feels?
And why do double standards crush us?
That’s what keeps me from my sleep.

I know there isn’t time
for me to find the right key.
I won’t invent the rhyme
to make my hunger flee.

Why do we wonder till we’re weary,
ever searching for the right key?
One day we’ll see everything clearly
when we find eternal sleep.

Here is a link to the original recording of this blues:
https://youtu.be/ZhtTGD0KQ4g
It has the improvisations indicated in the text.

Here is a link to a contemporary performance by an up-and-coming jazz band called "Ježkovy stopy", that is the "Ježek's footprints"; it doesn't use the improvisations. See notes below about the authors/composer.
https://youtu.be/XUc42flyNx0

Tweaks: (thanks Edward!)
S5L1&2 were
Why you with full bellies won’t trust us
Until you know how hunger feels?
---
S4L1 was
Why pay Paul by exploiting Peter (thanks to off-board advice)
---
S1L1 was
The earth will turn, the weary sun will rise (thanks Andrew!)


Previous

Why I cannot sleep

The earth will turn, the weary sun will rise
before I’ll be able to close my eyes.*
So I mope having lost all hope
that I’ll fall asleep.

No one would be surprised if they could
wear my skin a while, because then they would
understand me and they could see
why I cannot sleep.

As every evening I watch the sun go down,
and my eyes are open all night long,
everything is asleep
and I remain alone
and sing this song:

Why must we struggle through each new day?
Why may just little children play?
And must the world really be this way?
All this keeps me from my sleep.

Why you with full bellies won’t trust us
until you know how hunger feels?
And why do double standards crush us?
That’s what keeps me from my sleep.

I know there isn’t time
for me to find the right key.
I won’t invent the rhyme
to make my hunger flee.

What makes us wonder till we’re weary,
ever searching for the right key?
One day we’ll see everything clearly
when we find eternal sleep.
________
*Improvisation:
long hours before,
long, long before
at last I’ll be able to close my eyes
**Another improvisation.
See explanation below.


Tweaks (thanks Julie):
Comma added in S1L1,
S4 began:
Why must one struggle through each new day?
[And why]**
And why are just the games of children sweet?

More Tweaks (thanks Edward)
S1L3 was
So I mope I have lost all hope
S5L1 was
Why you with full bellies won't trust us
then
Why you with full bellies don't trust us
then reverted (thanks John).



Original:
Proč nemohu spát
Jiří Voskovec, Jan Werich, Jaroslav Ježek

Zeměkoule se dříve otočí
[Daleko dřív
daleko dřív]*
než se mi podaří zavřít oči
Já už sám ani nedoufám
že bych mohl spát

Nikdo se mi diviti nemůže
když vleze na chvíli do mé kůže
neboť možná že sám pozná
proč nemůžu spát

Každého večera slunce zapadá
a já otevřené oči mám
Když všechno kolem spí
a já zůstanu sám
tak si zpívám

Proč klínem vyrážíte klíny
[A proč]*
a proč jenom děti si smějí hrát
A proč vlastně svět není jiný
To všechno mi nedá spát

Proč sytý lačnému nevěří
dokud sám nedostane hlad
a proč se dvojím loktem měří
to právě mi nedá spát

Vím že nepochodím
když se budu pořád ptát
Nikdy nenajdu rým
kterým bych zahnal svůj hlad

Proč a nad čím to člověk žasne
po čem se potřebuje ptát
jednou to všechno bude jasné
Až budem navěky spát

_______
*Improvisations.


Crib:

Why I can’t sleep

The earth will turn around before
[Long before
long before]*
I will succeed in closing my eyes,
I myself no longer hope,
that I could sleep.

No one can be surprised [at me]
if they crawl into my skin for a while,
because maybe, they will see for themselves,
why I can’t sleep.

Every evening the sun sets
and I have open eyes
When everything sleeps around me
and I stay alone,
then I sing to myself:

Why do you drive a wedge out with another wedge**
[And why]*
and why are only children allowed to play
And why actually isn’t the world different?
All that keeps me from sleep

Why don’t the sated believe the hungry
until they become hungry themselves
and why do they measure with two elbows***
that’s what keeps me from sleep

I know that I won’t succeed
if I keep asking
I’ll never find a rhyme
with which I could chase away my hunger

Why and over what does a person feel amazed
about what does he/she needs to ask?
someday it will be all clear
when we sleep forever.
________
*[Improvisations]
**why do you solve a problem by making a new one
***why is there a double standard [for the rich and the poor]
___________
NOTES:

A tiny technical note: The official title of the song is "Proč nemohu spát" Why I cannot sleep. The phrase doesn't appear in the song--rather a slightly less formal form appears: "Proč nemůžu spát" Why I can't sleep. The song is often called by the latter. For metrical reasons, I used Why I cannot sleep in the text.

One more comment: I try to match the original syllable by syllable so that it can be sung to the original melody. This imposes a lot of difficult constraints on my text.

It has been a while since I posted a translation form V+W+J, the famous Czech cabaret/jazz writers/composer from the late 1920's and the 1930's. Here is a quick recap of the background:

Jaroslav Jezek wrote music for the Liberated Theater of Voskovec and Werich in the 1920's and 1930's, and the three had a huge impact on the Czech cultural scene.

A few links about the writers and actors Jiri Voskovec and Jan Werich:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osvobozen%C3%A9_divadlo
http://www.radio.cz/en/section/arts/...slovak-culture

A few too many links about the composer Jaroslav Ježek:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaroslav_Ježek_(composer)*
http://orelfoundation.org/composers/...jaroslav_jezek
http://www.radio.cz/en/section/music...categorization
http://www.radio.cz/en/section/archi...jazz-in-1934-1

If you are looking for recordings of this particular song, I put the links right after the translation.

*For reasons I can't figure out, this link doesn't quite work, so you have to click on the right link once this takes you to wikipedia.
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  #2  
Old 05-18-2018, 10:14 AM
Julie Steiner's Avatar
Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Hey, Martin! Good to see you posting here again!

This is a charmingly melancholy little ditty--probably simple enough for me to attempt on my 'ukulele when you're done with it.

I think ignoring the improvisations is the way to go.

This stanza could use a bit more work, I think:

Why must one struggle through each new day?
And why are just the games of children sweet?
And must the world really be this way?
All this keeps me from my sleep.


My personal view--with which you (and others) may strongly disagree--is that the playful rhymes of the other lines are more important than the rhyme with "sleep." I think that can be a standalone, rhyming only with itself (from the other stanzas). Especially since the crib's line about children's play already rhymes with the other three!

I also wonder if the expression about the wedges might be treated a bit differently.

Why is each solution problematical, hey?

or similar.
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Old 05-18-2018, 10:48 PM
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Julie Steiner Julie Steiner is offline
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Looking back...I think L1 could really use some commas:

The earth will turn, the weary sun will rise,

Last edited by Julie Steiner; 05-18-2018 at 11:00 PM.
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Old 05-19-2018, 12:15 AM
Martin Rocek's Avatar
Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Julie,
thank you so much for reading and commenting. Yes to the comma, of course; I originally had it as two lines, but it seemed too spread out, and I forgot to insert the comma.

The verse that you zeroed in on is the one that I have spent most time on and has been giving me the most trouble. I think your suggestion about the rhyme is excellent.

Here are a few interesting facts that I have found: In the original published text, the line about the children is different:
Why are children not allowed to play?.
It also has 8 syllables, not 10. When V&W recorded it, they changed to the 10 syllable version meaning
And why are only children allowed to play?.
You can hear the improvised extra syllables, sort of like grace notes. In the contemporary version sung by Jezek's Footprints Orchestra, they sing an 8 syllable line meaning
Why are just children allowed to play?.
So it gives me a lot to think about.

I have an idea to make the first line of the verse metaphoric--the closest metaphor that I can find in English is "Why do you rob Peter to pay Paul?", or if I want to try another rhyme word and make the expression a bit more interesting, "Why pay Paul by exploiting Peter?" Do you think that is worth pursuing?

I'd love to hear a ukulele version!

Thank you so much!

Martin
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Old 05-19-2018, 03:35 AM
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Edward Zuk Edward Zuk is offline
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Hi Martin,

Listening to the YouTube link was interesting--a slice from another era.

I think that you could fiddle with this to sound more natural in English. In stanza 1, I'll suggest a small tweak:

So I mope having lost all hope

Similarly, this line sounds strange to me:

Why you with full bellies won’t trust us
until you know how hunger feels?

I don't know if this will fit the music, but a few tweaks and slightly different word order would make a big difference:

You with full bellies, can't you trust us
if you don't know how hunger feels?

Good luck with this.
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Old 05-21-2018, 12:28 PM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Edward,
Thank you so much for reading and commenting--I will gladly accept your suggestion for S1L3--it is much smoother and fits the music better.

I not so sure about your other suggestion. The "Why's" are very important to the song. I am hesitant about one thing: This song is from the great depression. There is a pretty strong subtext of the rich oppressing the poor. However, in this verse, I have made it a bit more explicit by using the second person rather than the third as in the original--would

Why those with full bellies don’t trust us
until they know how hunger feels?

It seems more awkward to me.

Also, I have been hesitating between won't/don't; do you have an opinion?
Another question: in the next line, is until or unless better? Know/Learn?
In any case, I will give this more thought and try to come up with something better.

Thanks again!
Martin
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Old 05-21-2018, 10:55 PM
John Isbell John Isbell is offline
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Hi Martin,

Just to say the English here reads pretty effortlessly, as if the work you've done on it were invisible. I'll also throw in my 2c on two of your questions:
I enjoy "Why pay Paul by exploiting Peter?", with its neatly Marxist twist on an old proverb that allows for that; and in "Why those with full bellies don’t trust us", I'd go with won't for two reasons. First, it alliterates with why, whereas don't doesn't pick anything up; second, won't implies volition and the capacity to do otherwise, whereas don't is a flat, mediated statement of how things are that raises no question of the back story. The back story is, the rich choose not to trust the poor, I think. Hence won't, in my books.

Cheers,
John
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Old 05-22-2018, 02:46 AM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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John,
thanks for reading and commenting. I have put up a revision influenced by your remarks.

All comments welcome!

Martin
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Old 05-22-2018, 02:49 AM
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Edward Zuk Edward Zuk is offline
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Hi Martin,

I can understand wanting to keep the "why" in the question. Do try to find something more colloquial, though.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Rocek View Post

Also, I have been hesitating between won't/don't; do you have an opinion?

Another question: in the next line, is until or unless better? Know/Learn?
I'd go with "won't" and "unless" and "know."
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Old 05-22-2018, 09:37 AM
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Martin Rocek Martin Rocek is offline
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Edward,
thank you for keeping after me--I have put a fix up. What do you think?

Thanks again!

All comments from everyone still appreciated.

Martin
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