Wednesday, February 07, 2007

And I laugh at love, which is mown down by death

I grew into the world of music via my father's lovingly preserved Dual gramophone, and his fantastic collection of old vinyl LPs, both Western and Indian classical. I still remember clearly, one afternoon, I must have been about 11 or 12, I found an LP of Dmitri Shostakovich's 14th Symphony, opened, but still in the plastic wrapper. It had obviously not been played much.

It's an unusual work, in that there is voice, a single soprano, in the symphony, really a collection of works by famous poets set to music. I don't recall the music that much actually (except a few startling parts, which I'll mention below), but the words are still fresh in my mind. All the poems are about death. Of course, as a geeky pre-teen language buff, I was most fascinated by the Russian (I had not yet learned how to read Cyrillic). Now, suddenly, these poems come tumbling back to mind.

Two in particular struck me (and strike me), both as poems, and musically (as I remember it. I will, of course, be checking on the health of the Dual, and see if it can be coaxed into life.) (There's a third as well, but I'll put that in the next post.)

Of course, on this blog, the Cyrillic text will precede the English translation below. The full libretto of the symphony is also available online.

The first poem is entitled Malagueña (meaning girl or woman from Malaga), a poem by Federico Garcia Lorca (original Spanish text.)


вошла и ушла
из таверны.

Чёрные кони
и тёмные души
в ушчелях гитары
бродят, бродят.

Запакли солью
и жаркой кровью
сосветься зыби

А смерть
всё выходит и входит
и входит, выходит и входит
Всё уходит и входит!
А смерть всё уходит
и всё не уидёт из таверны.

The strident soprano's "voshla y ushla iz tavernii!" still rings in my head!

The second is "Madam, posmotrite!" "Madam Look" by the French poet Guillame Apollinaire.

Мадам посмотрите!

«Мадам посмотрите!
Потеряли вы что-то...»
«Ах! Путяки! Это сердце моё.
Скорое его подберите.

Захочу – отдам.
Захочу – поберу его снова, поверьте.
И я хохчу, хохочу, хохочу
хохочу, хохочу, хо, хо, хо, хо...
И я хохочу, хохочу, над любовью,
что скошена смертью.»

Here, it's the "kha- kha-" sound, repeated again and again in the words ("khakhachu" = "I laugh"), somewhat ominiously, in the last stanza.

English after the jump.


entered and left
the tavern.

Black horses
and dark souls
in the ravines of the guitar
still wander.

They smell of salt
and hot blood
from the foaming
of the nervous ripples.

keeps leaving and entering,
and entering, leaving and entering.
keeps on entering and leaving!
Death keeps on leaving
and still will not leave the tavern.

"Madam Look!"

"Madam, look!
You have lost something..."
"Ah! It's nothing! It's only my heart.
Pick it up quickly.

If I want, I will give it back.
If I want, I will take it again, believe me.
And I laugh, laugh, laugh,
laugh, laugh,...
And I laugh at love,
which is mown down by death."

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