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“Przekrój” Magazine brings to the English reader some of the best journalism from across Central and Eastern Europe, in such fields as culture, society, ecology and literature. Stand aside from the haste and fierceness of everyday news and join us now!

Przekrój
“Are you going to Świder? / Because I’m going to Świder.” A poem by a “Przekrój” favourite.. ...
2019-06-12 10:00:00
A Trip To Świder
A Trip To Świder

Read the translators’ introduction to “A Trip to Świder” here.

 

1

On the Train

Excuse me, is this your stop?
Are you bothered by the draught?
No, only floury food bothers me.

Are you going to Świder?
Because I’m going to Świder.
Bączek’s the name, Bączek the director.

Did you hear? Some fellow called Bambino
crossed the Channel in a bucket!
Do you mind if I ask, what’s this?
A zither.

You see, there’s a lady there
who likes my playing, so it’s for her
I always take a zither when I go to Świder.

Where do you live?
On Józef Bem Street.
No ashtrays on this train.
Watch out, you’ve burnt a hole.

Only a stain, it’ll wash away.
Would you care to hear me play
“THE MOON IS HIDING BEHIND A CLOUD”?

The moon is hiding behind a cloud,
(SPADES DIAMONDS CLUBS)
it’s helping the cloud to write a card.
(SPADES DIAMONDS CLUBS)
It’s writing a card for Nina,
(SPADES DIAMONDS CLUBS)
because tomorrow is her name day.
(SPADES DIAMONDS CLUBS)

Musicians in the Carriage:

TODAY’S MISS NINA’S NAME DAY,
it’s going to be an all-nighter,
I’ll give her a cloud, a golden feather,
and a fancy ring to delight her.

Here’s a picture, here’s a statuette,
here’s a puppy asleep in a basket.
Postmen with bags of letters
ring the bell and kick up a racket.

Today’s Miss Nina’s name day!
The world’s got to end in tears.
The cats are caterwauling away:
May you live for a hundred years!

Themistocles, the old cynic,
was nuts, I’m sorry to say,
and prone to hurry off in a panic
if only he’d known about today!

Because you’re as pretty as Phryne
and it’s your name day, too,
you’ll find the fiddler Paganini
bowing down to you.

The train is dashing, the rails are clashing,
the wind is crashing like a grand piano.
TODAY’S MISS NINA’S NAME DAY
and so on...

Lunatic in a Rubber Singlet:

And so on? Why? We want more!

Musicians:

“Song about the Rojek Brothers!”

(applause)

Musicians:

I dip into Przekrój
at odd moments, in undress:
the Rojeks write for it – how many
is anybody’s guess.

It’s said they’re always drunk
and one of them’s a monk,
but I’m not afraid,
I’m not afraid,
no, I’m not afraid
of them.

I’M NOT AFRAID OF THE ROJEK BROTHERS,
what have I got to fear?
There’s nothing to be frightened of
so long as I steer clear!

There are two shirts in this basket,
and the basket belongs to me.
I’m not afraid of the Rojek brothers –
WITH A RUM-DUM-DIDDLE-DEE!

A rather gruesome story
had the whole of Szczecin appalled:
a lady had some children,
Ludmiła she was called.

The Rojeks were the fathers,
her husband having scarpered,
but I’m not afraid,
I’m not afraid,
no, I’m not afraid
of them.

I’M NOT AFRAID OF THE ROJEK BROTHERS,
what have I got to fear?
There’s nothing to be frightened of
so long as I steer clear!

There are two shirts in this basket,
and the basket belongs to me.
I’m not afraid of the Rojek brothers –
WITH A RUM-DUM-DIDDLE-DEE!

Some nights you have those dreams,
so bad you feel you’re dying,
you scream and thrash about and send
your bedside kompot flying.

I dreamt about those Rojeks,
one in two was the size of an ox,
but I’m not afraid,
I’m not afraid,
no, I’m not afraid
of them.

I’M NOT AFRAID OF THE ROJEK BROTHERS,
what have I got to fear?
There’s nothing to be frightened of
so long as I steer clear!

There are two shirts in this basket,
and the basket belongs to me.
I’m not afraid of the Rojek brothers –
WITH A RUM-DUM-DIDDLE-DEE!

 

2

Author:

(with flute accompaniment)

There is a village,
Świder its sullen name,
a river, called the same
glitters behind the wooden villas;

on August nights, patrolling
underneath the stars,
I see stars falling,
but not on the villas,

they fall without exploding,
somehow landing
on my poor head,
while the sullen villas keep standing –

by day, and by night also,
lit as if by candles,
what do they care about Handel
and his “Concerto Grosso”?

The village mayor
calls them “Świdermajer”.

 

3

Villas in Świder

They stand among the pines
like phantoms in limbo
and speak in sad tones
of fin de siècle delights.

Straight out of some illustration
captioned “TEMPLE OF KALI”,
they are made of wood, like violins
that once accompanied waltzes.

The night is so lovely!
The moon passes with her guitar.
Gamblers on the verandas
call “Diamonds!” and “Hearts!”

The one known as Mrs Luna
throws a glance at the King of Spades.
She lost. Just like fortune,
night in Świder is a turn of the wheel.

 

4

Grand Balcony Scene

(as performed by Alojzy Gżegżółka)

What a pity I can’t find a florist...
If there is one, it’s not very close,
or else I would stand by a lamppost,
under a balcony,
like a lover, holding a rose;

and on the balcony, blissfully,
a podgy fairy would appear,
and I would sing: Dulcinea,
it’s Alojzy! Give me a kiss!

You can study hands and read fortunes,
and I can give arsenic injections.
Jump into my arms, we’ll fly off to the ball
and get lost in a waltz!

The whole world will spin until morning,
no one will snatch our precious minutes away.
You will read my palm, my darling,
and I will treat you to an injection.

And once more the waltz, the mad waltz,
more ice cream and soda besides –
till the lanterns darken along the wires,
till the night hides in your eyes…

 

5

The Ice Cream Man’s Dream

(ballet scene)

Tired, sweaty, the ice cream man
fell asleep by the station,
when Chopin came to him
and bought a large portion.

Strange fellow. There’d never been
anyone like him in Świder.
He tossed a silver coin
and walked off in his topper.

But at the corner, he turned to me,
laughing, and said, My dear,
from tomorrow it will be summer forever
and ICE CREAM, GENTLEMEN! ICE CREAM!

 

6

Author

(solo with drum accompaniment)

Stars like musicians.
August like a green bird.
The stars play. The wind dances.
And August sheds feathers.

The night keeps soaring,
a tower of silver windows.
August has mounted the tower,
its wings are beating time.

Shadows among the pines
appear and disappear.
Down the path, a proud young man
rides his motorcycle.

The moon like a puppet
came out through a curtain of cloud.
Girls are sleeping in hammocks.
Very pretty girls.

Suddenly, from a chink in a wall,
a cricket in waltz time. Then a pause.
The girls have shifted in their hammocks.
They speak verse in their sleep.

In a cottage smothered in weeds
and with a glowworm flying over it,
an accordion from the suburbs
mourns for the death of summer.

Music happy with itself
in its anguished semitones.
The whole of Świder is there
in the sound of this accordion.

Children in prams, woodpeckers,
a birch growing at a slant,
the river, and the blind man
who drank beer at the station;

and this house with its pointed roof
hidden among raspberry bushes,
and this shadow... as in Three Sisters
by Anton Chekhov.

 

7

Finale

(performed by the whole company)

When you are sad, my pet,
when things are bad,
you mustn’t forget this little word:

ŚWIDER – for the blues,
for rheumatism
and eclecticism,
for love, for loneliness –
Świder.

Here, my pet,
you can read Heine’s selected prose
or his “BUCH DER LIEDER”.

Not too high. Not too low.
A phenomenal place to go.
Świder.
I repeat:
ŚWIDER.

 

Translated by Renata Senktas & Christopher Reid

Published:

Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński

was a Polish poet, translator, and one of “Przekrój”’s most important authors during the magazine’s early years (1946–1953). He was mostly known for his funny and absurd series of theatrical sketches “Teatrzyk Zielona Gęś” (Green Goose Theatre). His poems were also very popular.