Offerte vobis pacem

That’s the title and a line in the refrain of the 1986 performance shown just below, “Let us offer each other a sign of peace.” Original: “Przekażmy sobie znak pokoju.” The video features a group of one country’s pop music artists, apparently inspired by – ahem – Englishman Bob Geldof’s similar assembly two years earlier called Band Aid, and USA For Africa the year after that. The Communist world behind Europe’s iron curtain was an imitator, not innovator, in the field of popular entertainment. It was backward, its bureaucrats allegedly wore ill-fitting tweed jackets and no deodorant, and it was not cool.

It had no fancy black people, no Cindy Lauper with her rainbow hair. It sang not of feeding Ethiopia but of giving one’s estranged friends an offering of peace, a Cold War metaphor. With such meekness on display, it’s no wonder that the Berlin Wall fell and the superiority of free markets was affirmed unto the end of history. The unfree-market Eastern Europe of the 1980s:

A man and a woman singing together into the same mic has its frisson. Just a passing observation.

I only recognize two artists in that video. The blondish woman who gets several solo parts, and is also shown in the video still image above, that’s the legendary Edyta Geppert. I once featured her performance in a blog post that led off with Greg Eliot’s great comment, his endeavor to justifie the ways of God to men as John Milton did three hundred years earlier.

The other artist I recognize is the short man with the dark mustache, wearing a black tuxedo. That’s Andrzej Zaucha. He will have died five years later, in 1991. French film director Yves Goulais shot and killed him, along with Goulais’s ex-wife, over an affair that the two of them were having. Zaucha’s signature song is the meditation “C’est la vie, Paris in a Postcard.”

Moving on — in 1979 the greatest-pop-band-ever rang in the Eighties with Happy New Year:

It’s the end of a decade
In another ten years time
Who can say what we’ll find
What lies waiting down the line
In the end of Eighty-Nine

What if Agnetha, Björn, Benny, and Anni-Frid of four decades ago could see the Sweden of 2019 from back then? They would have been horrified, I’m certain. But they are alive in 2019 and each of them probably thinks that everything is fine. It’s not good for the individual human mind to bend this much over its arc of life…

Tonight it’s the end of the decade. Who can say what we’ll find at the end of Twenty-Nine? For now, let’s just offer our each other, and our friends and family, a sign of peace.

The customary style-template says “now link to a contemporary song to tie it all together.” Eh, no. What’s above is perfect. But there is this portal swirling in the air. It’s the year 2020 with its trumpets. See you all on the other side.

A merry fighting song

Typing this, I look forward to seeing what happens in Warsaw on November 11, the day that over the past several years saw Poland’s Independence Day march grow into the largest and best organized pan-European nationalist celebration event in all of the West.

Meanwhile, I discovered this song. It is performed every August 1st on the anniversary of the start of the 1944 Warsaw Uprising. It’s part of the annual “Forbidden Songs” concert, featuring songs that were illegal under the German occupation as resistance anthems, and later under Communism because the Armia Krajowa (Home Army) resistance was considered fascist by the Communists. Here is a performance of one such song last year:

It is titled “Pałacyk Michla”, or Michler’s Palace, named after the landmark building around which the song’s author was involved in combat. It was written during the 1944 Uprising by Home Army soldier Józef Szczepański, internet handle pseudonim “Ziutek.”

Who won World War II? In a way, Poland did. Though the victory came with a price, not in the least the ten years of Judeo-Stalinist terror after the war. Yet post-war Poland’s borders were restored very closely to what they were at the country’s founding in 966 AD; her population went from as low as only about 65% ethnically Polish in some regions before the war to entirely homogeneous and it almost doubled from 1945 to 1990. Poland was spared the Cultural Marxist indoctrination that the “free world” got soaked in, along with the mass immigration. Faith was strengthened, rather than weakened.

I told someone in 2001, and this person thought I was crazy: “Today everyone goes on about what we can learn from the West. But in twenty years it’ll be, what can the West learn from us?

I translated the lyrics below… some of the ’40s era slang might be inexactly rendered but it should be close enough. The lyrics are very much in the playful street-vernacular of its time. The best part is just watching the video and seeing no Diversity, just a lot of people of all looks and ages having a good time under the magnificent Cross. You can even catch glimpses of aged Uprising veterans in the audience. Nobody coerced any of those people to be there, many with their kids way past their bed time. Entirely apropos are this week’s words of Millennial Woes:

Even now, the progressive elites have to hide their true beliefs from the public. We don’t. We can be very honest with the public because we are not opposed to the public. We do not despise the public. We are not trying to betray, trick, replace, or destroy the public. [link]

The August 1st concert is not some mandatory-attendance Communist pep rally. It’s the genuine will of the people in its robust, joyful, collective, and unadulterated expression.

Michler’s Palace

Michler’s palace, Żytnia Street, Wola district
Umbrella Battalion boys defend them
They set their traps for Tiger tanks
They are Varsovians, handsome lads!

Refrain after every verse, x2
Be alert boys, keep your senses sharp
Flex your young spirit, work in double-time!

And every gent wants to get wounded
’cause the field nurses – they’re pretty gals
And should a bullet hit you
Ask one – she’ll give you a kiss – hey!

Behind us, it’s the logistics
Various supporters, assorted helpers
They cook the soup, they boil black coffee
That’s how they fight for the cause – hey!

Our top brass is awesome too
They’re in the combat zone with us
And the coolest of the officers
Is our own “Miecio” with his bad haircut – hey!

Our boys are fighting, our boys are singing
The Krauts are fuming, their faces livid
They try their tricks
They keep sending us their rockets – hey!

But their rockets and grenades are for naught
They get their hides tanned
And every day the moment’s closer
To victory! back to a civilian life – hey!

The moral of the song: you too can start your 75-year-long folk festival project.

“The Reply”

The poem/song “Odpowiedź” (The Reply), in English translation. Open thread.

It’ll be a night in heavy snow / To będzie noc w głębokim śniegu
Which muffles footsteps / Który ma moc głuszenia kroków
In the shadow that transforms / W głębokim cieniu co przemienia
The body into two pools of darkness / Ciało na dwie kałuże mroku
We lie down holding our breaths / Leżymy powstrzymując oddech
And even the softest whisper of thoughts / I nawet szept najlżejszy myśl

If the wolves don’t track us down / Jeśli nas nie wyśledzą wilki
Or the man in a fur coat who swings / I człowiek w szubie co kołysze
Rapid-fire death from his chest / Na piersi szybkostrzelną śmierć
We must spring into a run / Poderwać trzeba się i biec
To the dry applause of brief salvos / W oklasku suchych krótkich salw
Onto that longed-for shore / Na tamten upragniony brzeg

Refrain
Everywhere the same soil, it teaches wisdom

Wszędzie ta sama ziemia jest, naucza mądrość

Everywhere man cries clear tears, mothers rock their babies
/
Wszędzie człowiek białymi łzami płacze, Matki kołyszą dzieci

The moon rises and builds our white home 
/ Księżyc wschodzi i biały dom buduje nam

It’ll be a night that follows hard reality / To będzie noc po trudnej jawie
A conspiracy of the imagination / Ta konspiracja wyobraźni
It tastes like bread, is light like vodka / Ma chleba smak i lekkość wódki
But the choice to stay / Lecz wybór by pozostać tu
Confirms each dream of palm trees / Potwierdza każdy sen o palmach

The dream interrupts the entry of those three / Przerwie sen nagłe wejście trzech
Made tall by rubber and iron / Wysokich z gumy i żelaza
They’ll check the name check the fear / Sprawdzą nazwisko sprawdzą strach
And order you to go down the stairs / I zejść rozkażą w dół po schodach
They won’t let you take anything along / Nic z sobą zabrać nie pozwolą
But the watchman’s sympathetic face / Prócz współczującej twarzy stróża

[Refrain]

Hellenic, Roman, Medieval / Helleńska, rzymska, średniowieczna
Indian, Elizabethan, Italian / Indyjska, elżbietańska, włoska
French above all, I think / Francuska nade wszystko chyba
A bit of Weimar and Versailles / Trochę weimarska i wersalska
So many homelands we carry  / Tyle dźwigamy naszych ojczyzn
On Earth’s one back / Na jednym grzbiecie jednej ziemi

But the one that’s guarded / Lecz ta jedyna, której strzeże
By that most singular number / Liczba najbardziej pojedyncza
Is right here where they stomp you into the ground /
Jest tutaj gdzie cię wdepczą w grunt

Or with a shovel’s hard ringing / Lub szpadlem, który hardo dzwoni
They dig a large hole / W tęsknocie zrobią spory dół

—–

Original poem “Odpowiedź” (The Reply) by Zbigniew Herbert, 1986. Music and vocals by Przemysław Gintrowski. My translation to English.

Songs about the rain

The purpose of the entertainment (((industry))) is to corrupt everything it touches, starting with the talent that it recruits. In exchange for our balladeers’ souls it gives them the world. The Highwaymen, four talented men who made their careers in the diabolical industry. Kris Kristofferson likened Jesus Christ, approvingly, to Barabbas Che Guevara. Johnny Cash spent much of his long life extricating himself from the wreckage of his youthful hedonism. Willie Nelson pushed marijuana. Waylon Jennings never forgave himself for telling his friends “I hope your ol’ plane crashes.”


“Freedom’s just another word for…” That was then. There is always something left to lose. What follows is now.

Outrunning the rain:

… I walked five miles to meet a friend at a pub. This was at the height of last summer. Things were heavy after Charlottesville and there was an eclipse coming. At first, the heavy clouds to my south looked like they will pass me, but they were getting closer and blacker, taking on the greenish tinge one sees before a tornado. I walked in just as the downpour hit.

My friend arrived by car at the same time, as planned. We sat at a table by the window, with the thunderous pounding of the rain drowning out the conversation. He was in as somber a mood as I was that day. Our waitress stopped for a bit of small talk and shuddered, looking through the window. If anyone had asked me what’s on my mind, I’d have thought about if briefly and said: ___

The walk took place in the summer of 2017. That thought was completed for me in the comments:

so it will be before the walls of Gondor, the Great Battle of our Time

lotr1


Songs about the rain with no mention of the two greatest, November Rain and Purple Rain:

Adele, Set Fire to the Rain. One of the few fine recordings from the past 15 years.

Peter Gabriel, Red Rain. He has a lot to answer for, with his anti-Apartheid activism. Except if artists do not possess a free will, in which case he’s innocent. The artist as a passive conduit:

how does [art] become? I think there are three elements. One: the artist’s sub-rational openness to the transcendent; you can also call that authenticity, or sincerity. Two: artist the man as a medium; his purity or corruption, his originality in filtering the intangible on it way to material expression. Three: his technical skill [in delivering] the artifact faithfully to intent.

The artist is also susceptible to being manipulated by his handlers.

The Alarm, Rain in the Summertime. Northeastern Europe… childhood memory of birds singing after the summer storm passes.

Edie Brickell, A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall. Vocally, she’s to the song’s writer Bob Dylan as a mammal is to a scorpion. I haven’t listened to this in decades until just now and it was nice to hear it again.

Late 1980s, “Tommy” and I worked in a restaurant after school. Brickell’s What I Am was playing and the manager, a charismatic woman, said something flippant about that song. Tommy chuckled and said “Yeah, she thinks she’s God’s gift to alternative music.” I made friends with him earlier in high school. He had just moved in from another state and got sat next to me in math class. His intelligence as measured by the SAT was stratospheric. Soon enough he showed me his notebook of original poetry. There was an ode to the moon. Good times hanging out in his mom’s house, philosophizing to Pink Floyd (no drugs).

He dropped off the radar not long after high school. A mutual friend gets in contact with him thirty years later and learns that he had recently gone through a sex-change operation. If you knew Tommy, you’d not be caught off-guard by that. His once deep, resonant voice now sounds like a woman’s. He went to an extreme of self-injury seeking peace.

Willie Nelson, Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain. Shania Twain performs the vocals here, with the Old Master himself backing her on his own song. The highlight is Willie Nelson’s guitar solo halfway through the song. Talent is rare and you know it when you see it.

The Death Of Hamlet

It’s my translation of Zbigniew Herbert’s “Elegy of Fortinbras” (1961). Fortinbras is William Shakespeare’s fictional Norwegian prince and conqueror of Denmark. He appears in the final scene of “Hamlet.” The themes that are of interest to us now:

  • The finality of the death of the old regime
  • The imposition of martial order over a cucked country (Mister President?)
  • The unbridgeable gap between Romanticism and Realism
  • Matter and spirit

Here is the musical interpretation. It is perfect. Below is the original and translated text, with my brief commentary in bold type leading off each verse.


Verse 1. – Fortinbras confesses of his fondness for the lifeless enemy. 

Teraz kiedy zostaliśmy sami możemy porozmawiać książę jak mężczyzna z mężczyzną
chociaż leżysz na schodach i widzisz tyle co martwa mrówka 

to znaczy czarne słońce o złamanych promieniach 

Now that we’re alone we can talk Prince man to man
though you lie on the stairs and see no more than a dead ant
nothing but a black sun with broken rays

Nigdy nie mogłem myśleć o twoich dłoniach bez uśmiechu 
i teraz kiedy leżą na kamieniu jak strącone gniazda 
są tak samo bezbronne jak przedtem To jest właśnie koniec 
Ręce leżą osobno Szpada leży osobno Osobno głowa 
I nogi rycerza w miękkich pantoflach

I could never think of your hands without smiling
and now that they lie on the stone like fallen nests
they are as defenseless as before The end is exactly this 
The hands lie apart The sword lies separate The head separate
and the knight’s feet in soft slippers


Verse 2. (1:35) – His eulogy shifts to from private to public matters. 

Pogrzeb mieć będziesz żołnierski chociaż nie byłeś żołnierzem
jest to jedyny rytuał na jakim trochę się znam 

You will have a soldier’s funeral though you weren’t a soldier 
it is the only ritual I am somewhat acquainted with

Nie będzie gromnic i śpiewu będą lonty i huk
kir wleczony po bruku hełmy podkute buty konie artyleryjskie 

werbel werbel wiem nic pięknego  

There will be no candles no singing there’ll be cannon fuses and salvos 
Crape dragged on cobblestones helmets studded boots artillery horses  
drumming drumming I know it’s nothing exquisite

to będą moje manewry przed objęciem władzy
trzeba wziąć miasto za gardło i wstrząsnąć nim trochę

those will be my maneuvers as I assume control
one has to take the city by the throat and shake it a bit


Verse 3. (2:46) – On Hamlet’s errors.

Tak czy owak musiałeś zginąć Hamlecie nie byłeś do życia
wierzyłeś w kryształowe pojęcia a nie glinę ludzką
żyłeś ciągłymi skurczami jak we śnie łowiłeś chimery
łapczywie gryzłeś powietrze i natychmiast wymiotowałeś 

Anyhow you had to perish Hamlet you were not for life
you believed in crystal notions not in human clay
always twitching as if asleep you hunted chimeras
wolfishly you bit at the air only to vomit

nie umiałeś żadnej ludzkiej rzeczy
nawet oddychać nie umiałeś

you couldn’t do a single human thing
you did not even know how to breathe


Verse 4. (3:35) – Candor, judgment, a touch of envy.

Teraz masz spokój Hamlecie zrobiłeś co do ciebie należało
i masz spokój Reszta nie jest milczeniem ale należy do mnie 

wybrałeś część łatwiejszą efektywny sztych 

Now you have peace Hamlet you accomplished what you had to
and you have peace The rest is not silence but it belongs to me
you chose the easier part an elegant thrust

lecz czymże jest śmierć bohaterska wobec wiecznego czuwania 
z zimnym jabłkiem w dłoni na wysokim krześle 

z widokiem na mrowisko i tarczę zegara 

but what is heroic death compared to eternal vigilance
with a cold apple in one’s hand on a raised chair
with a view on the anthill and on the clock’s dial


Verse 5. (4:23) – The two worlds part ways.

Żegnaj książę czeka na mnie projekt kanalizacji
i dekret w sprawie prostytutek i żebraków 

muszę także obmyślić lepszy system więzień 

gdyż jak zauważyłeś słusznie Dania jest więzieniem 

Adieu Prince I have tasks a sewer project
and a decree on prostitutes and beggars
I must also elaborate a better system of prisons
since as you justly said Denmark is a prison

Odchodzę do moich spraw Dziś w nocy urodzi się  
Gwiazda Hamlet Nigdy się nie spotkamy

To co po mnie zostanie nie będzie przedmiotem tragedii

I go to my affairs This night is born
a star named Hamlet We shall never meet
what I shall leave will not be the subject of a tragedy


Coda. (5:12) – The coffin is lowered but some things are immortal.

Ani nam witać się ani żegnać żyjemy na archipelagach
A ta woda te słowa cóż mogą cóż mogą książę

It is not for us to greet each other or bid farewell we live on archipelagos
and that water these words what can they do what can they do Prince


(open thread)

Such a Landscape

Harold Bloom memorably wrote that great literature either makes the familiar strange (Milton), or the strange familiar (Shakespeare). Let’s go with that. The landscape of Washington State was made, unforgettably, phantasmagoric in “Twin Peaks.” Poland’s landscape, the familiar roadside wildflowers and white birch forests, takes on a surreal atmosphere in “Such a Landscape,” as performed by Ewa Demarczyk in 1967.

I was curious about the background of this poem-song, and cursory search took me to what appears to be a fan-page (demarczyk.pl). There, I found a short analysis of her vocal interpretation of the song’s lyrics, which I translate here:

In this interpretation, the singer pays much less attention to the content, to the actual meaning of words. They only serve as vehicle for the building of mood. Especially, however, what becomes important in this work is the color and sound of these words… In “Landscape” Demarczyk blurs and obscures the phonics, allowing them to create a glittering, opalescent grid of sounds, interrupted once and again by a sharp syllable explosion. Her vocals, the prolonging of syllables and the special way of articulating them makes them swell with dramatic passion, creating a tense crescendo. “Such a landscape” evokes some unnamed visions, distant landscapes worthy of a Bosch’s or Böklin’s brush. Painful, perverse, and terrifying.


Ewa Demarczyk, “Taki Pejzaż” (Such a Landscape) – 1967

psy kulawe / lame dogs
stroją drogi / adorn the roadsides
diabeł dziewkom / the devil girls’
plącze nogi / legs entangles

drzewa kwiatom / trees to blossoms
kwiaty cierniom / blossoms to thorns
po marzeniach / over dreams
trupy biegną / the corpses run

taki pejzaż / such a landscape [x4]

nieraz zbrodniarz / sometimes a murderer
łzą zapłacze / sheds a tear
ślepy żebrak / a blind beggar
znajdzie pracę / finds a job

błędny ognik / an errant firethorn
ciemny parów / a dark ravine
bosy rycerz / a barefoot knight
złoty laur / a golden laurel

taki pejzaż / such a landscape [x4]

wiatry wieją / blowing winds
sosny krzywe / crooked pines
nieprzydatne / useless
lecz prawdziwe / but authentic

grajek piosnkę / a song from them
z nich wyładzi / a bard will weave
snem napoi / fill with slumber
gwiazdkę zdradzi / expose a star

będzie pejzaż / there’ll be a landscape
śpiewny rzewny / melodious wistful
taki pejzaż / such a landscape [x2]

grajek piosnkę / a song from them
z nich wyładzi / a bard will weave
snem napoi / fill with slumber
gwiazdkę zdradzi / expose a star

taki pejzaż / such a landscape [x4]

***

Lyrics: Andrzej Szmidt. Music: Zygmunt Konieczny

The Infection

Untitled, written by Lucius Somesuch:


You turned on the latest news from
Some benighted Western land
Where they welcome Moor and Arab
Upon their fabled golden sand
And in the town where sin aspired
First to raise Reason as a God
The storied Lady’s burning
To the smiles of darkling mob.
Oh the pulse it starts a pacing
As you soak in the sorry view:
Don’t you think the time is ripe yet
To shoo the black and gag the Jew?

Old Jefferson and Brutus
Show how to die or live
But the vision from the Talmud
Tends to put you in a bib
Your ideals so Medieval
They say it’s time they burn
And the Prophet hailed from Mecca
In your shrines deserves his turn.
May you appeal to the authorities?
Macron’s just there to cruise
The next exit’s round the corner:
Shoo the blacks and gag the Jews.

You can peruse the gypsy’s globe
Searching out your fate
But Bill Kristol says the synagogue
Comes first, which ends debate
The gay shepherd who asks the questions
Your anxious answer swift retires
If you bleat about the import
Of so many recent fires.
Don’t look like you get a say, boy
And the browns will beat you blue
If you make polite demurral
So shoo the black and gag the Jew.

You’ve heard the goodly promise
That you’re dear to mighty God
And shall rise again in glory
Though today you live a sod
But every hour the wicked burden
Wears another notch in your knee
Soon your sons will crawl on all fours
Your girls lost to history
Tomorrow won’t break brighter
Long as you’re beset by the devil’s crew
Cry havoc and kick the dogs out
Shoo the black and gag the Jew.


UPDATE: There is now a musical interpretation of this poem, making it a song. Here.