Tadeusz Wozniak: Zegarmistrz światła (Muza, 1972)

12 May

Tadeusz Wozniak’s Zegarmistrz Swiatła isn’t a song I thought I’d manage to produce a version of, given that even in Poland it’s considered a somewhat ‘difficult’ lyric to interpret with any degree of precision, despite consisting of a mere eight lines, repeated in different ways during the course of the song. The structure has the short verses sung first by Wozniak solo to acoustic guitar, then with a full band, then by the backing vocals of Alibabki, then by Wozniak and band with the backing vocals added, before returning to Wozniak’s acoustic rendition at the conclusion. This gives the repetitions a very different texture each time, as the lines switch between single and massed voices and the tone shifts from reflective to impassioned. The Polish lyric reads as follows:

A kiedy przyjdzie także po mnie
Zegarmistrz światła purpurowy
By mi zabełtać błękit w głowie
To będę jasny i gotowy

Spłyną przeze mnie dni na przestrzał
Zgasną podłogi i powietrza
Na wszystko jeszcze raz popatrzę
I pójdę nie wiem gdzie – na zawsze.

In the version below I’ve introduced variations to the repeated stanzas to echo this shifting musical texture (at the expense of being more strictly accurate). It may or may not work: according to Bogdan Chorążuk, the author of the text, in an interview with Sławomir Zygmunt archived here, the song’s very deliberately opaque meaning was highly controversial despite its huge popularity, so I hope this no less oblique approach to its translation at least catches something of the general flavour and atmosphere, even if at many points here literal fidelity has been wilfully discarded, even more so than usual.

Zegarmistrz Swiatła (Watchmaker of Light)

(after Bogdan Chorążuk/Tadeusz Wozniak, 1972)

This I know: when they come after me, too,
in the watchmaker’s indigo light
the blue inside my head will splash,
clear and ready, will flow through me.

It may take days to cleanse this source
as ground and air extinguish alike.
I see reflections and points of light.
I’ll leave, forever, go…I don’t know where.

And, yes. When they come after me
in the watchmaker’s magenta light
the cobalt head of a match will flash and burn,
cast a shadow, clear and sharp

as the days flow from me, leave my shape
where the floors and air once were.
I’ll look at everything again, one last time,
and go, forever, with no idea of where.

And for all I know, when they come for me too
in the watchmaker’s purple light,
the turquoise in my mind will splash,
a translucent flare, and flood my days.

It may take time to quench these flames
as ground and air fade away alike,
as all I know sharpens to a point of light
and I leave forever, going…I don’t know where.

For I know, when they come for me at last
in the watchmaker’s damson light
the water inside my head will flare,
run clear as glass, then flow to fade.

It may take days to cleanse this source
as ground and air dissolve alike.
I see reflections and points of light.
I’ll leave, forever, go…I don’t know where.

One Response to “Tadeusz Wozniak: Zegarmistrz światła (Muza, 1972)”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Alibabki: Słońce w chmurach łazi (1969) | Eastern Bloc Songs - December 3, 2015

    […] most notable endeavours in the latter category are their contributions to recordings by Tadeusz Wozniak and Czeslaw Niemen, but it’s on their 1969 debut LP Kwiat Jednej Nocy that they really came into […]

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