Hana a Petr Ulrychovi: Vůně (Supraphon, 1968)

16 May

Some of the records of Hana & Petr Ulrychovi, a brother and sister duo who sang both together and separately with many Czech bands from 1964 onwards, are already in English: Don’t You Break It Again (Nepřerušuj!) (recorded with Atlantis) is a particularly good example. The flipside, however, is in Czech and like much of their work hints towards the folk and early music influences that would come to dominate their output from the mid-1970s onwards. Vůně’s lyric appears to contain subtexts within the more obvious love song, largely an implication that the lovers’ separation and the ‘barriers’ causing it are not entirely circumstantial or romantic in nature, though unlike Hana Zagorova’s similarly allusive Rokle,  the Ulrychovis’ Vůně pre-dates the 1968 invasion. It’s also worth noting that there’s a tendency, so far as I can tell, towards a rather formal, perhaps slightly ‘courtly’ tone in many of Petr Ulrych’s songs that I’ve tried to retain to at least some degree in the version below. The song can be heard here, and the Czech lyric is available here.

Vůně (Fragrance)

(after Petr Ulrych, 1968)

I only know that you will come back soon
and what I have now will then be gone.

But your scent stays with me, for now at least,
and my own fragrance is inhaled by you

wherever you are. I knew a long time ago
what you are only now beginning to realise:

that river and grove offer places to hide,
that each day carries the scent of home

further away from us as it fades in the air.
Days become long. Fragrance leaves the breath.

I ask, ‘why us?’, as the scent of grass
and flowers merge with the thunderstorm,

the newly surfaced road. Since we parted,
taking with us the same perfumes, I wish more often

for time alone to breathe you in. No-one knows.
I hope you also long for this return

now the day, like a fragrance on the wind, is near.
But do not rely on remembering scent:

I may invoke more than a field of roses
when the barrier that divides us at last

breaks down. Love is the two of us, here and now,
and a girl needs more than a residue

of perfumes mingled on a chemist’s shelves.
Some days, I can detect no difference

between the rose with all its blowsy flowers
and a length of rope. I lose track of time.

Will the bloom regain its scent. What to do?
I only know that when the barrier that divides us

breaks down, we will come to love again.
May this fragrance lead you to come back soon.

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