Marta Kubišová: Ring-o-Ding (Supraphon, 1969)

19 May

This song is included on Songy a Balady and also featured (with a film by Kubišová’s husband at the time, the New Wave director Jan Nemec) in a 1969 special made for Czech TV. It’s a lyrical song whose pastoral arrangement and nursery-rhyme imagery lend it a timeless feel, melancholy and tinged with resignation, but finally optimistic, as it closes on a note of possible happiness, but leaves its fulfilment unconfirmed and its nature – given all that precedes it – unavoidably fleeting. Hopefully this version reflects these basics, at least, though some nuances may have been missed. The song can be heard here, and the Czech lyric is available to read here.


(after Bohuslav Ondrácek/Zdeněk Rytíř, 1969)

The deepest sea, the high mountain,
a forest sad in the eyes of a child;
crows’ wings roosting on a thousand gates,
nine rivers, flowing, leading here…


Behind each gate there is a single bell,
and someone rings it every day;
for your tears, your laughter, ring-a-ding,
for every moment, the air will sing.


The street is lined with pearly flowers and leaves,
windows are filled with butterfly wings;
this town is a waterfall of colour and sound
that flows more vividly than you recognise…


We hear, as one bell tolls birth, another death,
that with each misfortune one more bell rings,
chimes for the tear that swells in your eye.
For laughter? Sadness? Each passes by.


Patients wake refreshed from fever dreams,
the sun warms the face of a sleeping girl.
A car at a roadside, an alarm-clock’s repeats:
ring-a-ding, ring-a-ding, ring-a-ding…


I sing this fairy tale for the children of bells,
that girl’s hair in the sun, flowers on her dress,
the boy whose senses she’ll one day snare:
ring-a-ding, ring-a-ding, ring-a-ding…


They’ll grow up, and surely exchange rings,
each carillion beginning to chime at birth.
With every moment after, bright air will sing:
ring-a-ding, ring-a-ding, ring-a-ding…


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