Archive | August, 2011

Marta Kubišová: Magdaléna (Supraphon, 1969)

20 Aug

Magdaléna is based on a Spanish song, retaining the original music of Luis Eduardo Aute but adapting it to the Czech market with highly ornate lyrics created by the poet Jan Schneider. Its themes refer to the mannerisms of European Baroque literature, in this case an eroticised hymn to the Magdalene cast in a pop-Symbolist idiom, something that the very free version presented below has tried to reflect, though – it should be noted – at the expense of the song’s form, and very freely in terms of any exact correlation of image and meaning. Magdaléna first appeared on Kubišová’s 1969 album Songy a Balady, and the Czech lyric can be read here, while the song (seen in a promo clip directed by Kubišová’s husband at the time, New Wave director Jan Nemec) can be heard here.

Magdaléna (Aleluja)

(after Luis Eduardo Aute/Jan Schneider, 1969)

Hallelujah – the scent of roses in the garden’s air,
grapes ripened to sweet smooth skin;

Magdalene is not holy, is just a woman,
she quenches the pilgrims’ thirst – come, be desperate

as a prisoner drinks, is forced to drink
from the drip of water on his head,

shaved bare at the crown, its shiver of cold
a relief from the sun; drink this, and remember.


Magdalene is not holy, is just a woman,
remember this as you drink, and think of me.

Hallelujah – poor moon, keep these fox grapes safe,
weave green vines into a tailored dress,

watch as foxes scurry among the leaves,
lit by stars, their pelts glittering white and brown.

Grapes do not keep well on these warm night stalks,
beauty is other, love’s how the song

finds its way to the mouth – Hallelujah.
Magdalene is not holy, is just a woman.


And listen: grass cries in the bitter dew.
The moon of her face is bright, and shines.

The vineyard’s breezes fall through silent warmth
and, Magdalene, look, this beautiful girl

seizes lock-keepers, halts boats in their stream;
her presence brings scientists to forgiveness.

The years they spent gathering evidence, tests,
delivering papers that collate the qualities of Magdalene,

sing Hallelujah among the gleaming tiles and desks
of their lecture halls and laboratories.


Hallelujah, yes, where stones from the Mount persist,
where wicked mouths evade half-truths that lie;

hands shall yearn for her, stone after stone,
and tonight might manifest that hunger for love.

Tonight this sleeping, trademarked heart
will find itself tangled in her fragrant vines,

sing Hallelujah, speak, and press sweet wine
from words, remembrances, on a white-stained tongue.


Hana a Petr Ulrychovi: Leží Nade Mnou Kámen (Trezor, 1969/1990)

4 Aug

An odd but lovely song from the Ulrychovis’ 1969 album Odyssea, which was shelved at the time of its recording and left unreleased until 1990. The lyric (like that of the previously featured Ticho) is somewhat oblique, though rich in implication and symbolism, and while this version is fairly loose, hopefully it conveys something of the general mood. The Czech lyric is here and the song itself – with an arrangement by Gustav Brom – can be listened to here.

Leží nade mnou kámen (Place Your Stone Upon Me)

(after Petr Ulrych, 1969)

Why do you look at me? Let me breathe.
Lift the stone that lies on my chest.

Place your weight upon me, a hundred years of sin.
Let laughter sound, tight in my throat.

A wall’s stones are written with words like these:
I will no longer eat. You will never sleep.

Morning comes on the heel of night.
There is peace, now, and there is order here.

Order falls like rain on a gravel path.
Dark clouds disperse in the skies ahead.

But why stay here, listening to these shadows?
After all, you know you will never speak.

There are windmills turning phantom sails:
shadows in bushes, ghosts of light.

A wall’s stones are written with words like these:
Place your stone upon me. I will not eat.

Lift the stone. Its laughter is inside my throat.
Why do you look at me? Let me breathe.