Hana Zagorová: Mrtvá Láska (Supraphon, 1968)

5 Oct

Another song by Hana Zagorová, this time a more straightforward love song on the theme of loss. There’s a potent ambiguity here as to whether the death in the title is of the love between the central characters in the song, or of the unnamed loved one in a more dramatic physical sense: both interpretations seem possible, and this version follows Zagorová’s original (so far as I can tell) in allowing some slippage between the two readings as the lines proceed. The song is also notable for its echo, in places, of House of the Rising Sun, whose organ line appears to have found its way into this very different context, by accident or design. The song can be heard here, and the Czech lyric can be read here.

Mrtvá Láska (Love’s Death)

(after František Trnka/Hana Zagorová, 1968)

To all of the people this knowledge is given –
today is the morning our love died.

I walked at dawn, in the early sad light
where homes are shields and few words fall.

You told me you wanted my love behind walls,
my eyes grew moist, white breath failed.

I wanted to cry, lacked the strength to breathe,
closed the door on language and what you stirred.

Those words, in their sequence, had killed my heart.
You were a judge passing sentence: to execute.

So love died, then, and it was almost benign:
time to write a will, settle, then pass from life.

Perhaps love was too young, burned by fear?
Our time together left only a taste of ash.

That will is filled with sadness and unspent youth,
hands entangled, excited, in a speeding car.

Now I lay a wreath of rye in a white handkerchief,
a strand of child’s hair in a cellophane wrap.

I walk the cities, visiting each temple in turn,
clinking brass door-bells against clear glass, to ask:

Will you be careful? Don’t go loving as I did then.
Yesterday was beautiful. That love is gone
.

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