Atlantis/Hana a Petr Ulrychovi: Odysseovo ztroskotání (Trezor, 1969/1990)

16 Nov

As noted previously, the debut LP, Odyssea, by Atlantis with Hana and Petr Ulrychovi was shelved in 1969, though completed and ready for release, and only appeared in 1990 after the Velvet Revolution. The record itself is something of a one-off, a concept album based on the voyage of Ulysses, beginning with the long, part-spoken, part sung narration of the song below, Odysseovo Ztroskotání (Ulysses Shipwrecked), and continuing through various stages of the Homeric material until the record’s final track, Za Vodou, Za Horou (For Water For Mountains), evokes the landscape of a homecoming.  This opening song sets the scene, however, with ten minutes of material that draws on the Odyssey itself, giving voice to Ulysses in turbulent waters, as he, in turn, asks his listeners to place themselves into his own circumstances, as a traditional storyteller might. The arrangement is by Gustav Brom and the album was produced by Michael Prostějovský. The song can be heard here, and the Czech lyric is available to read here.

Odysseovo Ztroskotání (Ulysses Shipwrecked)

(after Petr Ulrych, 1968)

Mother, do you feel the cold extending from the forest?

On land, you are secure in a thousand ways:
it’s easy to plan, to do something good the same day.

It’s easy to talk the same language as your friends.
There’s warmth on land, food, women to love.

But now I’m floating on the deck of a battened ship,
my hand on this rudder in an open sea.

On land, you will never understand how fast
the ocean’s feelings change, from anger to anxiety.

Steamers pass, the aluminium shell of a pail is pierced.
Water leaks while wind argues with a churning sea.

You will never know that change, that anxiety,
when all the certainties you found in books are gone.

Come night, you are still afloat. The stars hold their places
in the vast night sky. In that silence, all feels good.

Even then you keep the life-jacket on, clutch the flare
like a talisman, consume ten pills to keep out cold.

You can’t relax. Is there a single moment you might be sure?
This battered boat can barely clear the waves

when the sea stays calm: what hope now it moves again?
Your lungs call out. You think of lifeboats, steamers,

imagine harbours, solid earth beneath your bare feet.
Each thought drowns in the thunder of wheels

of that engine room, in the whistles of inconsistent steam,
in the lightning and rain, in your useless prayers.

Planks creak. Plates spring leaks. Your teeth chatter.
Understand: no certainty you’ll survive, beyond the hope, exists

even though your body knows, in every cell, it wants to live.
Iron birds close their jaws on the sky’s black hooks,

the sun absorbs all light like a funeral hearse
driving slowly through a dark forest of levers, wheels…

This is the way my mind goes, thinking of its journey home.
Iron birds fall from black hooks. There is water here.

Can I bring you water? There is abundant food…
I could sleep here forever, forget and forget.

This is the way my mind goes, thinking of its journey home.
May I bring you water? I’ll sleep forever. This is all.

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