Saturday, 28 May 2016

The Light Switch

It's Polski Piątek a day late. Domestic duties took precedence. Fortunately Polish Pretend Son is here, so I got to practice speaking and listening to Polish. My lazy brain--apparently brains don't like to store new information we don't immediately need (which is why total immersion works best)--has been forced into Polish mode.

While tidying up, I found a postcard from Scotland's "National Poetry Day", and I felt a thrill of remembered pride. The poem is called "Pstryk", it is by Julian Tuwim (1894-1953), and when I first saw it in the Poetry Library, I felt sure it was too hard for me.

However, I was waiting for Benedict Ambrose and had time, so I sat down to puzzle it out. By slowly singling out the words I did understand, I began to understand what the other words meant. Thinking of words I knew that somehow resembled the words---for example, widno looked similar to widok (view)--also helped. So did the illustration!

Here is the poem, with my by no means definitive translation. As you will see, it was a very apt poem for the whole experience. The Polish mostly rhymes by the way. At the ends of words, Polish G is pronounced K, and Polish Z is pronounced S.

PSTRYK (Julian Tuwim)

The Light Switch

Sterczy w ścianie taki pstryczek
Mały pstryczek-elektryczek,
Jak tym pstryczkiem zrobić pstryk,
To się widno robi w mig.

Protruding from the wall a flick* 
A little  flick electric
What the flick with this flick does,
is to make light in a moment.

Bardzo łatwo:
Pstryk--i światło!
Pstryknąć potem jeszcze raz,
Zaraz mrok otoczy nas.
A jak pstryknąć trzeci raz
Znowu dawny świeci blask.

Very easy:
Flick--- and light!
Flick then another time,
At once darkness surrounds us. 
And flick a third time
Again the old light glows.

Takę siłę ma tajemną
Ten ukryty w ścianie smyk!
Ciemno -- widno --
Widno -- ciemno.

Such secret power has
this hidden fellow in the wall!
Darkness -- light --
Light -- darkness.

*Literally, a light switch, but  I don't think our verb "switch"really captures the clicking sound of pstryk.

I got most of that while sitting in a chair in the Poetry Library, no dictionary on hand, and I was delighted.  Then, after all that, I looked at the back of the postcard and found the poem translated--into Scots!

Here's the whole poem in Polish and in Scots as printed on the Scottish Poetry Library website.

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