Tor des Animes, Mallorca Mallorca, the poem “Goblets” of the 11th-century Arabic poet Idris Ibn al-Yamani on the label of the Can Majoral estate’s Butibalausí wine

The goblets were heavy when they were brought to us

but when filled with pure wine

they became so light

that they almost flew up high with it

just as bodies are lifted up high

by the spirit

It would be nice to illustrate this poem with a wonderful medieval Arabic goblet, let us say from the recently published and in fact “royal” catalog of the royal collection of Islamic ceramics of Kuwait. However, I have absolutely wanted to find something local, Mallorcan, something which could have been eventually taken in the hand by the local poet Idris Ibn al-Yamini (?-1077) as he kept on drinking with his fellow poets of the thick, strong, subtly caramel-flavored wine of the island.

Mallorca, museum, medieval (pre-13th-century) Arabic pitcher11th-century Arabic pitcher from the museum of Mallorca

That period, the age of the Arabic caliphates was the golden age of the Balearic islands – al-Yaza‘ir al-Sharqiya, “the Western Islands.” The memories of it are preserved by the stone drainage ditches enmeshing all Mallorca and in use even today, by the gorgeous fountains and painted beams with Arabic inscriptions of the ancient mountain estates, as well as by the names of most settlements – Binissalem, Banyalbufar, Alcúdia – and of several families. And of course by the vineyards. Among them especially by the estate Can Majoral, whose Butibalausí wines still preserve the former Arabic name of the vineyard, and each bottle of them has on its back label the poem Goblets by Idris Ibn al-Yamani.

Mallorca, museum, medieval (pre-13th-century) Arabic pitcher
Can Majoral is also linked with the name of another poet, namely the brother of the estate owner, Biel Majoral, professor of the Catalan department and one of the most eminent performers and researchers of Mallorcan folk music – and that’s saying a lot on this island that possesses a rich and archaic musical tradition. Here below I link one of my favorite songs, the ballad Don Francisco whose several motifs are so similar to the Hungarian folk ballads, as it is performed by Biel Majoral in the characteristic, archaic Catalan dialect of Mallorca.

A subsequent commentary of Wang Wei to the last phrase: The thing is subtly tinged by the fact that in the archaic Catalan of Mallorca of this 18th-century text some contemporary Spanish phrases are embedded too, and namely on two levels: “Don Francisco” (whose name in Catalan should be “Don Francesc”) speaks a perfect Spanish, while the woman only tries to speak Spanish to him with more or less success. This reveals her lover’s belonging to a social layer higher than she: most probably he is a representative of the central political power. This duality adds a lot to the subtlety and depth of the song.

Biel Majoral: Vou veri vou per no dormir
Biel Majoral: Don Francisco (8'43"). From the CD Biel Majoral: Vou veri vou per no dormir (1997)

Bona nit prenda estimada
Fins demà vespre no torn
Jo me’n vaig a la caçada
Sopa i colga’t de jorn.

Ella sopa i se colga,
fa allò que son marit diu.
Quan va esser dins la cambreta
a les portes sent: obriu.

Quien es que llama a la puerta
que no me deixa dormir
Aixeca’t que som Don Francisco
que te vengo a divertir.

Ara aviso a mis criadas
para que te vengan a abrir
Jo no vullo a tus criadas
sino que te vullo a ti.

Aquí baix han mort un home
no sé si és lo teu marit.
Millor, millor, Don Francisco
així més prest n’haurem sortit.

Davalla amb camisa blanca
i sabateta xoquí
mentre que obria la porta
ell li apaga el candelí.

Don Francisco, Don Francisco,
vós no ho solieu fer així.
Ella torna a prendre escala
i ell darrera la seguí.

Com dins lo blanc llit se colguen
Don Francisco fa un sospir.
Don Francisco, Don Francisco,
¿de què sospirau així?

Senyora, estava pensant
son marit si ens deu sentir.
No hagueu ánsia Don Francisco
és nou llegos lluny d’aquí.

Abans de la matinada
Don Francisco fa un sospir.
Don Francisco, Don Francisco,
¿de què sospirau així?

Senyora, estava pensant
quants infants teniu de mi.
Jo en tenc tres de Don Francisco
i dos del meu bon marit.

Senyora, estava pensant
son marit si és aquí dins.
Mal li roeguin els ossos
i la vista els escorpins.

No digueu mal senyoreta,
no digueu mal del marit
que pensant tenir-lo fora
potser el teniu dins el llit.

Com comença a trencar el dia
Don Francisco fa un sospir.
Don Francisco, Don Francisco,
¿de què sospirau així?

Senyora, estava pensant
de fer-vos un bon vestit,
una vestidura blanca
amb collaret carmesí.

L’agafà per la mà blanca
i se l’emmena al jardí.
Mon marit no em matis ara
tres paraules dixam dir:

Fadrines, viudes, casades,
preniu exemple de mi,
tenint lo marit a fora
no vos aixequeu a obrir,

perquè jo m’hi he aixecada
per això tenc de morir
i amb la punta de l’espasa
ma vida acaba aquí.
Good night my dear wife,
till tomorrow evening I don’t return:
I go on hunting.
Take dinner and go early to bed.

She takes dinner and goes early to bed,
does everything as her husband said.
When she’s going to go to the bedroom,
she hears at the gate: open it!

Who is calling me at the gate,
and does not let me sleep?
Wake up, because I’m Don Francisco
who came to entertain you.

I immediately tell my servants
to come to open it for you.
I do not need your servants,
I only need you.

Here downstairs a man has been killed
I don’t know whether he was your husband.
That much better, Don Francisco,
the quicker we got rid of him.

She goes down in a white shirt
and in her little slippers.
While she was opening the gate
he blew her candle out.

Don Francisco, Don Francisco,
you don’t usually do that!
She turned back, up on the stairs
and he followed her.

As they go into the white bed
Don Francisco gives a sigh.
Don Francisco, Don Francisco,
why are you sighing like that?

My lady, it came to my mind:
perhaps your husband is inside here.
Don’t worry, Don Francisco,
he is very far from here.

Before sunrise
Don Francisco gives a sigh.
Don Francisco, Don Francisco,
why are you sighing like that?

My lady, it came to my mind:
how many children do you have of me?
I have three of Don Francisco
and two of my good husband.

My lady, it came to my mind:
perhaps your husband is inside here?
– Let the devil bite his bones
and the scorpion his eyes!

Don’t tell bad, my lady,
don’t tell bad about your husband,
because while you think he’s away
perhaps he’s here in the bed.

As the sun starts to rise,
Don Francisco gives a sigh.
Don Francisco, Don Francisco,
why are you sighing like that?

My lady, it came to my mind:
I will prepare a good vest for you,
a white vest
with a red collar around the neck.

He took her by the hand,
he led her into the garden.
– My husband, don’t kill me right now,
let me tell some words before that:

Girls, widows, married women,
learn from my example:
if the husband is away,
don’t wake up to open the door,

because I woke up to open,
and this is why I have to die now,
and through the edge of the sword
here my life comes to an end.

San Sebastián

Mallorca, card with ascetic practices foreseen for the day of San Sebastián
This little card was found in an old Mallorcan book. The script – based on the experiences of the publication of the Santacilia archive of Mallorca – can be dated perhaps to the 17th century.

January 20
feast of Saint Fabian and Saint Sebastian martyrs
to do every day the seven acts of love towards the neighbor [= seven good deeds]
to drop the wine once
to pray for the keeping off of famine, pestilence and war

I do not know whether this card is a list of penitences given by the confessor (in some Mediterranean regions this was a custom) or a list of ascetical tasks compiled for one’s own use which two hundred and fifty years later would have been sticked with a magnet on the fridge door by the Christian striving after the more serious living up to his belief.

It is probably the latter, for the practices are not very penitential, but rather festively mild if compared to the customs of the period. In fact, they do not include any fast, only the omission of wine once a day (which of course sounds a very great penitence to one who knows the majestic Mallorcan wines). The reason probably is that this day is a high feast in Mallorca, on which fast is prohibited. Saint Sebastian is the protector of Palma de Mallorca, and his feast is celebrated by three days of open fires and cooking, concerts, spectacular processions, and monumental fireworks.

Judging from the handwriting and the tone, as well as from the book in which we have found it, the note may have been written by a 17th-century Mallorcan cleric for himself. This engraving, representing contemporary Mallorcan clerics, was published in the great summary Die Balearen by Archduke Luis Salvador de Austria.

The prayer refers to Saint Sebastian, too. Famine, pestilence and war, called on the basis of verses 5-6 of Psalm 91 as “tria mala Davidica,” “the three plagues of David,” were the main terrors of the age, and on the votive columns erected from the late 17th century to keep them off we always see, in the company of Saint Roche who died in pestilence, also Saint Sebastian who was killed by the very arrows mentioned in the psalm.

Holy image with the Holy Trinity, Saint Sebastian, Saint Rochus, Saint Rosalia and the Zacharias-cross, Hungary, around 1710Holy image protecting from pestilence, with the figures of the Holy Trinity, St. Mary the “Star of the Sea,” Saint Sebastian, Saint Rosalia, Saint Roche and the so-called Zachary Cross. Győr (Hungary), c. 1710. From Zoltán Szilárdfy, Barokk szentképek Magyarországon (Baroque holy images in Hungary, 1984).

However, the Phoenician blood of the island was revealed even on this festive-ascetical occasion. On the reverse of the card we find an addition, where – even if we do not count the script at the upper bottom which does not look like numbers – 15 is missing from the correct total of 495.

Mallorca, backside of the card with ascetic practices foreseen for the day of San Sebastián: mathematical addition
On the occasion of the nearing feast of San Sebastián we hereby wish all the best, plenty of blessing, a sober quantity of asceticism and always enough wine of Binissalem to all the Phoenician merchants, Punic pirates, Balearic slingers, Jewish goldsmiths and Arabic vinegrowers of Mallorca, not forgetting either about the descendans of the Chinese sailors of Zhen He who got stuck in Sineu in 1421.

Sant Sebastià

Mallorca, card with ascetic practices foreseen for the day of San Sebastián
Hemos encontrado este papelito en un viejo libro de una biblioteca mallorquina. La letra tiene toda la traza de ser del siglo XVII.

J[esus] + M[aría]
Día 20 de enero
festividad de los santos Fabián y Sebastián, mártires
hacer cada día los siete actos de amor al prójimo
dejar de una vez el vino
rezar para alejar el hambre, la peste y la guerra

No sabemos si esta nota es una lista de las penitencias impuestas por el confesor o un recordatorio de tareas ascéticas para uso personal que, de haberse escrito hoy, tal vez iría a adherirse con un imán en la puerta de la nevera.

Debe ser más bien lo segundo, pues no se trata de obligaciones claramente penitenciales —y menos teniendo en cuenta las costumbres de la época—. La más dura, ciertamente, es «semel relinquere vinum», pero suena como un vago deseo de dejar de beber demasiado y, de hecho, también podría traducirse por «dejar de beber vino una vez al día». Mal momento ha elegido este buen hombre para enunciar sus propósitos, pues la fiesta de san Sebastián en Palma significa beber vino para acompañar todo tipo de carne a la brasa, hecha en los fuegos callejeros. ¿O quizá la escribió al poco de acabar la fiesta, al dictado de su mala conciencia?

Por el libro donde la encontramos y el tono general que tiene, esta nota pudo haber sido escrita, para sí mismo, por un clérigo mallorquín del s. XVII. Sacerdotes mallorquines. Grabado de Die Balearen, del Archiduque Luis Salvador de Austria.

Con todo, las oraciones (contra las tria mala Davidica —las tres plagas de David—, Salmos, 91.5-6) sí que cuadran con la fiesta del patrón de Palma que una vez libró a la ciudad de la peste. San Sebastián suele estar presente en este tipo de rogativas, y en las columnas votivas de las ciudades de Centroeuropa, normalmente en compañía de san Roque.

Holy image with the Holy Trinity, Saint Sebastian, Saint Rochus, Saint Rosalia and the Zacharias-cross, Hungary, around 1710Estampa protectora de la peste, con las figuras de la Santísima Trinidad, santa María «Stella maris», san Sebastián, santa Rosalía, san Roque y la llamada Cruz de Zacarías. Győr (Hungría), c. 1710. De Zoltán Szilárdfy, Barokk szentképek Magyarországon (Imágenes sagradas del Barroco en Hungría, 1984).

Pero la sangre fenicia que corre por Mallorca también se revela en esta nota. En su reverso alguien ha hecho una suma apresurada donde se diría que el 15 ha sido hábilmente escamoteado de un total que debería dar 495 y no 480 (ignoramos los signos de arriba, pues no parecen formar parte del cálculo).

Mallorca, backside of the card with ascetic practices foreseen for the day of San Sebastián: mathematical addition
En ocasión de la fiesta de san Sebastián, deseamos felicidad a todos, todo tipo de bendiciones, una conveniente dosis de ascetismo y que haya siempre abundante vino de esta isla para todos los mercaderes fenicios, piratas púnicos, honderos descalzos, orfebres y cartógrafos judíos, curtidores árabes, sin olvidar a los chinos descendientes de aquellos marinos de la flota del almirante Zhen He que recalaron en Sineu en 1421.

As strangers

Photo by Kave Kiani

Just some months ago there was published in Iran a new item of the vast CD production of the Kamkars, the CD Sâye-ye roshan-e mahtab, “Moon Shadow,” created by Bijan Kamkar in collaboration with the Mastan Ensemble.

The Kamkars are eight Kurdish brothers, I mean seven brothers and a sister. They form one of the most successful musical groups of Iran playing classical Kurdish music, the Kamkars (in Persian Kâmkârhâ, in Kurdish Kâmkârân). On their highly professional homepage you can find lots of good photos about them. You are advised to have a look at it, at least for a short glimpse into the fantastically colorful world of Iranian music.

In this CD, however, only Bijan Kamkar, the male soloist of the group features from them. He is accompanied by the Mastan Ensemble, which was only formed in 2005, but they already belong to the promising stars of Persian classical music. They perform the poems of Sufi poets like Hafez, Rumi or Attar. Even their name, meaning “drunkenness,” refers to that desired condition of the Sufi mystic when he can finally drink of the goblet offered to him by his divine Beloved.

Biyan Kamkar, HoldárnyékThe poems on the “Moon Shadow” are all from modern, 20th-century Sufi poets. We find among them the well-known and much recited poem “Gharibâne” (As strangers) by Hushang Ebtehaj (1928), by his pen name Sayeh, “Shadow,” which repeats and recomposes the images of the desire for God much used in Sufi poetry. It fits very well to the complex and forceful Kurdish music, which also has a long tradition of the ecstatic joy music of Sufi ceremonies, the shema’.

The popularity of the poem is indicated by the fact that here they only sing some verses of it, again and again returning to the first one, the basic idea of Sufi existence: that we are strangers in this world. Besides, instead of the original plural they sing it in singular: “seek for it”, “you are stranger” and so on, which renders more personal the message of the poem. In the following Romanized transcription I mark in gold the verses sung by Bijan Kamkar and in dark red those sung in the background by the male choir and the female soloist. Even the order of the strophes has been somewhat changed in the performance: after the 9th strophe, the song finishes with the 7th one, “seek for the house of silence” which is a really adequate end to a song.

In contrast to usual transcription, here I also indicate the long vowels with a horizontal dash, so that you could feel the pulsation of the poem already by reading it. The â which sounds like a long closed – “Hungarian” – a is of course always long, and perhaps this is the sound which contributes the most to the unique resonance of Persian poems. I recommend you to read aloud the transcription together with my litteral translation, because only the two together can convey something from the experience of the original poem.

In the translation of this very special text I had some uncertainties and therefore almost surely made some errors. I have sent it to three Persian friends for a revision, but after more than a month none of them has replied yet. It seems like this feature is also a companion of the wonderful Persian character, like the shadow is of the light. Therefore I decided to publish my translation as it is. I will be grateful for any eventual corrections of our Readers.

Bijan Kamkar (Iranian Kurdistan) & Mastan Ensemble (Teheran): Gharibâne (As Strangers) (3'19")

As Strangers Gharibâne

seek out, seek out
in this house seek out
in this house you are strangers
as strangers seek out
بگردید ، بگردید ، درین خانه بگردید
دراین خانه غریبند ، غریبانه بگردید

begardīd, begardīd, dar in khâne begardīd
dar in khâne gharībīd, gharībâne begardīd

a bird walked here
who was a consort of my soul
this world is not his nest
seek the traces of his nest
یکی مرغ چمن بود که جفت دل من بود
جهان لانه ی او نیست پی لانه بگردید

yekī morgh-e chaman būd ke joft-e del-e man būd
jahân lâne-ye ū nīst pey-e lâne begardīd

a cup-bearer became drunken
he sat down behind the curtain
he has sent the cup ahead
so that you could seek it drunken
یکی ساقی مست است پس پرده نشسته ست
قدح پیش فرستاد که مستانه بگردید

yekī sâghī-ye mast ast pas-e parde neshast ast
ghadah pīsh ferestâd ke mastâne begardīd

if the joy comes from drunkenness
whose is the soul behind the lips?
from one hand into the other –
why would you seek any contract?

یکی لذت مستی ست ، نهان زیر لب کیست ؟
ازین دست بدان دست چو پیمانه بگردید

yekī lazzat-e mastī’st, nahân zīr-e lab kīst?
azīn dast bedân dast cho peymâne begardīd

a stranger bird
ate in the garden of my heart
I have tamed it –
seek the traces of the seeds

یکی مرغ غریب است که باغ دل من خورد
به دامش نتوان یافت ، پی دانه بگردید

yekī morgh-e gharīb ast ke bâgh-e del-e man khōrd
be dâmash betân yâft, pey-e dâne begardīd

is the sweet breath of the dawn breeze
the fragrance I feel?
here is he, here is he
seek him in the whole house
نسیم نفس دوست به من خورد و چه خوشبوست
همین جاست ، همین جاست ، همه خانه بگردید

nasīm-e nafas-e dūst be man khōrd o che khoshbūst
haminjâst, haminjâst, hame khâne begardīd

a never heard tune is sounding
that springs forth from itself
don’t sing in the middle of rumor
seek the house of silence
نوایی نشنیده ست که از خویش رمیده ست
به غوغاش مخوانید ، خموشانه بگردید

navâye nashenīd’ ast ke az khavīsh ramīd’ ast
be ghughâsh nakhânid, khamushâne begardīd

like tears falling on the earth
we squeeze out the juice of the vine
song is born from its fermentation –
seek it in the taverns

سرشکی که بر آن خاک فشاندیم بن تاک
در این جوش خروش است ، به خمخانه بگردید

sershekī ke bar ân khâk feshândīm bun-e tâk
dar in jūsh khorūsh ast, be khamkhâne begardīd

what is this sweetnes and this fragrance
as if I felt it in my dream?
this rose full of nectar is,
oh butterflies, you must seek
چه شیرین و چه خوشبوست ، کجا خوابگه اوست ؟
پی آن گل پر نوش چو پروانه بگردید

che shīrīn o che khoshbū’st, kojâ khavâbge ū’st?
pey-e ân gol por-e nūsh cho parvâne begardīd

just laugh at argumentation
do not admire its love
in its circle closed with chains
oh you fools, what do you seek?
بر آن عقل بخندید که عشقش نپسندید
در این حلقه ی زنجیر چو دیوانه بگردید

bar ân 'aghal bekhandīd ke 'eshghash nepasandīd
dar īn halghe-ye zanjīr chu divâne begardīd

in this corner of sadness
you cannot see his signs
if you long for treasures
seek them among the ruins
درین کنج غم آباد نشانش نتوان دید
اگر طالب گنجید به ویرانه بگردید

darīn kanj-e gham âbâd neshânash netavân dīd
agar zâleb-e genjīd be vīrâne begardīd

a key to the gate of hope
if it exists, you are that
on that old lock of stone
why do you seek any keyhole?
کلید در امید اگر هست شمایید
درین قفل کهن سنگ چو دندانه بگردید

kelīd-e dar-e omīd agar hast shomayīd
darīn ghofal-e kohan-e sang cho dandâne begardīd

does a shadow hide the face
covered in dream by a spell?
do not search it in the dreams
seek it in the rapture

رخ از سایه نهفته ست ، به افسون که خفته ست ؟
به خوابش نتوان دید ، به افسانه بگردید

rokh az sâye nehfat’ ast, be afsūn ke khoft’ ast?
be khavânash netân dīd, be afsâne begardīd

his essence bite into mine
he robbed me, he robbed me
accept his open heat
seek him with gratitude
تن او به تنم خورد ، مرا برد ، مرا برد
گرم باز نیاورد ، به شکرانه بگردید

tan-e ū be tanam khōrd, marâ bord, marâ bord
garm-e bâz biâvard, be shokrâne begardīd

The image of the bird walking around and pecking seeds in the garden as a metaphor of God makes more acceptable to me what I had read with surprise in the Hassidic stories, that the Hassidic rabbi of Szatmár interpreted the verse In a green forest, in a green meadow a bird is walking of the well-known Hungarian folk song as the symbol of God.

Biszmilláh-madár“Bismillah-bird”, composed of the letters of the Quranic verse Bismillah al-rahman al-rahim, “In the name of God, the merciful, the passionate”

Hushang Ebtehaj is still living, since 1987 in Köln. He must be really happy. It is not enough that he received a poetic talent and that he can write his poems in one of the most beautiful languages of the world, but they are also set to tune by the greatest representatives of one of the most subtle musical culture of the world – besides Bijan Kamkar, also by Shajarian and his son Homayoun – and they are sung, quoted and read by a hundred million people. To whom we can already count our Readers as well.

Funeral March

Lenin-dal (Lenin Song). Text by Ernő Rossa (text writer, conductor of orchestra, musical educator, composer, 1909-1972) and Miklós Szabó (writer, translator, song writer, opera singer, 1909-1999). Arrangement by Béla András (conductor of orchestra, composer, 1909-1980). Their names is well remembered from the upper corners of the score by anyone who in the 70-80s sang in the school choir such songs like the March of the Militiamen, Song About the Liberation, The Horn is Calling, The Dawn is Coming, or We Are Not Bourgeois. Performed by the “Thread Voice” Children Choir, the “Steel Voice” Men’s Choir and the Concert Brass Band of the Ganz-Mávag Cultural Center, heirs of the century old choir tradition of Kőbánya, Budapest.

A rablánc a lábon nehéz volt
De széttörte büszkén a nép
Hát éljen a hős, aki értünk
Feláldozta hű életét,
A hős, ki csak népének élt.

A béklyó a porba lehullott
S az ember a napfénybe néz
A zászlót emeld fel az égig
S Ő járjon előtted, míg élsz
Ő járjon előtted míg élsz.

És gyúlnak a lángok, a földön,
Már árad a fény szerteszét,
Így mindenhol, északon, s délen,
Szabad lesz és boldog a nép,
Szabad lesz és boldog a nép.

Ma milljóknak ajkán egy név zeng,
E név oly nagy és oly dicső,
Nem hervasztja el semmi ármány,
Nem hervasztja el az idő
Nem hervasztja el az idő!

Csak jól fogd a fegyvert a kézbe
Te harcos, te hős nemzedék
Hisz példád Lenin aki érted
Feláldozta hű életét
Feláldozta hű életét!
The chains were heavy on the feet
but the people proudly broke them
so long live the hero who for us
has sacrificed his faithful life,
The hero who only lived for his people.

The chains fell in the dust
and men look into the sunshine.
Lift the flag as high as the sky
and let him go in front of you as long as you live
May he go in front of you as long as you live.

And flames are lit all over the earth
and the light is spread all around
so that everywhere, in the north and south
people would be free and happy,
People would be free and happy.

One name is sounding on the lips of millions
and this name is so great and so glorious
that it will not be withered by any intrigue
it will not be withered by the time
It will not be withered by the time.

Take the weapon well in the hand
you heroic militant generation
for your example is Lenin who for you
has sacrificed his faithful life
He has sacrificed his faithful life.

A Moscow family hanging up the portrait of Lenin in the new flat, 1927
Of course even I, albeit coming from a good Catholic family, sang this song under the direction of our professor of music whom I still regularly meet on the Sunday Mass. Nevertheless, similarly to Fausto Giovannardi, I was not interested in its origin (it is surely the servile adoption of some Soviet original) until I heard the Yiddish movement song In Kamf (In Struggle) on the CD Jews with Horns by Klezmatics.

Klezmatics: In Kamf (3'25"), from the CD: Klezmatics: Jews with Horns (1994)

Mir vern gehast un getribn
mir vern gepflogt un farfolgt
un alts nor derfar vayl mir libn
dos oreme shmakhtnde volk.

Mir vern dershosn, gehangen
men roybt undz dos lebn un rekht
derfar vayl mir emes farlangen
un frayheyt far oreme knekht.

Shmit undz in ayzerne keytn
vi blutike khayes undz rayst
ir kent undzer kerper nor teytn
nor keyn mol undzer heylikn gayst.

Ir kent undz dermordn tiranen
naye kemfer vet brengen di tsayt.
un mir kemfn mir kempfn biz vanen
di gantse velt vet vern bafrayt
We are despised and driven
We are tortured and persecuted
only because we love
the poor and weak people.

We are shot and hanged,
robbed of our lives and our rights,
for we demand truth and freedom
for downtrodden slaves.

Cast us into iron chains,
tear us apart like bloody beasts;
you can only kill our bodies;
but never our holy spirit.

You can murder us, tyrants,
but time will bring new fighters;
and we fight, we fight until
the entire world is freed.

Lenin-fej Kirgizsztánban
It did not cost much to check that the Yiddish text was written by the Russian-Jewish-American anarchist poet David Edelstadt, “a fine idealistic nature, a spiritual petrel whose songs of revolt were beloved by every Yiddish-speaking radical” (Emma Goldman). He was born in Kaluga in 1866 and died in Denver, Colorado 1892-ben. At the age of twenty-six, just like the Hungarian revolutionary poet Sándor Petőfi. His poem written in 1889 became a veritable hymn of the American Jewish anarchist and later socialist workers’ movement. Its contemporary (1906) English translation was published by Alice Stone Blackwell in her Songs from Russia.

Lenin-fej faház előtt
But how did an American Jewish anarchist song of movement become a Hungarian Communist hymn to Lenin? With full knowledge of the period, there is no doubt that the Hungarian translation could be only made on the basis of a Russian version. But it is absolutely no easy task to find this Russian missing link.

Lenin-fejek szobrászműhelyben
If one simply retranslates the title into Russian and looks for it in the forms “Песня Ленина”, “Песня о Ленине” or “Ленинская песня,” he will not find much useful information. A number of contradicting hypotheses concerning what was the favorite song of Vladimir Iljich, several artistic hommages to the memory of Vladimir Iljich, and one single song in the style of Vysockij, by Yuri Lipmanovich with the same title Lenin Song, but this one… er… it is enough to say that this is absolutely excluded as the original of our song, and not only because it was written in 1997 in Jerusalem. And we find among the first ten hits, of course, also the above video, quod erat demonstrandum.

Lenin-szőnyeg Üzbegisztánban
A search over the Hungarian web is similarly fruitless. The overwhelming majority of the two thousand (!) hits we receive for “Lenin-dal” (Lenin Song) is either the text of the song or its melody to be downloaded in mp3 or in mobile ringtone (!), a fact that seems to retrospectively prove the truth of the old Communist saying Ленин будет жить (Lenin will live). However, none of them says anything about the origins of the song. We only see some light on the Wikipedia where, according to the entry “Mozgalmi dal” (Movement songs), the Lenin-dal (Lenin Song) is identical with the Lenin-gyászinduló (Lenin Funeral March). Let us search for it with this name, then.

Lenin és Sztálin. A Mexikói Kommunista Párt ajándéka
Among the hits for Lenin-gyászinduló (Lenin Funeral March) the most informative is the article of the recently deceased verbose writer István Eörsi in the June 9, 2000 edition of the popular literary journal Élet és Irodalom (Life and Literature). With the title In the marriage bed he describes how they sobbed with his wife in the said bed on the morning of March 6, 1953, when the radio announced the death of Stalin. The announcement, he writes, was introduced with the melody of the Lenin Funeral March: “You loved the people and died for it.”

Straight talk. This is not the Lenin Song, but another work better known as Workers’ Funeral March which was usually played at the funerals of the party members until the change of regime of 1989 and even later. The confusion is increased by the fact that in Hungary this song was known with two texts, an earlier and a later one. When and why did they change the text? Was it perhaps after the revolution of 1956 that they saw it more opportune to emphasize the vanished tyranny than the love of the people? That much is sure that, according to the report of the October 7, 1956 edition of the Nők Lapja (Journal of the Women), it was the earlier version that they sang at the “second funeral” of the Communist László Rajk, sentenced to death by his own comrades three years earlier in a show trial.

Korábbi változat:

Szerettétek a népet és meghaltatok,
mert meghal mindenki, ki igazán szeret.
Szerelmet, barátot föláldoztatok,
a földön semmi jóban nem volt részetek.

Sötét börtönök mélyén sorvadtatok,
kínoztak kegyetlen, vad hóhérkarok,
de testetek már szabad földben pihen,
hová a zsarnok keze már nem érhet el.

Későbbi változat:

A zsarnokság dőzsölt és ülte torát,
És százezrek vérével festette bíborát,
De mind közelebbről, már harsant a jel:
Hogy rabságnak vége és a szabadság közel!

S ím eljött az új élet és új világ,
Mely emlékbe foglalja sok hős fiát,
Kik meghaltak érte, most élnek velünk.
S a hősök nagy áldozatát őrzi hű szívünk.

A harcnak már vége és győzött hadunk,
S bánatba temetkezve könnyet hullatunk.
Hogy jogban és fejlődve éljen a nép,
Ezért adta annyi hős cserébe életét.

S ím eljött az új élet és új világ
És most már valóság, mi volt régi vágy.
Hát hirdesse hálánk az emlékteket,
Kik értünk feláldoztátok drága éltetek.
Earlier version:

You loved the people and died for it
as everyone dies who really loves.
You have sacrificed lovers and friends
and had no sweet moments here on earth.

You languished in the depth of dark prisons
you were tortured by cruel, fierce executioners
but your body already lays in free earth
where the hands of the tyrants cannot reach you.

Later version:

Tyranny revelled and banqueted
and painted its purple with the blood of millions
but the signal blared nearer and nearer
that oppression is over and freedom is near.

And look, the new life and new world have come
which remembers of all his heroic sons
who died for it, and who now live with us
and their sacrifice is conserved in our hearts.

The struggle is over, our army has won
and we are overwhelmed by sorrow:
in order the people may live and develop
so many heroes offered their lives.

And look, the new life and new world have come
and reality is what once was only desire.
Let our gratitude sound the praise of your memory
who have sacrificed your precious lives for us.

Lenin és Sztálin elvadult fűben
I do not know why the earlier version is shorter. But the Nők Lapja also testifies that these were the “last lines” of the version in use at that time. And this is how its text figures in the first version of the propaganda novel Vidravas (1983) by Erzsébet Galgóczi, in the nostalgic mythography of the “ballon-clothed one” (a state security officer watching the revolutionary events of October 23, 1956):

Not a very large repertoire – he thought bitterly –, the Hymn, the Song of Kossuth. You have to practice it a bit longer, kids. And he recalled the marches of the “bright winds”: “Hey, our flags are waven by bright winds, their inscription is, long live the freedom!” And then there was the “Knob.” The heels of the boots were resounding at the officers’ school: “Hey, you little knob, you precious one! Hey, you knotty branch of a living tree! Help us now!” “We have been invaded by the fierce anger of the devastating tempest, all the fiery curses of the hell are upon us…” but “The capital will not rule us,” because of “The eternal alliance of the liberated nations, the great work of the great Russia,” where “Above Cherson the fields are covered with grass, only one tomb remained intact, and under this tomb sailor-partisan Zhelezhniak laid down for an eternal break…” “We have been invaded by the fierce anger of the devastating tempest,” but “We stay on the bastions at the outskirts of Madrid,” because “The chains were heavy on the feet, but the people proudly broke them…” “At the beginning of the creation of the earth, hey-hoo, there was no rich and no poor at that time, hey-hoo,” therefore “Red Csepel, lead the struggle, Váci Street, respond to them!…” And the most shivering one: “You loved the people and died for it, as everyone dies who really loves. You’ve sacrificed lovers and friends, and had no sweet moments here on earth. You languished in the depth of dark prisons, were tortured by cruel, fierce executioners; but your body already lays in free earth where the hands of the tyrants cannot reach you.”

Lenin and Brezhnew
Lenin and Fidel Castro
The Russian original of this song is easy to find, for it was used for the same function in the Soviet Union as by us in Hungary. In Russian it is simply called Funeral March. Its text was established around 1870-80 with the combination of two poems by the revolutionary poet A. Arkhangelsky (Amos Anton Aleksandrovich). Its tune, however, is much older. The earliest known version of it was sung with the poem written in 1826 by Ivan Ivanovich Kozlov (1779-1840) on the funerals of the British general John Moore: “Не бил барабан перед смутным полком, когда мы вождя хоронили…” (No drum rolled in front of the stunned army when we were burying the leader…). This song became popular with Kozlov’s text among the Cossacks during the times of the Caucasian wars (1816-1864), and it was occasionally sung with this text even in WWII.

However, with the text of Arkhangelsky the song became the accepted funeral march of the workers’ movement. It is sung by Fedya Mazin at the peak of Gorki’s novel The mother, at the head of the funeral procession which turns into a demonstration. In the Hungarian translation of the novel, made after the Communist takeover, the song obviously figures with the text of the “earlier version,” which is an absolutely inaccurate rendition of the Russian original. And after the general adoption of the “later version” of the march, nobody cared to change the text in the novel, thus only the most experienced old revolutionaries can identify the song mentioned in The mother with the one otherwise well known, if anybody readys The mother any more.

A peculiarly odd thing about it is that perhaps Lenin was the only one who was not buried with this so-called “Lenin Funeral March,” as for his funerals a special music was written by the leading composer of the period Vladimir Yakovlevich Vulfman with the title Funeral March for the death of V. I. Ulyanov-Lenin. The mythical circumstances of its composition (on hearing the news of Lenin’s death, he was caught by a tormenting pain, and then he kept composing for two day and two nights without a break) were related by himself in an 1974 number of the Sovietskaya Muzika. The site “Klamurke” which publishes his relation, promises in a footnote that they will also tell about the real circumstances of the composition of the work. We are eagerly looking forward to it.

Velikij Lenin ikon
The following translation of the original text of the original Funeral March is an internet premier, I think. I at least have not found it in any other language than Russian.

Похоронный марш (Funeral March), c. 1870-80 (3'48")

Вы жертвою пали в борьбе роковой
Любви беззаветной к народу,
Вы отдали всё, что могли, за него,
За честь его, жизнь и свободу!

Порой изнывали по тюрьмам сырым,
Свой суд беспощадный над вами
Враги-палачи уж давно изрекли,
И шли вы, гремя кандалами.

Идете, усталые, цепью гремя,
Закованы руки и ноги,
Спокойно и гордо свой взор устремля
Вперед по пустынной дороге.

Нагрелися цепи от знойных лучей
И в тело впилися змеями.
И каплет на землю горячая кровь
Из ран, растравленных цепями.

А деспот пирует в роскошном дворце,
Тревогу вином заливая,
Но грозные буквы давно на стене
Уж чертит рука роковая!

Настанет пора – и проснется народ,
Великий, могучий, свободный!
Прощайте же, братья, вы честно прошли
Свой доблестный путь, благородный!
You fell victim in the fatal combat
out of altruistic love toward the people
you gave them whatever you could
to its honor, life and freedom.

You have languished for long in wet prisons,
the hostile executioners have long pronounced
their sentence on you,
and you went, all in chains.

You go exhausted, in chains,
with irons on your head and feet,
looking with calm and proud eyes
in front of you on the solitary way.

The irons heated by the rays of the sun
bite into your body like snakes
and hot blood falls down on earth
from the wounds rubbed out by them

And the tyrant feasts in his court
easing his fear with wine
but the terrible letters on the wall
have long been written by that fatal hand.

The time will come when the people stands up,
the powerful, strong and free people.
Good bye, brothers, you have with honor
completed your heroic, noble way.

A postcard with the portrait of the Eser revolutionary Mariya Spiridonova, and with the
handwritten text of the Funeral March on its back side. Considering its modernized
post-Revolution orthography, the text already refers to the Soviet
prisons where Spiridonova also died in 1941.

This melody was also used by Shostakovich in the third (“In memoriam”) movement of his 11th Symphony (“The Year of 1905”), officially in memory of the victims of the Russian revolution of 1905, while unofficially – according to his wife and friends – of those of the Hungarian revolution of 1956. As officially the whole symphony was composed on the 50th anniversary of the revolution of 1905, while according to the interpretation spreading among the artists of Moscow rather on the 50th birthday of Shostakovich himself, as “the requiem of a lost generation”. The most beautiful feature of this well-known “I’m both inside and outside” play of the Communist times – through which the dissenter could fulfill at once the expectations of the regime and of the friends – is that nobody knows which interpretation was the real one, if any of them. A fact is that Shostakovich received for this work the Lenin prize, the greatest Soviet award.

Lenin és a balerinák
Lenin és a balerinák

Dmitri Shostakovich: 11th Symphony (1957), 3rd (“In memoriam”) movement (10'29"). The Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra is directed by Kirill Kondrashin, 1973. I have chosen this old Melodiya recording with Kondrashin, friend of Shostakovich and after 1960 for 15 years the leading director of orchestra in Moscow, because this emphasizes the melody of the theme much more song-like than the later recordings.

Lenin és a balerinák
Interestingly, a very similar funeral march motif is used also by Chopin in the third movement – written separately and before the other two ones – of his second Piano Sonata in B-flat minor, Op. 35. It is absolutely not impossible that he also used the same melody, by that time already known all over Russia – thus also in the Warsaw Grandduchy. That much is sure that after the decline of the fashion of the Funeral March, the Soviet secretary-generals were given the address at their funerals with this movement, arranged to orchestra with the title Marche funèbre. Around 1984 three such occasions followed each other in a row, and with this the melody of the Marche funèbre was engraved into the memory of a whole generation.

Vladimir Bogdanov: Lenin statue in car
The Marche funèbre, obviously, has no text, but my former Russian students who belonged to this generation usually hummed it with the text в детском саду скоро будет новый год. Будет много мяса, будет много хлеба,” that is, “In the kindergarten soon there will be New Year. There will be much meat, there will be much bread.” The second verse was sometimes also heard like “Будет вам варенье, будет вам печень” (There will be jam, there will be liver), “Будем есть конфеты, пряники, печенья” (We will eat candies, biscuits, cakes) or – more realistically – “будут подарки, будет хоровод” (there will be some gifts, there will be round dance).

Lenin és a balerinák
After the publication of the post we received from Misha Shauli the textual version they used to song with this melody in their childhood:

Ту-104 - хороший самолёт,
Ту-104 - надёжный самолёт.
Будет вам удобно,
Быстро, экономно.
Ту-104 всех туда нас довезёт.
TU-104 is a good airplane,
TU-104 is a reliable airplane
it will be comfortable,
quick and economic,
it will take us all there.

The last verse, specifies Misha, is a reference to the philosophical expression все там будем, “once we will be all there”, usually mentioned in connection with the cemetery.

Lenin and Stalin in the Tsirulishi Sanatory, Latvia
I apologize for the bizarre background image of the following video of the Marche funèbre, but I could not find any better. You cannot imagine how hard it is to find an orchestral version of this movement nowadays as its fashion has also passed away, and everyone plays it on solo piano, as Chopin originally wrote it.

Finally I was led to the Russian original of the Lenin Song by the same researcher’s luck as to the In Kamf. I read in the Songs for anarchist and underground movements on the page dedicated to the Funeral March: “This is one of the two best known funeral marches of the Russian revolutionary movement. The other is the Zamuchen tyazholoy nevoley,” that is, Languished in the hard captivity. For mere curiosity, I also checked the page of that song, and… it was the one I was looking for. This is how the career of a research which merited a much longer arch was cruelly short-circuited.

That song bears the title Revolutionary funeral march and, similarly to the Funeral March, it was originally written for the obituaries of a revolutionary martyr. This was further developed into an ode of Lenin by the ambitious Hungarian text writers who thus, in their zeal to overfulfill the project, created the hagiographic absurd, the idea of the martyr who died for natural reasons in his own bed.

Револуционный труарный марш (Revolutionary funeral march), 1876 (5'27")

Замучен тяжелой неволей,
Ты славною смертью почил...
В борьбе за народное дело
Ты голову честно сложил…

Служил ты недолго, но честно
Для блага родимой земли…
И мы, твои братья по делу,
Тебя на кладбище снесли.

Наш враг над тобой не глумился…
Кругом тебя были свои…
Мы сами, родимый, закрыли
Орлиные очи твои.

Не горе нам душу давило,
Не слезы блистали в очах,
Когда мы, прощаясь с тобою,
Землей засыпали твой прах.

Нет, злоба нас только душила!
Мы к битве с врагами рвались
И мстить за тебя беспощадно
Над прахом твоим поклялись!

С тобою одна нам дорога;
Как ты, мы по тюрьмам сгнием.
Как ты, для народного дела
Мы головы наши снесем.

Как ты, мы, быть может, послужим
Лишь почвой для новых людей,
Лишь грозным пророчеством новых,
Грядущих и доблестных дней.

Но знаем, как знал ты, родимый,
Что скоро из наших костей
Подымется мститель суровый
И будет он нас посильней!
Languished in the hard captivity
you died a glorious death.
In the battle fought for the case of the people
you put down your head with honor.

You served your native land
not for long time, but with full honor
and we, your brothers in the case
accompanied you to the cemetery.

Our enemy did not mock at you,
your ones were around you:
we ourselves closed down, brother,
your blue eyes.

No mourning oppressed our souls
no tears sat in our eyes
when saying farewell to you
gave over your body to the earth.

No, we were only fuelled by anger
to fight against our enemy again
and we swore above your body
to revenge ourselves on you.

Our way is the same as yours,
as you, we also languish in prisons
and as you, we also put down
our heads for the case of the people.

Perhaps as you, we will also only
set an exampe to new heroes
telling a terrible prophecy
about new, heroic days to come.

But we know, as you knew, brother
that soon from our bones
a new, tougher revenger will spring
who will be much stronger than us.

Leonid Sokov: Lenin and Giacometti (1987)
The identity of the two songs which today already must be investigated in such a tortuous way, some decades ago seems to have been widely known. At least in Yuri Trifonov’s novel Старик (The old man) of 1976, in the passage where, during the February revolution of 1917, the unsatisfied crowd sings the Revolutionary Funeral March, the Hungarian translation of 1980 changes this reference for the “Lenin Song”, considered as its Hungarian equivalent, thus unconsciously predating by several years the revolutionary cult of Lenin:

“идем дальше, по Литейному мосту, мимо сгоревшей «предварилки», красные и черные флаги вывешены на домах, на Невском стоим часа два, отовсюду поют «Вечную память» и «Вы жертвою пали…»”

“átmegyünk a Lityejnij-hídon, majd a leégett vizsgálati fogház mellett; a házakon vörös és fekete zászlók, a Nyevszkij proszpekten két órát állunk, mindenütt a Munkás gyászindulót és a Rabláncot éneklik…”

(“we cross the Liteiny Bridge, then pass the burned down detention jail. Red and black flags on every house. On the Nevsky Prospect we stand for two hours, they sing everywhere the Funeral March and the Revolutionary Funeral March [in the Hungarian version: The chains were heavy, that is, the Lenin Song])…”

The Russian text was written by Grigori Aleksandrovich Machtet (1852-1901) for the funerals of his narodnik comrade, the student P. F. Chernisev who died in 1876 in tuberculose in the prison of Saint-Petersbourg. His funerals happened amidst the first, enormous peaceful demonstration of the narodnik revolutionary movement Zemlya i volya (Earth and freedom), and they made popular this song all over Russia. It has maintained its popularity even after 1917 when narodniks as a competition were extirpated among the first ones by the new Bolshevik power. Thus, taken into account the dates, the song came to Edelstadt in America from the narodniks, and not vice versa: its story is thus similar also in this respect to the discovery of Fausto Giovannardi. The song was also translated into German the 1920s by Ernst Busch (with a text faithful to the original), and it became a popular workers’ movement song in Germany. Shostakovich too used it in his 8th string quartet written in 1960 during the weeks spent by him in Berlin.

Im Kerker zu Tode gemartert. German text and voice: Ernst Busch (2'26")

Lenin-fej Lettországban
I could not discover the roots of the melody of this march. My sources do not mention either its author or its precedences. Nevertheless, perhaps I managed to catch a glimpse of it as at the beginning of the 1800s it gleamed on the surface for some seconds, like a trout.

Beethoven wrote his string quartets no. 7-9 (Op. 59) in 1808 on the commission of the Viennese Russian ambassador Count Andreas Kirillovich Razumofsky. We know that Beethoven weaved into the third, “Allegretto” movement of the 8th quartet a “Russian theme” as a hommage to his patron. I have always been curious what this theme might have been. Now, listening again to the movement, I find it quite possible that one can hear in it a strongly stylized version of the Revolutionary funeral march – In Kamf – Im Kerker zu Tode gemartert – Lenin-dal.

Beethoven: 8th e minor “Razumofsky” string quartet, 3rd “Allegretto” movement, Op. 59 (6'33"). Juilliard String Quartet (2002)

Lenin-szobor cipőjét pucolják
This is then the story how the Lenin Song was created, out of the song expropriated from the narodniks, with the common effort of composers, authors, text writers, journalists, and the whole society singing it independently of their conviction. Its microhistory also illustrates how each one contributed, in the measure of their forces, to the creation and maintenance of the regime.

Lenin-szobor Lettországban, bedobozolva