The BEST Guide to POLAND
Unanswered  |  Archives 
User: Guest

Home / Language  % width posts: 5

Two Survivals or Metamorphoses of Polish Folk Songs

14 Apr 2023 #1
The following fragments were preserved orally by my family, and I would greatly appreciate any help in understanding whether they are somewhat distorted or if they are legitimate variants. Of course, in any case, their process of development and transformation is interesting enough.


The first is a version of "Tak pan jedzie":

Pronunciation (phonetic; hopefully it is clear); -

Tak pan yah-djeh
Po (w)o byeh-djeh
Tak soo-ga, tak soo-ga, etc.,
Tug-djuh, tug-djuh, etc.

Its delivery has a somewhat low, almost whispery intonation of deliberately terse syllables, building of course in the final two lines until it breaks into jagged bursts of breath. The last two lines, but especially the first of them, has been well noted in its especially quick pacing to simulate the sound of clopping horses' hooves. To that extent, we may of course say that the actual content of the words does not matter, the shift from "soo-ga" to "djuh," as it were, reflecting only an intensification of speed (the first two lines have only the slightest rocking of the child on the knee with a somewhat inclined posture of the bouncer, while "soo-ga" seems to witness a leaning back and jostling of the knee until the rapid-fire repetition of it finally climaxes into a few wild jolts of "djuh" and a bolting knee). The shift in forcefulness may also be witnessed by "tak," though certainly remaining the same word in the conventional "yes,..." exchange, becoming the blunt "tug". However, while "yes, servant" seems to remain, what is being offered in return is not "yes, sir." What has happened to cause this warping, or has a coherent variant been preserved?

Textual construction (forgive the nonsensical, hazarded guesses for the last line) -

Tak pan jedzie
Po obiedzie
Tak sługa, tak sługa, etc.,
[Także/Tak się, etc.]


The second is a version of "Aaa aaa kotki dwa":

Pronunciation -

ah-Ah! Kot-kee dwah
Sza-reh-bu-reh o-bee-dwah
Sot-keh kot-keh lah-bley-lee
Mah-wah (name inserted) oosh-bee/pee-lee

The beginning, as I recall my mother singing it, and which I have surely perhaps exaggerated, has a plateuing "ahhhh" which suddenly becomes an excited "Ah!" as the back of the throat releases the breath it has suppressed into a hiss or white noise and jumps excitedly into something of a leaping moan with a jutting out of the throat, a sudden retraction of the stomach, and a flickering of the eyes. But this is immaterial to the true concern, that which is most jarringly apparent in the third line as "lah-bley-lee". This mystery word I have, in my extremely limited scope, attempted to explain by the evident shift in the pronunciation of the letter ł. To first state this clearly, these were not written and then misunderstood; the change in pronunciation was orally transmitted. We may first take a detour and see this in the final line with uśpiły ("put to sleep"), which should of course be pronounced as "oosh-pee-wey," but which (as I conjecture, working backwards from the oral record) survived with us as "oosh-bee/pee-lee". On the general topic of ł, I would conjecture that, in the third line, "słodkie" is that which is intended by "sot-keh" (how I wish I could attach an audio file!). In any case, if it holds indeed that ł became the English l-pronunciation, then I wonder if "lah-bley-lee" might not, with some imaginative stretch, be traced back into "ła były," (as "wah-beh-wey" or something to that number). My apologies if none of this is feasible whatsoever, but I am going to hazard another go based upon były having the meaning of "late" (though of course I think this more properly belongs to the sense of "former," etc.). The "ła" as the lamentful exclamation would make sense in the reading of the final two lines, for it would go something like,

"Sweet/cute kittens, oh how late it is! (Lit. How late!)
Little (one), go to sleep."

That is my current stretch and hope because of its possible coherence, but please do help me understand quite what has happened to render this current composition. Evidently, this reading would still require the genesis of what should have been "lah-beh-ley" somehow, through time, acquiring another "l" as "lah-bley-lee" (as if "ła błyły"). I myself have seen another version which reads, "Aaa były, sobie kotkie...," and I am almost tempted to see my family's version as a strange inversion of this, where somehow "aaa były" became "lah-bley-lee" ("l" being arbitrarily tagged on at the start, though of course the first line seems to testify that "aaa" had remained uncontaminated) and somehow "sobie" became "sot-keh" so that, in reverse, it thus jumbled together as "sot-keh kot-keh lah-bley-lee...". But this, of course, makes no sense whatsoever in connection with the last line (if any of this makes sense; my apologies for this rambling).

I can also swear that there was a line in our version which had "bawiły" (which, again, and I think this should add to my memory's reliability, I recall hearing as "ba-vi-lee"), but I am currently unable to reconstruct it (and it is not at all alike unto the official versions I have seen); I feel as if a piece of my lung, my holy lips, my sacred tongue (no matter how mangled), were missing. How close to godliness the things of childhood come! And to honour those things which we love we all willingly become fools. Who does not know of the maddened lover whose ludicrous thoughts are excused for his ardour?

Any help whatsoever would be greatly appreciated.

Textual construction (ideal):

Aaa aaa, kotki dwa
Szarobure obydwa
Słodkie kotki ła były
Mała (name) uśpił-i/y
Paulina 16 | 4,211
14 Apr 2023 #2
ah-Ah! Kot-kee dwah
Sza-reh-bu-reh o-bee-dwah

My mother sang this lullaby to me when I was little:

A-a-a kotki dwa
Szarobure obydwa
Nic nie będą robiły
Tylko ciebie bawiły

A-a-a kotki dwa
Szarobure obydwa
Jak się kotki rozigrały
To dziecinę kołysały

A-a-a kotki dwa
Szarobure obydwa
Jeden szary drugi bury
A ten trzeci myk! Do dziury

A-a-a kotki dwa
Szarobure obydwa
Żeby tylko jeden był
To by z tobą mleczko pił


A version from 1938:

"Ach, śpij kochanie"

W górze tyle gwiazd,
w dole tyle miast.
Gwiazdy miastu dają znać,
Że dzieci muszą spać.

Ach, śpij kochanie,
Jeśli gwiazdkę z nieba chcesz - dostaniesz.
Czego pragniesz, daj mi znać,
Ja ci wszystko mogę dać,

Więc dlaczego nie chcesz spać?

Ach, śpij, bo nocą,
Kiedy gwiazdy się na niebie złocą,
Wszystkie dzieci nawet złe,
Pogrążone są we śnie,
A ty jedna tylko nie...

Aaa... aaa... Były sobie kotki dwa
Aaa... aaa...
Szarobure, szarobure obydwa.

Ach, śpij, bo właśnie
Księżyc ziewa i za chwilę zaśnie,
A gdy rano przyjdzie świt,
Księżycowi będzie wstyd,
Że on zasnął, a nie ty.

Sot-keh kot-keh lah-bley-lee
Mah-wah (name inserted) oosh-bee/pee-lee

I don't think I recognise this part though. Maybe it's another version.
The last line is probably:

"Małą (name inserted) uśpili/uśpiły."
Paulina 16 | 4,211
14 Apr 2023 #3
Słodkie kotki ła były
Mała (name) uśpił-i/y

It could be:

"Słodkie kotki lubiły,
Małą (name) uśpiły."

(Sweet kittens liked,
They put little (name) to sleep.)

But that line "Słodkie kotki lubiły" doesn't make sense, because the kittens would have to like something. Unless by "słodkie" someone meant "sweets" or something sweet to eat (Kittens liked sweets), I don't know...
Paulina 16 | 4,211
14 Apr 2023 #4
Nic nie będą robiły
Tylko ciebie bawiły

I'm not sure if I remember it right, but I think it's possible that in the version that my mother sang to me there was "dziecko" instead of "ciebie", like here:

"Nic nie będą robiły,
Tylko dziecko bawiły."

You could insert the child's name here too instead of "dziecko" (child), I guess:

"Nic nie będą robiły,
Tylko Paulinkę bawiły." :)
OP Kantarow
15 Apr 2023 #5

Thank you for responding. The word(s) for "lah-b(l)ey-lee" is/are indeed the most challenging to figure out. Let me ask you most directly: is my suggestion of "ła były!" (as if, "whoa, how late it is!", followed by the line, "little one, go to sleep") untenable? Are you aware of whether such a usage of były is at all feasible? If not, then I am probably leaning towards "aaa były" having somehow degraded into "(l)aah b(l)ey-lee".

Home / Language / Two Survivals or Metamorphoses of Polish Folk Songs