Litania

by Julian Tuwim

(“Litania” by Julian Tuwim has been selected for Poetry@Princeton by David Bellos of the Department of French and Italian. Professor Bellos has provided the original Polish, a translation, and his own adaptation. We invite comments about the poem itself and in relation to questions of translation and adaptation. Such questions will also be taken up at the Translation Symposium on April 15th.)

Modlę się, Boże, żarliwie,
Modlę się, Boże, serdecznie:
Za krzywdę upokorzonych,
Za drżenie oczekujących,
Za wieczny niepowrót zmarłych,
Za konających bezsilność,
Za smutek niezrozumianych,
Za beznadziejnie proszących,
Za obrażonych, wyśmianych,
Za głupich, złych i maluczkich,
Za tych, co biegną zdyszani
Do najbliższego doktora,
Za tych, co z miasta wracają
Z bijącym sercem do domu,
Za potrąconych grubiańsko,
Za wygwizdanych w teatrze,
Za nudnych, brzydkich, niezdarnych,
Za słabych, bitych, gnębionych,
Za tych, co usnąć nie mogą,
Za tych, co śmierci się boją,
Za czekających w aptekach
I za spóźnionych na pociąg,
– ZA WSZYSTKICH MIESZKAŃCÓW ŚWIATA,
Za ich kłopoty, frasunki,
Troski, przykrości, zmartwienia,
Za niepokoje i bóle,
Tęsknoty, niepowodzenia,
Za każde drgnienie najmniejsze,
Co nie jest szczęściem, radością,
Która niech ludziom tym wiecznie
Przyświeca jeno życzliwie –
Modlę się, Boże, serdecznie,
Modlę się, Boże, żarliwie!

Litany

By Julian Tuwim

My Lord my prayer goes forth
My Lord my heart sings out:
To the hurt of the humiliated
To those who await and who tremble
To the eternal departure of those whom death has embraced
To those who perish all helpless
To the sorrow of the misunderstood
To those who petition in vain
To the ridiculed, the insulted
To the stupid, the wicked, small-hearted
To those who run, lose their breath
Seeking the doctor’s cold touch
To those who return to their homes
With their hearts beating aquiver
To the jostled, insulted
To those booed off the stage
To the boring, the ugly, the awkward
To the weak, the trampled, the tortured
To those whom slumber eludes
To those whom the pharmacists expect
To those whose trains have departed
TO ALL THOSE WHO INHABIT OUR WORLD
To all their troubles and worries
Their aches, their hurts, their distress
To their unease and their pain
Their longings, their failures
To every tremor, the slightest,
Which their misfortunes foretells
Let eternal happiness shine upon them
My Lord my heart sings out
My Lord, my prayer goes forth

Translated by Agnieszka Gerwel and Michal Wilk

O Lord
To thee I sing from the heart
To thee I pray from the soul
For those who have been hurt and humbled
For those who only wait and quake
For those who will never return
For those who perish alone without help
For the sorrowfully misunderstood
For those in the queue with hopeless claims
For the scorned and the insulted
For the stupid, the wicked and the mean
For those who run out of breath on their way to the doctor’s
And come back home with a pounding heart
For the harried and hassled
For actors booed off stage
For the boring, the ugly and ham-fisted
For the weak, the trampled and the tortured
For those who cannot sleep
For those who fear death
For regulars at the pharmacy
For those who missed their train
FOR ALL WHO LIVE ON THIS PLANET
On their worries and troubles
On their distress and disarray
On their aches and their pains
On their failures and aspirations
On the slightest quiver stirred in them
By the shadow of their misfortune
Let happiness shine for ever and a day
I pray thee
O Lord

Julian Tuwim
Adapted by David Bellos

1 Thought.

  1. Both English versions gave me a serene and reverent feeling for humankind and a warm respect for the poet. I feel that the Gerwel and Wilk translation is formal and the Bellos’ version casual or contemporary because of Prof. Bellos’ use of the words queue, ham-fisted, and planet. Queue is limited to some places while ham-fisted is a highly visual metaphor. The word planet brings the thought of science to my mind while the word world is not pinned to a place in history. What a great poem!

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