Intention. Ah, intention. Oaths made and broken, debts, especially to oneself, that one cannot repay – following up on this morning’s Elul post, I give you the lyrics of a song by, I would have to say, one of my favourite singers and the best lyricist I know, Bulat Okudjava. I translated the song myself, because none of the translations were quite right and I might be a bit of a perfectionist. It still doesn’t do credit to the original, but I think it captures the mood, somewhat. The songs that he wrote are often a bit sad, maybe even morbid. This one is no exception. They are sweet, though, and they say the right things and they paint the right pictures. All his songs that I know well were written in the late 50’s and early 60’s in the now blessedly non-existent Soviet Union, and always make me think of my parents as hippies (not that they were, necessarily – but children’s memories are not the same as reality, and that’s what I remember.) In my head, there is a camp fire, and my father sitting by it smiling and singing and my mother with long straight black hair, young and beautiful and I am very little and there are stars and trees high above my head and an accordion is softly playing and this song.
Faith, Hope and Love
By Bulat Okudjava, translated by Anna Lilliman
Nurse, be so kind and please close my blue curtains
I don’t need any drug mixtures you’re thinking of
For my creditors stand by my bed, mute and certain
Keeping watch, waiting silently: Faith, Hope and Love.
I reach out to pay debts, son of this fleeting era
But an empty purse falls from my trembling hands.
Oh my sweet Faith, do not pine, do not sorrow
Those who owe you remain, still numbered like sand.
And I also will say, feeling helpless and gentle
While guiltily touching her hands to my lips
Do not sorrow, don’t pine, Mother Hope, sentimental –
On this Earth there are still sons to sail in your ships.
To Love, I’ll stretch out empty palms, open handed,
And I’ll hear her clear penitent voice softly say
“Do not pine, do not sorrow, your mem’ry’s not faded
I have given myself all away in your name
But no matter which hands may have touched and caressed you
How your flame burned or guttered, ethereal bright,
People’s gossip three times all your debts has redressed – You
Owe nothing more. You are clean in my sight.”
Clear and clean, I lay still as the dawn fades in slowly
Just before the beginning of forthcoming day
Three sisters, three wives, three judges of mercy
Start one final credit for me to repay.