Watch the interview with my student, Weronika Lewandowska, commended in The Stephen Spender Prize 2014 for poetry in translation in association with the Guardian.
There are plates, but no appetite.
There are rings, but no love exchanged,
For at least three hundred years.
There is a fan but where are the blushes?
There are swords but where is the anger?
And the Lute won't even strum at the grey hour.
In the absence of immortality
Ten thousand old things are collected.
The caretaker's mossy moustache,
Hangs over the cabinet's sweet slumber.
Metal, clay, bird feather,
Quietly, triumphant in time.
The chuckling needle of the Egyptian giddy girl.
The crown waited for the right head.
Her hand lost out to a glove.
His right shoe won over the foot.
As I live, trust me,
My race with the dress carries on
And how stubborn she is!
How she longs to live!
Translated from the Polish by Weronika Lewandowska
Są talerze, ale nie ma apetytu.
Są obrączki, ale nie m wzajemności
od co najmniej trzystu lat.
Jest wachlarz - gdzie rumieńce?
Są miecze - gdzie gniew?
I lutnia ani brzęknie o szarej godzinie.
Z braku wieczności zgromadzono
dziesięć tysięcy starych rzeczy.
Omszały woźny drzemie słodko
zwiesiwszy wąsy nad gablotką.
Metale, glina, piórko ptasie
cichutko tryumfują w czasie.
Chichocze tylko szpilka po śmieszce z Egiptu.
Korona przeczekała głowę.
Przegrała dłoń do rękawicy.
Zwyciężył prawy but nad nogą.
Co do mnie, żyję, proszę wierzyć.
Mój wyścig z suknią nadal trwa.
A jaki ona upór ma!
A jak by ona chciała przeżyć!
I chose this poet because she is really famous in Poland and she died two years ago. I felt this poem was written from her heart. She captures the feeling of walking around a museum and how it makes you think about your own life and what you will leave behind.
It was difficult to translate because I had to use more English words to describe something that we have one word for in Polish, for example, śmieszce means a small girl who is giggly and laughing so I chose giddy girl. The word order in Polish is different so I had to decide on the word order in English to still keep the poet's meaning while translating it into English.
There were no rhymes in the poem which made it easier to translate. I kept the same verse structure. It was difficult for me to find the best words to use in English. While I was translating I realised that I didn't know all the words in Polish especially ones that are really old or are not usually written down.
I understood more Polish as a result of translating the poem even though it is my native language. Some words are very similar in both languages, for example the title, Muzeum. It was much more difficult to translate than I thought. I am used to speaking Polish at home and English and Polish in school. It was strange to be at home with everyone speaking Polish trying to translate a Polish poem into English.