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The Stake

Grandpa Siset talked to me
in the gateway at the dawn
when we were waiting for the sun
watching the wagons passing by.
Siset, don't you see the stake
to which we are all tied?
If we don’t rid ourselves of it,
we won't be able to walk away!
If we all pull, it will fall,
it will not stand for too long,
for sure it’ll be torn down, down, down,
it must be already well rotten.
If you pull hard here,
and I pull hard there,
for sure it’ll be torn down, down, down,
and we'll be able to liberate ourselves.
But, Siset, so much time has passed,
my hands are scratching,
and when I have no more strength,
it grows wider and taller.
I know very well that it's rotten,
but, Siset, it’s so heavy,
that sometimes I have no more power.
Please repeat your song!
If we all pull, it will fall,
it will not stand for too long,
for sure it’ll be torn down, down, down,
it must be already well rotten.
If you pull hard here,
and I pull hard there,
for sure it’ll be torn down, down, down,
and we'll be able to liberate ourselves.
Grandpa Siset no longer says anything,
an evil wind carried him away
- it only knows where to -
and I’m stuck in the gateway.
And while the new farm hands pass by,
from my throat arises
the last Siset's song,
the last one he taught me:
If we all pull, it will fall,
it will not stand for too long,
for sure it’ll be torn down, down, down,
it must be already well rotten.
If you pull hard here,
and I pull hard there,
for sure it’ll be torn down, down, down,
and we'll be able to liberate ourselves.
Original lyrics


Click to see the original lyrics (Catalan)

Lluís Llach: Top 3
   Wed, 13/01/2016 - 22:00

Oh, Marco! Thank you very much. :)

I really didn't expect that.

   Wed, 13/01/2016 - 23:33

It was really a big surprise. I rather expected that you'll suggest me some corrections. For me it was an experiment. Even though there was already an English translation that I could have based on I didn't trust it and I've checked everything on my own.

   Thu, 14/01/2016 - 19:56

Your translation is really good since you keep the general sense of the song. A few words could be more literal, but I know you don’t like literal translations. Actually neither my translation to Sardinian is completely literal. In any case (apart from “chariots” and “squires”) I can suggest some alternative words and then you are free to change them if you like:
desfer-nos-en > get rid
caminar > go on, advance, progress
si estirem tots > if we stretch together
ella caurà> it will fall
no pot durar > cannot hold on
deu ser ja > it must already be
alliberar > get free (of it)
escortxant > chapping, scraping (“my hands are scraping”)
la força se me'n va > I've run out of strength
la força m'oblida > my strength abandons me (nearly the same meaning as above)
ja no diu res > doesn’t say anything (present tense); can no longer say anything
estiro el coll per cantar > I stretch my neck to sing

   Thu, 14/01/2016 - 22:54

Thank you Marco, I just need a little time to digest it. And there's also something else...
Okay, tomorrow I'll write and explain everything.

   Fri, 15/01/2016 - 19:38

Thank you Agnieszka, I guess even many Catalans don't know the history of grandpa "Narciset".
So, going random, I've imagined rightly: he lived in a small village and died a few decades ago. He was a barber, a republican and a wretched man who lived with fear and humiliated by the regime, and yet he taught to the boys the love for freedom. So he was a real person, not just a symbol.

   Sat, 16/01/2016 - 20:23

Marco, I wanted to tell you that I had said “Bye, bye!” to “Grandpa Siset” and I wanted to do the same in this interpretation. I found an explanation in the Ukrainian Wikipedia that “Siset” meant "Sisyphus”. I made a big mistake, because I didn’t change the language of the Wikipedia to Catalan - the answer was also there. I searched only in those languages that I was able to understand without any doubts and I wasn’t able to find anything else.

As Agnieszka found the answer, now I greeted again “Grandpa Siset”. It’s clear that the story couldn’t have happened in the medieval times, as I imagined, so the “chariots” and “squires” are gone. Your suggestion “new generation” for “nous vailets” was a good option, but I decided to set the story again in the old times, though this time I meant only the nineteenth century, so now you have the pair “wagons” and “farm hands” (farm workers) and I believe that goes together well.

1. Desfer-nos-en > “get rid of” - the meaning in English is not the same. “Disengage” means “to release from something that holds fast, connects or entangles” and seems to be a good choice.

2. Caminar - In my Polish translation I wrote “we won’t move out of here”, so it’s closer to the original. In English I decided to interpret it. I concentrated on the meaning, not on the words.

3. Si estirem tots > “stretch” could be an option. In, that I used, you can find both “pull” and “stretch” for “estirar”, but as it has also other meanings - e.g. “stretch one’s legs” - so I would prefer “pull. In Polish I wrote “push” and gave the explanation.

4. “Caure” means “fall”, but I didn’t want to repeat what was written in the other translation, so I was forced to find a different word. “Torn down”, according to Merriam-Webster, means: “to bring to a complete end the physical soundness, existence, or usefulness of (example: vandals tore down the wooden fence blocking the entrance to the beach)” or “to destroy (as a building) completely by knocking down or breaking to pieces”, so it’s not a synonym of “to fall”. Nevertheless I think I can keep it. I hope Agnieszka will tell what she thinks.

5. No pot durar - it’s mainly the question of the style of expression. Even if I've changed slightly the meaning I like what I wrote.

6. Deu ser ja - corrected.

7. Alliberar - a consequence of my style - I wanted to have it the similar way as in the last verse of the second stanza. In Polish it was different: “and we will regain (get back) our freedom”, so you don’t have this similarity. Maybe I should change it the same way?

8. Escortxant - here indeed I had a problem. I was unable to find it in a dictionary and I based on the Polish translation of A. Rurarz. Now I wrote “scratching”. I think this is what you meant.

9. La força se me'n va - same meaning - different style. Literally I think it’s “the force leaves me”.

10. La força m'oblida - as in 9.

11. Ja no diu res - In Polish I wrote “grandpa Siset no longer says anything”. I wonder why I didn’t do it the same way. Now I did it.
I also changed the following verse. Hope it's better now.

12. Estiro el coll per cantar - again it was “a mi manera”. In Polish I had it differently and I even wanted to copy it, but I was unable to find a nice expression with exactly the same meaning. Literally (the way machine translators translate) it would be “I rip off my voice”, but it has no meaning in English. I could have written “I’m screaming out loudly to sing”, but that wouldn't have sounded very nice.

   Sat, 16/01/2016 - 22:11

Thank you again for your thorough comment, Andrzej. As I said above, I just proposed some suggestion and you are free to agree or not; in any case your translation is good, no matter the greater or lesser temporal distance from the events.
It’s just curious how you can read the same concept with different words starting from different native languages.
There are only a few points on which I keep my doubts. I have a more intuitive approach, due to the greater similarity of my language(s ) to Catalan.
So “desfer-nos-en” can be translated word-by-word in Italian: “disfar-ce-ne” (disfarcene) and I couldn’t find any better translation than “get rid of it”.
Likewise, I don’t need to consult many dictionaries to understand that the verb “alliberar” means “pass from a wretched condition to the freedom”. So it isn’t simply the state of freedom (be free) but the conquest of freedom (get free).
With the verb ”tear down” you translated two Catalan verbs: “caure” and “tombar” (ok, I too used the same Sardinian verb “arrui”) that have only a slight difference: the first one means exactly “fall down” and the second one have the same sense of “fall” but with some effort, not immediately. So you may consider the possibility to use “fall” in the first case.

   Mon, 18/01/2016 - 23:28

Marco, I made some changes, pretty close to that what you suggested. Have a look!

I only lost this pair: “then we will never be free” and “and we will be free”. I liked it, because it was my interpretation. Now it’s closer to the original, well, maybe it's better this way.

I’ve searched for a different way of translating “desfer-nos-en” and I found a good solution - not far from that what you suggested - it’s not “get rid of”, but just “rid of” - without “get” - “If we don’t rid ourselves of it”.

“To get rid of” is an idiom and the meaning is slightly different - you can get rid of old shoes, of trash, of mice in your house, of bad habits, of problems, of debts, of spam (tell me if you know how ;) ), of bugs in a computer program, of someone or something, but not the way that was meant in this song - rather by throwing them away.

“Alliberar” - other possible translations: “to be freed”, “to set free”, “to free ourselves” or “to liberate ourselves”. I used the last one, because it sounds close to “alliberar”.

“Caminar” - the dictionary told me just the same as in Spanish - “to walk”. That would sound strange in this context, so I added “away”.

As for translating “caure” and “tombar” I followed the Polish translation of A. Rurarz - it was “runie” throughout the whole text. You did the same and the in other translation it was also translated the same way. I followed your suggestion.

Thank you once again, Marco, for your great help. :) I hope I haven’t overlooked anything.

In fact I never intended to translate this song. I just submitted a request thinking that Agnieszka would like to do it. Only because I was unable to convince her I decided to remove the request and to try on my own. After submitting the Polish translation I realized that I was able to write a different English translation too, so I did it.

   Tue, 19/01/2016 - 20:14

You are welcome, Andrzej. I think your observations are sensible. You have worked a lot on this translation and have got an excellent result… as far as I can judge by my poor English ;) In any case you surely found a good middle way between the letter and the sense.
Unfortunately I haven’t many chances to get suggestions on my Sardinian version, probably it should be improved as well :)

   Tue, 19/01/2016 - 20:41

Thank you, Marco. :) Just let me disagree with your opinion about your English.

I'm only sorry, I can't help you with your Sardinian translation, no matter how I would like to do it.