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2 lipca 2011

177. Maciej Zembaty (lyrics, vocals) – A Tale for Little Ralph (Bajka dla Rafałka)

Bajka dla Rafałka
A Tale for Little Ralph 

Pralka kocha pranie,
The machine loves washing

Kocha też Rafałka,
And loves you, Ralph*, much, too

Posłuchaj, Rafałku,
Listen to it closely

Co ci powie pralka*.
It has a tale to tell*

Leci ptaszek, leci,
A bird is flying high

Skrzydła ma z ołowiu,
Its wings are made of lead

W prawej ręce trzyma*
It holds in the right hand*

Nożyce do drobiu
[Newly-bought]* poultry shears

Dołem płynie rzeka
Below there’s a river
W rzece zakonnica
In it there’s a nun

W różowych nylonach*
Wearing [old] pink nylons*

Jak każe obyczaj
As it is the custom

Na dnie płetwonurek
At depth there’s a frogman

Co ma długą rurę
With a long, long snorkel
Ładnie szura, ładnie
Scraping very nicely

Długą rurą po dnie*
On the bed with the tube*

Ej, przyjechał kuzyn
Hey, is there your cousin

Dyskoteką kombi*
In his new flashy wheels?*

Czasem se zaświeci,
Now and then, he lights it
Czasem se zatrąbi*
Now and then, he horns it*

Napisał to Puszkin,
Pushkin wrote it down

A po nim Lermontow,
Lermontov did as well

Że najlepsze puszki
That the best cans ever

Robi firma Wąchock
Are all made in Wąchock

(Spać chodzimy wcześnie
We go to bed early

Ja od ściany leżę
I lie next to the wall

A Bożena z brzegu
And Betty on the edge

Bo ma chory pęcherz)*
‘Cause of bladder problems

Koło mojej stajni
Next to my stable [yard]
Chodzą Rubinsteiny*
Rubinsteins* still wander

Trochę się boimy,
We are scared a little

Ale nic, lecimy*
But it’s fine, not so bad*

Trochę się boimy…
We are scared a little…

Koło mojej stajni
Next to my stable [yard]
Chodzą narkomani
Drug addicts still wander

Co się który sztachnie
Each time one drags something

To kobyła kaszle
All the mares start coughing

Besides ‘Foot wrappings’ and ‘The Ballad about Imogena’, ‘A Tale for Little Ralph’ is one of my favourite Zembaty’s songs. The song (or tale) is not typical of Zembaty because there is no (or at least little) black humour or references to current affairs expressed in a satirical manner. Here we have a reggae song (as for the music) and rather surreal text which only merely resembles a fairy tale. It is more a tale for adults with its sexual references than a tale to be told to children. 

The lyrical subject moves swiftly from one topic to another, the connections between each being different. It may be the space within which there are some characters, or it may be the lingual resemblance between words. The associations fly in the face of reason. But still the song has its charm.

Notes on translation and meaning

Verse 2 – ‘Ralph’ is not actually the English equivalent of the Polish name ‘Rafał’ (‘Rafałek’ is the diminutive form), but it seems unimportant as the other name in the song, i.e. ‘Bożena’.

Verses 3-4 – Literally: ‘Listen, Ralph, what the washing machine has to tell you’.

Verse 7 – Black humour in a light tone.  

Verse 8 – Words given in square brackets are added by me to make the number of the syllables in the translation equal or similar to the number of the syllables in the original.

Verse 16 – The sexual reference is accompanied (and introduced) by the surprising disclosure of what the frogman’s snorkel really is. The reference is even more clear in Polish language because of the associations aroused by the word ‘rura’, literally ‘a pipe, a tube’.

Verses 17-18 – In the original there is actually an affirmative sentence, not an interrogative one. Literally it says ‘Hey, a/the cousin arrived’.

‘Dyskoteka kombi’ is difficult to render exactly. The similarity between a car and a discotheque is probably that in the cousin’s car some music is turned on loudly, and maybe the car has some additional lights to make it looks flashy.

‘Kombi’ means ‘estate car/wagon’.

Verses 19-20 – The English translation at this point may not be the model of grammar correctness, but the same applies to the original. The form ‘se’ of the Polish reflexive pronoun is not considered correct, but it is acceptable in colloquial speech.

Verses 25-28 – Not every performance contains this stanza, so it is put in brackets.

Verse 30 – The mention of Rubinstein probably refers to the appearance of Anton Rubinstein, a 19th­‑century Russian pianist and composer. His appearance, according to nowadays standards, with hair blown in the wind and rather scary look, may be considered as belonging to a drug addict.

Verse 32 – There is a very colloquial expression in the original ‘lecimy’. It means simply ‘we go/do’ (literally ‘we fly/we are flying’).