new year’s resolutions: gratitude

Děkuji/Thanks

Karel Kryl

 

God created, God created a sprig
so I could weave wreaths.
Thanks, thanks for pain,
which teaches me to inquire.
Thanks, thanks for failure,
that will teach me diligence
so that I could, so that I could bring a gift,
though no strength might remain,
thanks, thanks, thanks.

Thanks, thanks for my weakness,
which teaches me humility.
Humility, humility for joy,
humility without oppression.
For tears, thanks for tears,
they will teach me emotion.
For the living who, for the living who speak out
and cry for sympathy.

 

 

For the sake of longing, longing for beauty
Thanks for ugliness.
Thanks that they’ll clash,
love and hostility.
For the sake of sweetness, sweetness of sleep
Thanks for fatigue.
Thanks for the surging fires
and waterfall’s humming.
Thanks, thanks, thanks.

 

 

Thanks, thanks for thirst,
which revealed weakness.
Thanks, thanks for the torment,
which will bring deeds to perfection.
Thanks that I do love,
though fear might be gripping my heart.
Lamb, thank you,
you didn’t die in vain,
Thanks, thanks, thanks…

 


 
Original translation from the Czech by M.R. posted with permission.
All photos are of Unmun-sa and environs.
 
Karel Kryl was a popular Czech singer-songwriter, poet, and dissident. His debut single and album by the same name, “Close the Gate, Little Brother” (Bratříčku zavírej vrátka), was critical of communist rule and the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact forces, led by the Soviet Union. The album was banned in 1968 and in 1969, facing imprisonment in Czechoslovakia for dissidence, Kryl sought political asylum in Germany. He returned following the Velvet Revolution in 1989; tragically, he died young, at age 49 in 1994.
 
To hear the album recording of Děkuji (pronounced
dehkuyeh), listen on YouTube.

Original Czech lyrics:
Děkuji

Stvořil Bůh 

stvořil Bůh ratolest 

bych mohl věnce vázat 

Děkuji 

Děkuji za bolest 

jež učí mne se tázat 

Děkuji 

Děkuji za nezdar 

jež naučí mne píli 

bych mohl přinést dar 

byť nezbývalo síly 

Děkuji, děkuji, děkuji 


Děkuji 

Děkuji za slabost 

jež pokoře mne učí 

pokoře pro radost 

pokoře bez područí 

Děkuji 
za slzy děkuji 

jež naučí mne citu 

k živým jež žalují 

a křičí po soucitu 

Děkuji, děkuji, děkuji

Pro touhu 

pro touhu po kráse 

děkuji za ošklivost 

za to že utká se 

láska a nevraživost 

Pro sladkost 

pro sladkost usnutí 

děkuji za únavu 

za ohně vzplanutí 

i za šumění splavů 

děkuji, děkuji, děkuji 


Děkuji 

děkuji za žízeň 

jež slabost prozradila 

Děkuji 

děkuji za trýzeň 

jež zdokonalí díla 

Za to že 
za to že miluji 

byť strach mně srdce svíral 

Beránku Děkuji 

marně jsi neumíral 

Děkuji, děkuji, děkuji

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7 comments on “new year’s resolutions: gratitude

  1. Oh, wow. What an extraordinary poem. My mother is Czech, but I know only a few words of Czech; “thank you” is one of them.

    I’m going to be leading a service where I pair the traditional Hebrew of our liturgy with contemporary poetry which opens up the Hebrew in new ways. I think this may be one of my poems now.

    • seon joon says:

      Rachel, I’m glad you liked it… A dharma brother of mine, who’s Czech and the translator of this song/poem, has been sharing some of his favorite music with me. Karel Kryl was an extraordinary artist. I’ve noticed several of his songs from this album in particular reference the Psalms (Psalm 71 and 120; Psalm 120 is specifically about war and peace, Kryl being opposed to both communist rule in Czechoslovakia and the occupation of 1968). I loved this poem, especially the way Kryl turns the pain and difficulty of life into lessons and passages toward beauty and yes, gratitude.

      I didn’t know your family was, in part, Czech. Does your mother speak Czech?

      It be wonderful if this poem found a way into your liturgy! I hope you share which portion of the liturgy you pair it with, if you decide to use it.

      • My mother was born in Prague; her parents emigrated when she was 3, on the last boat which made it out. Her parents, to whom I was very close, spoke Czech at home; my mother was fluent in it until late in life (I suspect she has forgotten most of it now), though I never learned more than a handful of words.

        I’m still choosing poems and linking them with liturgy, but maybe after this Saturday’s service, I’ll write a post about how I put the service together and how I think it went. It might be an interesting resource for others who live at the intersection of liturgy and poetry… 🙂

  2. seon joon says:

    I feel like I should have known this about your family! Is this your grandfather Eppie, who you talk about so much?

    It would be great if at some point you did discuss your process for bringing poems into liturgy and services. In a very unorganized fashion, I’ve tried to use poetry in my personal practice, but maybe because so much of our liturgy, and my worship and practice, happen by necessity in a strict form followed by a community, the “personal” time I have often gets turned into “down time” instead of struggling to put together an idiosyncratic and private service that time-wise conflicts with the community ceremonies I participate in. I’d love to “see” how it might happen in more structured, and communal, way.

  3. feargus says:

    Thank you, Seon Joon, for this posting.

    I heard this song first last summer, closing a short film at the Museum of Communism in Prague. I was very touched and took the time to seek out a cd recording so that I could return to it. Not long thereafter, I came upon this page when seeking a translation online.

    I have come back often since then, nearly as often as I’ve listened to the song. Only now, finding myself sharing the song yet again and including a link to this page, does it occur to me to say thank you. A grateful bow to you and to your friend the translator.

    Thank you, too, for all of your archived and continuing posts. I look forward to reading more of them. How go the epics? I can suggest one, if you’re still on that path and it hasn’t yet hit Ireland: the Táin in either major translation, Ciaran Carson’s more recent or Thomas Kinsella’s canonical. The former revises a phrase that I miss – “warp-spasm” – but, having seen your own poetry born of a migraine (Kinsella intended a warrior’s frenzy), I wonder might you not forgo it gladly (Carson’s “torque” does not hit so close to home).

    Whatever about all-consuming reading lists, I hope that of late you have not been beset by neuralgia.

    wishing you an easy mind all ways,
    Feargus

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