Today – the most depressing Christmas Carol ever! Another of the carols with music by Zbigniew Preisner, the text to this is by the Polish author (of prose, poetry and opinion) and diplomat Stanisław Baliński (1898-1984) who left Poland after the beginning of WWII and served in the Polish government in Exile in England, where he remained after the war until his death.
The song is set in Warsaw in 1939, the first Christmas under Nazi occupation. The text is a plea to Mary to put off the birth to another time. The Christ child should not have to see what has happened in Warsaw where crosses have gone up marking the deaths of children. Things would get far worse before they got better in Warsaw as it was all but completely destroyed by the end of the war.
The text may also be a reference to the old 19th century idea of Poland as the Christ of Nations, crucified on the imperial ambitions of the Great Powers but to someday return, idea that seemed especially poignant in 1939 as the country seemed in danger of disappearing a mere 20 years after reappearing on the map.
My translation is, again, more literal than poetic and doesn’t do justice to the original.
The vocal is by Judyta Szafran, an actress and singer. More famous singers have covered the carol in recent years but hers is still the best.
Warsaw Carol, 1939
Oh Mother, put off the Nativity to another time.
May the eyes of the Infant not see how they oppress us.
May the most Sweetest Son be born among other stars.
But not here in the saddest of all cities.
Because in this city, you remember from long ago days,
Crosses have sprung up, crosses and a cemetery from fresh blood.
For our children have fallen under shrapnel and breathe no more.
Oh Holy Maria, pray for us, but don’t come here.
And if you want to give birth in the shadow of ruins and war,
Then it would be best if as soon as he’s born, you hang him on the cross.
Kolęda Warszawska, 1939
O, Matko, odłóż Dzień Narodzenia na inny czas,
niechaj nie widzą oczy Stworzenia jak gnębią nas.
Niechaj się rodzi Syn Najmilejszy wśród innych gwiazd,
ale nie tutaj, nie w najsmutniejszym ze wszystkich miast.
Bo w naszym mieście, które pamiętasz z dalekich dni,
krzyże wyrosły, krzyże i cmentarz świeży od krwi.
Bo nasze dzieci pod szrapnelami padły bez tchu,
o, Święta Mario, módl się za nami, lecz nie chodź tu.
A jeśli chcesz już narodzić w cieniu wojennych zgliszcz,
to lepiej zaraz po narodzeniu rzuć Go na krzyż.