Singing a love song is among the most romantic ways of expressing your feelings for your significant other. That’s why in this Valentine Day’s special Culture.pl brings you ten quotes from a selection of classic Polish love songs that are about the Greatest Feeling on Earth – in its different aspects. From uncertainty, through desire, breaking up and staying together forever, it has all been captured by Poland’s finest poets and lyricists.
Uncertainty by Marek Grechuta
When I can't see you, I don't cry; I don't sigh
I don't lose my mind when you meet my eyes
But when I don’t see you for a long time
Something I miss, someone I must find
And when I’m longing, this I wonder of:
Is this friendship? Or is this love?
The lyrics for this graceful song titled Niepewność (editor’s translation: Uncertainty) were taken from a self-reflective poem written by Adam Mickiewicz in the 1820s. In it, the eminent Romantic poet describes his confused feelings for an unnamed acquaintance and dubs his verse a ‘song’ in the last stanza.
The performers that so fittingly put Mickiewicz’s words to music are the celebrated singer-songwriter Marek Grechuta and the Anawa band. The tune composed by pianist Jan Kanty Pawluśkiewicz and released in 1970 quickly became one of the best-known and beloved Polish love songs.
Love Forgives You Everything by Hanka Ordonówna
Love forgives you everything
Turns sadness into smiles
Love is great at explaining:
Unfaithfulness, sins and lies
Even when you curse in despair
Saying it’s cruel and vile
Love forgives you everything
Because love, my dear, is I
Miłość Ci Wszystko Wybaczy (editor’s translation: Love Forgives You Everything) was one of the greatest hits of interwar Poland. It was originally composed for the 1933 movie Szpieg w Masce (editor’s translation: Spy in a Mask) where it’s sung by the famous singer Hanka Ordonówna who stars as a spy tangled up in an intrigue involving love and deceit. The lyrics, still iconic to Polish audiences, were written by the renowned poet Julian Tuwim and the music is the work of Henryk Wars, the noted composer and pianist who had many hit songs in pre-war Poland, including Już Taki Jestem Zimny Drań (editor’s translation: I’m Just a Coldhearted Rascal).
I Have a Date With Her at Nine by Eugeniusz Bodo
I have a date with her at nine
And just can’t wait to see her
I’ll ask the boss for an advance dime
And bring her a bouquet of flowers
Then the movies, a café and a walk
Through the moonlit night
And we’ll be happy and merry
‘Til at midnight we’ll say goodbye
And I’ll ask her out again
At nine like today
Here’s a quote from another song for a pre-war Polish movie, namely the 1937 musical comedy Piętro Wyżej (editor’s translation: One Floor Above). In this picture, the highly popular interwar singer and actor Eugeniusz Bodo stars as a radio host in love with his neighbour’s niece. Bodo's character sang the quoted words as part of a song composed by Henryk Wars and titled Umówiłem Się z Nią na Dziewiątą (editor’s translation: I Have a Date With Her at Nine). The heart-warming lyrics were authored by Emanuel Schlechter who had penned the words for many interwar hits, such as Bo To się Zwykle Tak Zaczyna (editor’s translation: That’s How it Usually Starts).
Apache Tango by Stanisław Grzesiuk
Hanna, I dream of you during sleepless nights
Hanna, without you, I just cannot live
All I want is to look into your eyes
And at your side, I only want to live
Hanna, your body flexes and arches so sweetly
Hanna, give me your lips let the pain and sorrow go
I know the tears are in your eyes because of me
That life through such stormy water flows
In Polish, the term apasz, referencing the name of the Apache Indians, used to be slang for a dangerous person with ties to the criminal underground. So the name of this song, Tango Apaszowskie, can be translated as ‘Apache Tango’.
This traditional Warsaw tune with traditional lyrics is about the troubled love of a criminal and a prostitute. It’s best remembered for the spirited rendition by Stanisław Grzesiuk, the beloved songwriter and urban folk musician who popularised a number of pre-war Varsovian songs in the 1950s.
Words of Love by Maria Modzelewska
This crazy game always starts the same
The first sign is this
He asks her if she loves him
She answers ‘yes.'
Sometimes ‘maybe', very seldom ‘no.'
Usually, all's good at first, only later bad it goes
These words are from the 1930s song Słowa Miłości (editor’s translation: Words of Love) performed by the accomplished actress Maria Modzelewska. The music was originally composed by Helen Crawford of Mr. & Mrs. Jesse Crawford and recorded in New York in 1930 as The Moonlight Reminds Me of You. However, the Polish arrangement of this elegant tune tells its own story as its lyrics, by the renowned lyricist and playwright Marian Hemar, aren’t based on the original ones. Instead of recalling pleasant memories, they describe the drama that often accompanies romance.
Love by Jerzy Petersburski & Andrzej Włast
A great, holy and merry thing
Or sometimes feeble, unstable like Spring
We squint our sleepy eyes
To these arms, we give ourselves away
That enclose us in a ring of pleasure
And a circle of sweet pain
An excerpt from the lyrics of the 1927 blues song Miłość (Love) originally written for Miss America, a revue staged in Warsaw’s Nowe Perskie Oko theatre. The music was written by Jerzy Petersburski, a composer and pianist behind many interwar classics, including the famous Tango Milonga, whereas the lyrics are the work of Andrzej Włast, a great lyricist known for many Polish tangos. It was Włast, who in 1927 started the (highly successful) revue theatre in question, which later changed its name to Morskie Oko.
Remember That Autumn by Sława Przybylska
Remember that autumn, the little Roses Hotel, room number eight
The old porter with a smile, he’d give us the key
You’d kiss my hair on the stairs secretly, with a thirst so great
Was there more golden leaves or caresses is a wonder to me
Suddenly you were gone, the door left open
A leaf was blown beneath my feet
Then I understood it was over
Through the threshold of goodbye, it’s time to leave
This beautiful song was created for Wojciech Jerzy Has’ 1958 film Pożegnania (editor’s translation: Goodbyes) based on a novel by Stanisław Dygat. One of the scenes in the movie shows a brief, platonic encounter between the student Paweł and the dancer Lidka at a hotel. The lyrics for Pamiętasz Była Jesień (‘Remember that Autumn’) were written by the director and lyricist Andrzej Czekalski in collaboration with another filmmaker, the director Ryszard Pluciński. The composer Lucjan Kaszycki is responsible for the music, whereas the vocals were masterfully delivered by the singer and actress Sława Przybylska.
This is the Last Sunday by Mieczysław Fogg
It’s not the time to look for excuses
Fact is, it’s over
Now there’s another, richer and better than me
And with you my happiness he has stolen
I’ve but one request, maybe the last
The first one in many years
Give me this one Sunday
This last Sunday
And then let the world disappear
To Ostatnia Niedziela (editor’s translation: This is the Last Sunday) is one of the biggest hits composed by Jerzy Petersburski. The 1936 tune that has been performed by numerous artists (and in many languages!) is best remembered for its pre-war version sung by the legendary crooner Mieczysław Fogg.
Despite all the years that have passed since its release, Fogg’s moving rendition remains a benchmark for all those trying to interpret the haunting break-up lyrics by Zenon Friedwald.
One Heart by Czesław Niemen
One heart! So little ask I
One heart on Earth I need!
That would tremble with love next to mine
And quiet among quiet I’d be
One pair of lips! From where eternally
I’d drink happiness with my lips
And a pair of eyes, where I’d look boldly
Seeing myself a saint among saints
This song was recorded by one of the most soulful singers in Polish history, Czesław Niemen. Released in 1970, the tune reminiscent of genres like gospel and soul was composed by the vocalist and performed by the band Enigmatic, which includes such talented musicians as the saxophone player (and Polish jazz legend) Zbigniew Namysłowski and the guitarist Tomasz Jaśkiewicz. The lyrics were taken from the sonnet Jednego Serca (editor’s translation: One Heart) by the 19th-century poet Adam Asnyk, which may be read as a kind of prayer for true love.
To Love by Piotr Szczepanik
Love – it’s so easy to say
Love – is to ask nothing
For love is a worry
It knows not a day that happens again
Kochać (To Love), sung subtly and with feeling by Piotr Szczepanik, became a major hit in 1966 and since then has joined the ranks of Poland’s classic love songs. The melodic tune is the work of the noted composer Andrzej Korzyński, who has also authored music for numerous movies, such as the 1983 musical film Mr. Kleks’ Academy based on the beloved children’s book by Jan Brzechwa. The first line of the lyrics, written by the lyricist and journalist Andrzej Tylczyński, is a quote most Polish-speaking listeners will recognise in an instant. Now you will too.
Author: Marek Kępa, Feb 2018