A Sparrow has come to tell us….

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Unknown to the majority of Americans or many outside his home country of Serbia, Jovan Jovanović “Zmaj” wrote patriotic and romantic poems, fables and children’s poetry.  “Čika” or Uncle Jova was Serbia’s  most beloved poet writing prolifically from the 1850s through the turn of the century, endearing himself to both children and adults.  If we could package the feelings Americans once felt  for Longfellow and Shel Silverstein, then mix it with Robert Frost and a bit of Jack Prelutsky, we might have an understanding of how much “Uncle” Jova was, and is, loved.  Although Jovan Jovanović Zmaj sets the following poem about a little sparrow’s word of gratitude at the waning of winter, the birds about my January feeder put me in mind of this piece.  I have searched for its English translation throughout the internet with no success.  Even so, I want to share it with you, even if it is only a poor reconstruction.  Please forgive my lack of experience in translating poetry.  Here “Uncle” Jova reminds us to be kind.

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Došao vrabac da nam….                                                A Sparrow has come to tell us…

Živ, živ, živ!                                                                            Alive, alive, alive!

Hvala bogu, ja sam jošte živ                                              Thank heavens, I am still alive.

Oprostite, molim lepo,                                                        Forgive me, kindly please,

Ako sam vam štogod kriv,                                                  If I have somehow wronged you.

Živ, živ, živ!                                                                              Alive, alive, alive!

 

Živi bili i vi svi,                                                                       Long may you all live

Što me niste gonili!                                                               Since you have not chased me away

Zima većem prolazi,                                                             Winter  has largely passed

Proleće nam dolazi,                                                               Spring is on its way.

Danas, sutra biće zima                                                         Today or tomorrow winter will be

Nama svima za leđima.                                                        Behind our backs.

 

Da ne nađoh oko vaših kuća                                               Had I not found

Lepe sitne hrane,                                                                  Nice bits of food about your house

Ja bih zimus provodio                                                          I would have spent

Vrlo posne dane.                                                                    Some very lean, winter days

 

Možda bi mi zeludac                                                          Perhaps my stomach would have

O prazninu zapo,                                                                Ached from emptiness

A možda bih, sirotan,                                                        Or perhaps, poor me,

Od gladi i skapo.                                                                 I would have collapsed from hunger.

 

Jeste li vi to meni dali,                                                     Whether or  not you intentionally fed me,

Il su dari sami pali.                                                            Or those gifts fell on their own,

To ne mogu da rasudim                                                    I cannot discern

Mojim mozgom malim.                                                   With my little mind.

 

Tek ja, evo, dođoh,                                                        Even so, I have just come here

Vama da zahvalim…                                                     To thank you….

Nemojte me terati,                                                        Don’t send me away,

Ja ću vam pevati.                                                            I will sing to you a song.

 

Ne baš kao slavuj,                                                      Not exactly like a nightingale,

Al bolje neg žabac,                                                      But better than a frog

Svako peva svojim glasom,                                     Each sings with his own voice,

A vrabac je vrabac.                                                    And a sparrow as a sparrow.

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2 thoughts on “A Sparrow has come to tell us….

  1. I love that you had a go at translating it! He has such an innocent quality to his writing, at least from what I see here from your interpretation. I wish so often that I could translate ASL poetry into English…or the great English poets into aesthetically equivalent ASL.

  2. My sister was just telling me of a house finch at her work that very early in the morning sits in the top of a tree singing its heart out. She is always thrilled to hear it. She will love this poem.

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