Cornelis Vreeswijk – “Luffaren Och Katten” (The Traveller and the Cat_.

   Hiya people! 🙂 

    have a quirky little song from Finland for you today. It was originally sung by a very famous Finnish 50’s singer Tapio Rautavaara (who also happened to be a  successful Olympic athlete, mainly a javelin thrower) and for whom it was his first huge hit as far as I know. This song was written for him by Reino Helismaa. In 1980, Cornelis Vreeswijk – one of my faza peeps as I’m sure all of the regular readers know – released an album called En Spjutkastares Visor (Songs of a Javelin Thrower), with Swedish translations of Rautavaara’s songs. I’ve already shared in the past one song from that album of his, called Den Blåa Drömmen in Swedish, or Sininen Uni in Finnish, or The Blue Dream in English, which is a very cute lullaby all about Sandman. This one isn’t quite so cute, despite the fact that it involves a cat. I’ve read somewhere that Helismaa was inspired to write this song by some sort of a book where there was a story telling about how a poor man’s happiness is an illusion. While I never like generalisations like that, I think what this song shows well is that human autosuggestion knows no boundaries, especially in a crisis situation like this when one is freezing. Also Tapio Rautavaara himself said that the black cat here symbolises death. Whenever I listen to this I just feel relieved that the traveller didn’t actually try to light up a proper fire in there, ‘cause what would happen to the poor cat! 😱 

   In the post where I shared that Blue Dream song, I also shared a Finnish version, sung not by Rautavaara but a more modern one sung by Suvi Teresniska and Arttu Viskari. I love the Finnish language and Finnish music, and I realise that there’s a large disproportion of how much Swedish music there is on my blog compared to Finnish, but Rautavaara himself is way beyond my comfort zone, I don’t really do fifties’ music, so I actually sat down and listened to like a dozen of different versions of this song in Finnish (it’s called Reissumies ja Kissa in the original) to hopefully find one that would catch my attention. But I found none that would actually speak to me and about which I’d feel that I like it enough to want to make people aware of its existence. So just Vreeswijk’s version it is. 

   I’ve managed to make an English translation of this translation, which is definitely not free of errors. The word that I decided to translate as traveller in English is “luffare” in Swedish and “reissumies” in Finnish. As far as I’m aware, luffare is more like a tramp kind of traveller rather than just any traveller, but I guess reissumies is more general, so it made more sense to translate it as just traveller rather than tramp. If you have some idea about Swedish and/or Finnish and think that tramp, or perhaps something yet different, woould be a better word to describe this guy in English, lemme know. There’s an expression in this song (har man sett på maken” which had always puzzled me and I could never understand it. Finally though, today I learned that it literally means something like “Have you seen the like”, so it’s just like an expression of disbelief or surprise. I didn’t know how to best put it in English so it wouldn’t sound clumsy or unaesthetical yet still be somewhat accurate. Wiktionary says that it could be translated as “golly”, but “golly” alone didn’t seem to convey the level of emotions I believe he must’ve had so I decided on “golly, have you seen anything like this” which I guess does convey it but I’m not sure if it sounds natural in English. Oh, and then there was the obscure word kosa, which took me ages to figure out what it means, and it turns out it’s some rarely used or perhaps even archaic word for road. I translated it simply as way, but perhaps there’s a word that could be just as accurate yet fit better in English with the obscure/archaic or perhaps somewhat sophisticated feel that the word kosa seems to have in Swedish. I’ve also found a translation of the Finnish version, which as far as I, as a (yet) non-Finnish speaker can tell is also not free from  errors, but I guess it still can give us an idea how different these two versions are so if you’re curious the link is here, and below is Bibiel’s translation of the Swedish version. 

   

A traveller goes whistling on the road to somewhere
And it is dark and it is night
Our Lord, no one else, knows his destination
And with himself he has a black cat
And of course the traveller is cheerful but he feels cold
He longs to a fireplace in a Quiet corner of the home
A traveller goes whistling on the road to somewhere
And it is dark and it is night

But look there in the forest, with the door half ajar
A cabin where no one lives
A refuge for the night as if sent from heaven
And the traveller’s gratitude is huge
So he whistles at the cat, but the cat he disappeared
And the traveller is freezing so he’s just as happy
For cats have nine lives, after all, and will probably be fine
All in the cold, black forest
But golly, have you seen anything like this, there’s glow in the stove
He sits down very close to it
If I’ll blow on the fire, it will be extinguished
This will have to be enough
He warms his hands, he thinks everything is well [?]
And Pleasant thoughts fill his soul
He falls asleep and he wakes up and he is freezing like a dog
In the bleak morning hours
In the ashes has the cat spent his night
There was never any glow in this stove
What was glowing in the dark was the eye of a cat
But the fire was cold and dead
But the traveller is just as happy, brooding would make him listless
He Whistles a song and goes with his cat
Our Lord and no one else knows where his way goes
A traveller is out walking

2 thoughts on “Cornelis Vreeswijk – “Luffaren Och Katten” (The Traveller and the Cat_.”

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