Ligeti's Sippal, dobbal, nadihegedűvel text and translation

Posted on Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Needing poetic inspiration for a forthcoming project I turned to an old favourite - one of Ligeti's last works, the wonderfully surreal Sippal, dobbal, nadihegedűvel for mezzo soprano and four percussionists. Though I have a recording I couldn't find the programme book, so I did a bit of internet digging, and eventually deep in the bowels of the web, I found text and translation - reproduced here in the hope of making the same task easier for the next person.

Here's the entire piece:

Sippal, dobbal, nadihegedűvel
With Pipes, Drums, Fiddles

I. Fabula
Szembjon a masik hegy.
Orditanak ordasok:
Ossze ne morzsoljatok!
En is hegy,
te is negy,
nekunk ugyan egyremegy.

I. Fable
The others mountain comes toward it.
The wolves howl:
Do not crush us!
I, am mountain,
you, too, a mountain,
we are indifferent to that.

II. Tancdal

II. Dance Song
[This text cannot be translated]

III. Kinai Templom
Szent fonn Negy majd
kert lenn fem mely
tag cseng: csond
lomb:ej Szep, leng,
tart jo, Jő, mint
zold kek Hir, hult
szarny, arny. Rang, hang.

III. Chinese Temple
Sainthigh Four hence
field down bronze deep
broad far ring: Still
leaves: fair Night, swings
full comes, Good, like
green blue News, cool
wings shade. Rank, sound.

IV. Kuli
Kuli bot vag
Kuli megy
csak guri-guri
Kuli huz riksa.
Kuli huz auto.
Kuli huz sarkanyszeker.
Csak guri-guri
Kuli gyalog megy
Kuli szakall feher.
Kuli almos.
Kuli ehes.
Kuli oreg.
Kuli babszem makszem kis gyerek
ver kis Kuli nagy rossz emberek.
Csak guri-guri
Ki huz riksa?
Ki huz auto?
Ki huz sarkanyszeker?
Ha Kuli meghal?
Kuli meghal.
Kuli neeem tud meghal!
Kuli orok
csak guri-guri

IV. Coolie
Coolie stick cut.
Coolie walk
just rolling and rolling
Coolie pull rickshaw.
Coolie pull car.
Coolie pull dragon-coach.
just rolling and rolling
Coolie go on foot
Coolie beard white.
Coolie sleepy.
Coolie hungry.
Coolie old.
Coolie bean-sized poppy-seed-crumb-sized
little child
Little coolie beat big bad people, and rolling and rolling
Who pull rickshaw?
Who pull car?
Who pull dragon-coach?
If coolie die?
Coolie die.
Coolie can nooooot die!
Coolie forever
just rolling and rolling

V. Alma Alma (Tizenkettedik Szimfonia)
alma agon
alma ring az agon
alma ring a
lombos agon
ring a ring a
barna agon
alma alma
elme alma alma
almodj alszol?
mozdulatlan lengedezve
hűs szelben arnyban
alom agon
agak alma
itt egyhelyben elhajozik
indiaba afrikaba holdvilagba
alma alszol?

V. Dream (Twelfth Symphony)
An apple on the branch
an apple swings on the branch
an apple swings
on the leafy branch
on the brown branch
swing (hinta)
a dream of an apple
the mind’s dream an apple
dream dream?
motionlessly swinging
in the cool wind in the shadows
on the branch
dream of the branches
staying in this spot it casts off
to India to Africa to the moonlight
–apple, are you sleeping?

VI. Keseredes (67. Magyar Etude)
Szantottam, szantottam het tuzes sarkannyal,
hej, vegig bevetettem csupa gyongviraggal.
Szantottam, szantottam szep gyemant ekevel,
hej, vegig bevetettem hullo konnyeimmel.
Szaz nyilo rozsarol az erdon almodtam,
hej, tobbet nem aludtam, felig ebren voltam.
Hajnalban folkeltem, kakukszot szamoltam,
hej, visznek eskuvőre kedves galambommal.
VI. Bitter-Sweet (67th Hungarian Etude)
I plowed, I plowed with seven fiery dragons,
Heigh-ho, I sowed nothing but lilies of the valley.
I plowed, I plowed with a beautiful diamond plow,
Heigh-ho, everywhere I sowed my tears.
In the forest, I dreamed of a hundred blossoming roses,
Heigh-ho, I slept no longer, was half awake,
In the early morning I got up, counted the cuckoo calls,
Heigh-ho, they are taking me to be wed to my sweetheart.

VII. Szajko

VII. Parakeet
[This text cannot be translated.]

Translation: c Sharon Krebs


Joel commenting on Ligeti's Sippal, dobbal, nadihegedűvel text and translation:
Saturday, April 28, 2012 at 00:14

Indeed you have made it easier for me... thanks! Great piece, great to see it live, with a translation.

Ravi commenting on Ligeti's Sippal, dobbal, nadihegedűvel text and translation:
Friday, August 9, 2019 at 02:44

Hi David,

Love your blog and youtube channel! Thank you!!

I just wanted to point out one little discrepancy in the translation. The poet Edwin Morgan, an authority on Weores, translates Kuli a little differently, in a way that I think makes a big difference to the spirit of the piece:

Caveat: I don't speak Hungarian. Also Ligeti, in his comments on the piece talks about "pent-up aggressiveness" of the Kuli which might favour the Krebs translation but, in my opinion would work with Morgan's as well.


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