Sad River – Smutna rzeka: translating poetry

Recently, a friend helped me to translate a poem by Krystyna Krahelska, a Polish writer and nurse who died during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. I stumbled across her poetry while in Warsaw and looking for information about Warsaw’s Siren. A sword-wielding siren has been the city’s emblem since the 1300s. In 1937, Krahelska posed for a statue of the siren; today, this statue overlooks the Vistula River in Warsaw.

Sad River

A lonely river, the moon floats on her,

The siren statue Krystyna Krahelska posed for.
The siren statue Krystyna Krahelska posed for.

Above her a maple bows its dark palms,

Sleep, little child, nothing’s calling out,

Weapons are sleeping, buried in tombs.


A sad river, the thorned forest fell asleep,

Silver stars fell into silver depths.

Somewhere in the meadow,                                 somewhere in foggy woods,

Dozing fitfully, buried weapons rest


A sad river, the moon floated down her,

On the leaves, a dark night lays its hands

Sleep little child, sleep, soldier son,

Soon we’ll wake the weapons

translation by Sławomir Borkowski




The original:

Smutna rzeka

Smutna rzeka, księżyc po niej pływa,

Nad nią ciemne dłonie chyli klon,

Śpij, dziecino, nic się nie odzywa,

Śpi w mogiłach zakopana broń.


Smutna rzeka, usnął las ciernisty,

Srebrne gwiazdy spadły w srebrną toń.

Gdzieś po polach, gdzieś po lasach mglistych

Czujnie drzemie zakopana broń.


Smutna rzeka, księżyc po niej spłynął,

Ciemna noc na liściach kładzie dłoń.

Śpij dziecino, śpij, żołnierski synu,

Już niedługo obudzimy broń



If you see any flaws in the translation, please let me know at v dot 8 mile at

One thought on “Sad River – Smutna rzeka: translating poetry

Add yours

  1. A propos the Mermaid. The body of the Mermaid is the perfect body of Krystyna. The face is imaginary. It would be shame for Krystyna to stay naked in public for ever and ever.

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