Calf, Swallow and Wind


Donna, Donna, Donna

Translation by Kevess & Schwartz

On a wagon bound for market
There’s a calf with a mournful eye.
High above him there’s a swallow
Winging swiftly through the sky.

How the winds are laughing
They laugh with all their might
Laugh and laugh the whole day through
And half the summer’s night.

Dona, dona, dona, dona,
Dona, dona, dona, do,
Dona, dona, dona, dona,
Dona, dona, dona, do.

“Stop complaining,” said the farmer,
“Who told you a calf to be?
Why don’t you have wings to fly with
Like the swallow so proud and free?”

How the winds are laughing …

Calves are easily bound and slaughtered
Never knowing the reason why.
But whoever treasures freedom,
Like the swallow has learned to fly.

•  •  •

This song was going through my mind last week as I stared at all the brown and gray. Now we have lots of the white stuff. Snow photos soon.

yellow triangleMore on this song.
yellow triangleAbout the illustration of swallows.

I thought swallows were European, but here are some swallows in New Jersey. They seem to be related to martins, and we saw “houses” for martins in Cape May.

Perhaps one can consider this a belated post in memory of the victims of the Holocaust for whom no one knows the date of their death.

Update – on 12/29/2010 added this Joan Baez version:

6 thoughts on “Calf, Swallow and Wind

  • Dear Leora,
    I never knew the origin or the deeper meaning of the beautiful song Donna Donna.
    I only know, the song grip me by my heart the first time I heard it, and I still have the old LP where Joan Bayes is performing.
    I even played it on guitar in my youth, who didn’t?
    Well, now I know that the tears rolling down my cheeks wasn’t of sentimentality for a calf, but for the Jewish people being treated worse than calves.
    You know,music reaches far beyond words into the hidden corners of our souls.
    Thank you for enlightening my mind.

    I also thank you for using the Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen’s drawings. He has illustrated the collection of Norwegian folk fairytales. They are well worth reading and seeing.
    Kittelsen also illustrated some of Snorre Sturlasson’s King Sagas, they are not so poetic and sensitive.
    Kittelsen worked hard, with the best, but died in poverty, failing to provide properly for his family.Like many great artists before and after him.

    • Felisol, how wonderful of you to add the background on the artist. The illustration resonated with me, and I felt it appropriate to the song, post and theme. How sad that he died in poverty.

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