Do You Remember?

Today I want to tell you about a piece, inspired by a poem by Debelyanov, one of Bulgaria’s finest symbolists. Debelyanov lived a humble and not very happy life at the beginning of the last century and was killed in the First World War at the age of 39. His work was published after his death in two volumes, which are considered a classic and are part of the high school curriculum in Bulgaria.

Here is the place to say, that symbolist poetry is not for teenagers. At the time, I was wondering what on earth is all this melancholic, repetitive stuff about. Now I appreciate the foresightedness of the educator – I had to know about Debelyanov in order to discover him at a considerably later age than the one he died at. And 100 years after he lived. Hmmm, here is some material for thought …

The painting as well as the poem is titled Do You Remember. The title might suggest that it is about memories, but if you dig deeper you will discover that it is about lost innocence, the irreversible passage of time and a lot more.

Debelyanov’s poetry does not narrate but suggests deep and complex emotions impossible to name in simple words. It is this journey in the twilight zone of memory dissolving into subconsciousness that Debelyanov drew me in and which resulted in my piece.

If you want to know the very words of the poem, a (somewhat literal, non-rhymed) translation follows. It takes a poet to translate another poet and although I have had a go at translating poetry (from Arabic at that), at present I am trying to be an artist. So the musicality and the poetic merit of Debelyanov’s verse will be lost for my non Bulgarian readers. To read it in Bulgarian, click here.

Since my painting is not meant as illustration of the poem but a contemplation inspired by it, I am showing it first. You can click on the image to enlarge.

Do You Remember

Do You Remember

And now the poem:

Do you remember? Do you remember  the quiet garden,

the quiet home amidst the white cherry blossoms?

Oh, do not awaken in my prison those distant sorrows and forlorn memories.

For I am locked up in a dark prison cell,

distant sorrows and forlorn memories

My disgrace is my guard

and my punishment – the days of the past.

Do you remember? Do you remember in the quiet garden,

Whispers and laughter amidst the white cherry blossoms?

Oh, do not awaken the sprightly choir,

the  choir of angels from the days of the past.

For I am locked up in a dark prison cell,

distant sorrows and forlorn memories

My disgrace is my guard

and my punishment – the days of the past.

It must have been a dream … that quiet home,

They must have been a dream … the white cherry blossoms.

*  *  *

3 thoughts on “Do You Remember?

  1. artmoscow

    i absolutely loved the painting, even before I read the poem. I loved the growth of natural forms and colous from the geometrical cubist cells, like memories that are impossible to control; memories, coloured by emotions, live and natural, and fresh as if it all happened yesterday….

    Is this work one of the set you mentioned? I’d love to write about them. I’d truly love to.

  2. Boryana Post author

    Thank you! You cannot imagine how much it means to me to receive substantiated feedback to my work, and as you know I hold you in highest regard. This piece is a couple of years old and is not included in the collection which I am preparing, and the photo does not do justice to its real colours. So if some of the pinks and greens seem a bit overboard, it is my photographic skill – or lack of it. I just finished with the photography of the set I am preparing for you and have to downsize the images so that they are email-friendly. Do you want me to give you some of the thinking behind it or you’d rather see the images first?

  3. Emilia Prodanova

    Mila Boryana, vidiah kartinata ti i sled tova prochetoh stihotvorenieto, koeto me nakara da si spomnia horova pesen po tekst na Debelianovoto stihotvorenie. Sega se mucha da si pripomnia kude i koga prez minalia mi jivot v Bulgaria sum ia piala. Mnogo ia obichah i teksta nahlu v glavata mi kato reka, koiato me e nosila v niakakva zabravena, shtiah da kaja pogrebana, chast na jivota mi. I was astonished to discover that the words to the song were not forgotten and flowed unimpeded together with the music in my head, as if in a dream. I wish I could sing it to you. Perhaps we both sang it together in some communist choir. I really can’t remember…
    The picture holds so much of that particular brand of Bulgarian nostalgia in it which possibly inhabits the subconscious of most of us expatriates, it feels almost personal. It is a metaphor of the Bulgaria I wish to remember, amorphous, unreal and heart wrenching. Thank you for speaking my mind. All my love Emilia


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