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Under Our Cottage Window

A version of a Czechoslovakian folksong, collected from Margaret Smith in December 2005. Margaret learnt the song in the early 1950s in the South Island of New Zealand. 

Under Our Cottage Window lyrics and music

Listen to Under Our Cottage Window as a MIDI file.

Themes

It’s a lovely song, and unusual, in that no solution is suggested for the unhappy situation.

The song seems to be a dialogue between two people, one of whom cares greatly for the other, who is depressed.

In the first verse the one is able to solve the other’s problem (the lack of running water); but in the second it is made clear that it is not always possible to make someone else happy — some things will always be beyond outside control.

The third verse of the original song (see below), which is not part of Margaret’s version, does explain why the unhappiness is there, but again suggests no solution.

The first two verses have a similar construction:

  1. location (under our cottage window);
  2. a reference showing the season (frost; snow-white roses);
  3. a statement of the problem (a frozen fountain imprisoning the water; the beloved’s unhappiness);
  4. a statement of what could solve the problem (cutting through the ice with a hatchet; ‘something more than flowers’);
  5. an image of flowing water (the fountain running; the beloved’s ‘hot tears’).

The difference between the verses is in the emotional situation of their ends: in the first verse, the problem has been solved and all is well; in the second, while a solution has been asked for, it’s so non-specific that the last line returns to a description of the problem and no solution seems imminent.

The use of ‘snow-white’ to link the winter of the first stanza with the summer of the second is rather clever, and works really well. The heat of the tears in the last line is almost shocking, after the cool temperatures (even summer is signalled by a noun-phrase starting with ‘snow’) of the rest of the song.

The third verse has the same start, and links back to the second verse by continuing the theme of flowers (are lilies associated with death in that part of the world, I wonder, and, if so, is the contrast between bridal roses and lilies intentional?) and questioning the main character again. However, in this case a concrete problem is described, to which no solution seems to be forthcoming.

Versions

Joe Offer, of the Mudcat discussion forum, very kindly tracked down the origins of this piece for me. It is the first two verses of a (translated) three-verse Czechoslovakian song, Pod tím naším okénečkem, which Joe found two different translations of. A clarinet recording of the piece is available at KlarSax.wz.cz and Joe has made a MIDI file or two available on the Mudcat thread.

If you have any further information about this song in New Zealand, I’d love to hear from you.

Under Our Cottage Window lyrics and music

Pod tým naším okénečkem, bývá velký mráz, 
Av tej našej studánečce, mrzne voda zas.
Vezmem si já sekérečku, prerúbem tu studánečku,
a v tej našej studánečce, bude voda zas,
vezmem si já sekérečku, prerúbem tu studánečku,
a v tej našej studánečce, bude voda zas.

Pod tým našim okénečkem, roste z růže květ, 
Pověz Ty mně, moja milá, proč Ťa mrzí svět.
A mňa ten svět nic nemrzí, len mňa velmi hlava bolí,
len mňa velmi hlava bolí, plakala bych hned,
a mňa ten svět nic nemrzí, len mňa velmi hlava bolí,
len mňa velmi hlava bolí, plakala bych hned.

Pod tým našim okénečkem, roste oliva, 
Pověz Ty mě, moja milá, kdo k vám chodívá.
A k nám nikdo nechodívá, lebo o mě nestojívá,
lebo mě nestojívá, že su chudobná,
a k nám nikdo nechodívá, lebo o mě nestojívá,
lebo mě nestojívá, že su chudobná.

Just without our cottage window lyrics and musicJust Without Our Cottage Window lyrics and music

From Happy Meeting: Folk Songs from Czechoslovakia published by World Around Songs (a company in North Carolina that bought out the Cooperative Recreation Service)

From the Bajecna Lednice — Zpevnik — Moravske website

From the Botsford Collection of Folk Songs

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