Sampurna’s Cities

Almost everyone translated ‘Cities,’ so perhaps, once we have all the versions, we should amalgamate them into this single posting? (Pretty much what we did in performance, anyway.)


So tell me.
Is it hot?
Does it rain?
Are there places
you can sit on a sunny day,
away from the crowd?
Is it beautiful?
Is it loud?

What do the streets smell like?
What do the women wear ?
Are they pretty?
Do you love it?
Could you leave it?
Will I like it
if I come?

Alone, away from home, we exchange our cities
like vows.



Alors, raconte-moi.
Fait-il chaud ?
Est-ce qu’il pleut ?
Y a-t-il des endroits
où l’on peut s’asseoir
par un jour de chaleur,
à l’écart de la foule ?
Est-ce que c’est beau ?
Est-ce que c’est bruyant ?

Quelle est l’odeur des rues ?
Que portent les femmes ?
Sont-elles jolies ?
Aimes-tu cet endroit ?
Pourrais-tu le quitter ?
L’aimerai-je si je viens ?

Seul, loin de chez nous, nous échangeons nos villes
comme des vœux.

by Raphael Urweider
(Swiss German)

Auso säg mau.
Isch es heiss?
Hetts Plätz
wo me cha sitze, we d’Sunne schiint,
u s nid ds viu Lüt hett?
Isch es schön?
Isch es lut?

Wi schmöcke d’Strasse?
Was hei d’Froue anne?
Si si schön?
Hesch se gärn?
Chönntsch se verlah?
Wird si mer gfaue, wenn i chume?

Elei, witt wäg vo deheim, tuusche mer üsi Stett
wi Wünsch wo mer hei.



Sae spill:
is ut no cauld?
Does ut no rain?
Whaur dae ye sit
when thi sun comes oot?
Is ut far fae thi crood?
Is ut braw?
Is ut rude?

Whit dae thi cundies smell o?
Whit dae thi weemen wear?
Ur they bonny?
(Ur they scary?)
Cuid ye luve ut?
Can ye leave ut?
Wad Eh like ut
if Eh lived there?

Alane and far fae hame we swap cities
lyk fitbaw cairds, or vows we swear.


About Bill Herbert

Poet and pseudo-scholar W.N. Herbert was born in Dundee in 1961, educated there and at Oxford, where he completed his DPhil thesis on Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid, and now lives and works in Newcastle. He is Professor of Poetry and Creative Writing at Newcastle University, and his books are published by, among others, northern publisher Bloodaxe Books. He is also the Dundee Makar, or city laureate.
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1 Response to Sampurna’s Cities

  1. Sampurna Chattarji says:

    Thanks for this, Roselyne, Raphael (and Bill for initiating it!)…

    Question for Raphael – is this a different version from the one you read? You had mentioned you’d do it in the Swiss version of Bambaiyya (!) so I’m wondering if that’s indeed what you have done?

    And finally, because I didn’t want to muck up the post with this, here is the audio link to the poem:

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