1914: LBDB’s “Chinook-English Songs”, part 3 of 15 “Ole Kull Stick Tamolitsh”

IMHO: this one is right up there with the greatest productions of Google Translate, or of any nonsense verse writer.

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(Image credit: Spotify)

Today’s installment in this mini-series comes from Laura Belle Downey-Bartlett’s book, “Chinook-English Songs” (Portland, OR: Kubli-Miller, 1914), pages 16-17.

It’s song #3, “Ole Kull Stick Tamolitsh”, a translation of a popular 1817 sentimental poem by Samuel Woodworth, “The Old Oaken Bucket“.

Here’s my presentation of LBDB’s lyrics, putting the original English lyrics up against my own translation (marked as “DDR”) of what Mrs. Downey-Bartlett actually says in her Chinuk Wawa.

I’ve added footnotes to explain some of the stuff that’s going on there, as it’s quite confusing. But I’ve had to draw a line somewhere, so I’m not going to explain the myriad things that are merely goofy (but grammatically okay) here.

OLE KULL STICK TAMOLITSH.
úl q’ə́l-stìk-t’ámulch.
elderly hard-wood-tub.
DDR: ‘The Elderly Oak Tub.’
‘THE OLD OAKEN BUCKET.’

Ict.
íxt.
one.
DDR: ‘One.’
‘1’

Kah-ta klosh nika tum-tum, nanitch kah-kwa nika tenas,
qʰáta ɬúsh nayka tə́mtəm, nánich kákwa nayka tənás,

how good my heart, see like my child,
DDR: ‘How happy I am, seeing like my child,’
‘How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood,’

Klosh wake kopet kum-tux chaco pee nika,
ɬúsh wík kʰəpít-kə́mtəks cháku pi nayka, 
good not finish-know come and me. 

DDR: ‘Don’t forget coming and me!’
‘When fond recollection presents them to view!’

Le-pome stick, whim tupso, kah-kwa lemolo stick,
lipúm-stìk(,) xwə́m* [1] típsu, kákwa límuló-stìk, 
apple-tree cut.it.down-grass, like wild-tree, 

DDR: ‘Apple trees knock down the grass, like wild trees,’
‘The orchard, the meadow, the deep tangled wild-wood,’

Konsi nika tikegh kum-tux pee nika tenas.
qʰə́nchi nayka tíki kə́mtəks pi nayka tənás. 
how.much I like know and I child. 

DDR: ‘How much I liked knowing and I was a child.’
‘And ev’ry loved spot which my infancy knew;’

Hy-as kluk-uhl chuck, ict moo-lah, wake si-yah,
hayas-ɬə́q’əɬ tsə́qw, íxt múlá, wík sáyá, 
very-flat water one mill not far, 

DDR: ‘The very (or “big”?) flat water, a certain mill, it was not far,’
‘The wide spreading pond, and the mill that stood by it,’

E-nati chuck stick, ict stone, kah-kwa kee-kwilla chuch
[sic],
ínatay-tsə́qw-stìk, íxt stún, kákwa kíkwəli tsə́qw, 
across-water-stick, one rock, like low water, 

DDR: ‘The crossing-the-water sticks, a certain rock, like low water,’
‘The bridge and the rock where the cataract fell;’

Tenas house pee nika papa, to-toosh house, wake si-yah,
tənəs-háws pi nayka pápá, tutúsh-hàws, wík sáyá, 
little-house and my dad, milk-house, not far, 

DDR: ‘A little house and my dad, the dairy not far away,’
‘The cot of my father, the dairy house nigh it,’

Pee ict ole tamolitsh kopa kee-kwilla chuck.
pi íxt úl t’ámúlch kʰapa kíkwəli tsə́qw.

and one elderly tub in low water.
DDR: ‘And a certain elderly tub in the low water.’
‘And e’en the rude bucket that hung in the well.’

Konaway Shunta.
kʰánawi
shá(n)ti.
all sing.
DDR: ‘All Sing.’
‘Chorus.’

Ole kull stick tamolitsh, chickemon pee kah-kwa,
úl q’ə́l-stìk-t’ámu’lch, chíkʰəmin pi kákwa,

elderly hard-wood-tub, metal and such, 
DDR: ‘The elderly oak tub, it’s metal and such,’
‘The old oaken bucket, the iron bound bucket,’

Yah-ka tupso tamolitsh, mitlite kee-kwilla chuck.
yaka típsu t’ámúlch, míɬayt (Ø) kíkwəli tsə́qw. 
(s)he grass tub, be.there (in) low water.
DDR: ‘She’s a grass(y) (“woven”?) tub, sitting in the low water.’
‘The moss covered bucket, that hung in the well.’

Mox.
mákwst.
two.
DDR: ‘Two.’
‘2’

Okoke tupso tamolitsh, nika wau-wau klosh tum-tum,
úkuk típsu-t’ámúlch, nayka wáwa ɬúsh-tə́mtəm (Ø),

that grass-tub, I say good-heart (it),  
DDR: ‘That grass(y) tub, I say it’s happy,’
‘That moss covered bucket, I hail as a treasure,’

Sitkum sun nika chaco kopa klosh illahee,
sítkum-sán nayka cháku kʰapa ɬúsh-ílihi, 
half-day I come to/from good-land, 
DDR: ‘At noon I came to the field,’
‘For often at noon when returned from the field,’

Kah-kwa nika tum-tum yah-ka delate youlth,
kákwa nayka tə́mtəm yaka dlé(y)t yútɬiɬ,
thus my heart (s)he really glad, 
DDR: ‘That’s how my heart she was really glad,’
‘I found it the source of an exquisite pleasure,’


Klosh pee t’see, spose yah-ka konaway potlatch.
ɬúsh pi t’sí, spus yaka kʰánawi pá(t)ɬach. 
good and sweet, if (s)he all give. 
DDR: ‘It’s good and it’s sweet, if she gives everything.’
‘The purest and sweetest that nature can yield.’

Nika hy-ak iskum, kah-kwa pil nika lemah,
nayka (h)áyáq ískam (Ø), kákwa pʰíl nayka límá, 
I quickly pick.up (it), like red my hand, 
DDR: ‘I snatch it up, my hand is red-like,’
‘How ardent I seized it, with hands that were glowing,’

Marsh yah-ka kee-kwilla tekope stone whim,
másh yaka kíkwəli tk’úp stún xwə́m* (Ø), 
throw her/him low white rock cut.it.down (it), 
DDR: ‘Throwing her under a white rock that’s cut it down,’
‘And quick to the white pebbled bottom it fell,’

Chee yah-ka chaco, pee hy-iu chuck mitlite,
chxí yaka cháku, pi háyú tsə́qw míɬayt, 
just.now (s)he come.here, and much water be.there, 
DDR: ‘As soon as she comes here, and lots of water is here,’
‘And soon, with the emblem of truth overflowing,’

Kee-kwilla cole, okoke chuck chaco sahale.
kíkwəli kʰúl, úkuk tsə́qw cháku sáx̣ali.
below cold, that water come up. 
DDR: ‘Underneath it’s cold, this water that rises.’
‘And dripping with coolness, it rose from the well.’ 

Klone.
ɬún.
three.
DDR: ‘Three.’
‘3’

Kah-ta t’see pechugh tupso, okoke chuck nika iskum,
qʰáta t’sí pchíx̣ típsu, úkuk tsə́qw nayka ískam,

how sweet green grass, that water I pick.up, 
DDR: ‘How sweet is the green grass, this water I take up,’
‘How sweet from the green mossy brim to receive it,’

Sahale okoke stick, whem chaco nika la-boos,
sáx̣ali úkuk stík, xwə́m cháku nayka labúsh, 
high that tree, cut.it.down come.here my mouth, 

DDR: ‘That tree is high, my mouth gets cut down,’
‘As, poised on the curb, it inclined to my lips!’

Wake pahtl pil ooskan mamook nika klatawa,
wík pʰáɬ(,) pʰíl [2] úskan mámuk nayka ɬátwa,
not full(,) red cup make me go,
DDR: ‘Not a full(,) red cup that makes me go,’
‘Not a full blushing goblet could tempt me to leave it,’

Keghtechie kah-kwa okoke Jupiter iskum,
qʰéx̣chi kákwa úkuk djúpitər* ískam (Ø), 
although like that Jupiter pick.up (it),
DDR: ‘Although that’s how that Jupiter took it up,’
‘Tho’ filled with the nectar that Jupiter sips.’

Alta nika si-yah kopa nika tikegh illahee,
álta nayka sáyá kʰapa nayka tíki-ílihi, [3]
now I far from my like.it-place, 
DDR: ‘Now I’m far from my liking-place,’
‘And now far removed from the loved habitation,’

Chuck kopa see-owist kwanisum chaco,
tsə́qw kʰapa siyáxus kwánisəm cháku,
water to eye always come, 
DDR: ‘Tears keep coming,’
‘The tear of regret will intrusively swell,’

Nika pittick, klatawa, papa illahee,
nayka pə́təq* [4](,) ɬátwa(,) Ø pápá ílihi,
my think go to dad place, 
DDR: ‘My “thinks” go to dad’s place,’
‘As fancy reverts to my father’s plantation,’

Sick tum-tum nika kopa tamolitsh whim chuck.
sík-tə́mtəm nayka kʰapa t’ámulch xwə́m* tsə́qw.
hurting-heart I for tub cut.it.down water. 
DDR: ‘I’m sad for the tub that cut down the water.’
‘And sighs for the bucket that hung in the well.’

The footnotes:

xwə́m* [1] típsu uses quite an obscure “dictionary word”, the verb that’s translated in an old Jargon dictionary by informal English ‘fall’, which would sound like an intransitive action done without affecting an object. But as I’ve previously written, I think this CW word was from SW Washington Salish, having literally meant something like ‘cut down’, and expressing what the English teachers will tell you is to ‘fell’ a tree, a transitive verb. All of which scarcely helps us to understand what LBDB is trying to say here; according to any dictionary available to her, she’s saying ‘fall(ing?) grass’ for ‘meadow’… 

pʰáɬ(,) pʰíl [2] úskan also is confusing. LBDB is obviously trying to express the original lyric’s idea of a “full red cup”. But Chinuk Wawa pʰáɬ is not an adjective ‘full’; it’s a “stative verb” meaning ‘to be full’ — in other words, you can’t put it into a woud-be string of adjectives like this. Besides, the “Jargon” doesn’t much like sequences of adjectives, be they modifying (“attributive”) or free-standing (“predicative”). And pʰáɬ most often is directly followed by words telling what a thing is “full of”, so the phrasing here sounds like ‘full of red cups’! 

nayka tíki-ílihi [3] is typical Settler poetry in Jargon, trying to use a verb for ‘want; like’ as an adjective ‘beloved’…it doesn’t work in this language. 

nayka pə́təq* [4](,) ɬátwa: According to the approximately one dictionary that has the rare old CW word “pittuck“, it’s a verb meaning ‘to think’. Here LBDB is trying to use it as a noun ‘mind; thoughts’. Sigh.

This particular translation by Downey-Bartlett is excruciatingly bad.

It hurts me to say this, as she grew up with the language from childhood in an era when the early-creolized southern dialect was the only game around, and fluency in it among “pioneer” Settlers was high.

Allow me to suggest, though, that no matter what language you speak, poetry — let’s include song lyrics there — is a foreign way of speaking. Verse is a separately acquired skill from speaking.

qʰáta mayka tə́mtəm?
What do you think?