“ทะเลใจ” “Telay Jai” translated by Tom Vamvanij

Note: Another person wrote to me to say they also translate Carabao songs into English! Tom Vamvanij offers this excellent translation of “Telay Jai” (you can compare to mine), with some thoughtful advice for translating this and other songs. The song “Telay Jai” is available on the limited Gold Edition of Made in Thailand.”

“ทะเลใจ” “Sea of the Heart” by แอ๊ด คาราบาว Add Carabao, translated by Tom Vamvanij

Though I am now past the age of aspirations
And the days of aimlessness,
I have learned to live only that my body and my heart
May be at peace with one another.

As I lived through my days of loneliness,
The body belonged to me, but to whom the heart?
Life was but a struggle in those cruel days
When the body and the heart were miles apart.

On any given night, the heart succumbs to the body,
But in times of terror, the body succumbs to the heart.
Amidst the glitters of modernity,
It’s easy to lose one’s path.

*On any given night, the heart takes flight,
Carried off by fancy to the edge of the earth,
Like a little bird by the wind
Only to fall eventually to the sea of the heart.

Each life strives to reach its goals
Yet can’t find the heart in its own body.
Suffering comes out of a delirious heart,
Pin it down and therein lies happiness.

*On any given night, the heart takes flight,
Carried off by fancy to the edge of the earth,
Like a little bird by the wind
Only to fall eventually to the sea of the heart.
(2X)

Though I am now past the age of aspirations
And the days of aimlessness,
I have learned to live only that my body and my heart
May be at peace forever.

Below is his translation advice, in response to some questions I had asked:

The song is not difficult to understand when one keeps in mind its main theme, which is present throughout. That is, the dichotomy between the body and the heart, or the visceral and the spiritual. (“Jai” here comprises the senses of not only “heart”, but also “mind,” “will,” “spirit,” and “soul.”) We see how the two are often at odds and struggle for supremacy over each other. The song’s lesson, offered up front and repeated at the end, is to stop this unhappy struggle and live in such a way that the body and the heart are in harmony.

Translating poetry is inherently difficult. The faithful ones aren’t pretty and the pretty ones aren’t faithful, it is said. In my translation, I tried to stay as faithful as I could while maintaining more or less idiomatic English. You’ll find the original meaning in each verse, though not necessarily in each word. Literal inexactness is a small price to pay to avoid rendering awkward in translation what sound so beautiful in the original.

Tom

ชนะภัย Chanapai

By คาราบาว Carabao
Album: สัจจะ ๑๐ ประการ satja sip bpragaan (Ten Truths) (1992)

Support the artists and buy the album HERE

Note: This song is named after Preecha Chanapai aka Lek Carabao, a band member of Carabao. At first I thought the reference to him was almost random, but now I’m wondering if it has to do with the meaning of his name (follow the footnotes below). This is a song about the Cruel May (พฤษภาทมิฬ Prutsapa Tamin) or Bloody May (May 17-20 1992) event, a popular uprising that ended badly with a military crackdown, 52 confirmed dead, many disappearances, and thousands arrested. Add Carabao famously wrote the very inward-looking song “Telay Jai” or Ocean Heart immediately after coming home from that protest. It came out that same year on an album titled พฤษภา “Prutsapa” or “May.” Bloody May is more vividly described in the song เว้นวรรค Wen-Wak (Some Space) and used as an argument for “some space” in order to “fix the constitution” in the midst of the unrest of 2006. In that song, he urges, “Democracy will gain strength. . . why must we buy it expensively?” It seems like the violence of this event had a strong impact on his views.

เป็นเพราะเราเชื่อใจเขาง่ายๆ
It’s because we trust them [too] easily
เป็นเพราะเราจิตใจมันซื่อๆ
Its because our minds are naively sincere
ประชาชนกี่คนที่โลกลือ
[About] how many people does the world broadcast,
ว่าคุณคือคุณค่า ประชาธิปไตย
that “You are of value.” Democracy

เหมือนสายลมผ่านไปในท้องทุ่ง
Like when the wind passes through an open field
เหมือนน้ำค้างย่ำรุ่งอุทาหรณ์
Like the morning dew, for example,
ว่าสัญญาสายัณห์ตะวันรอน
The promise of evening when the sun is setting
พอตื่นนอนก็ไร้เงาพากเจ้านาย
Or when we just wake up to the absence of our bosses’ shadow.

แล้วใครเล่าทุกข์ติดพัน
So tell me who is occupied with suffering?
แล้วใครหลับฝันเป็นจริง
And who dreams dreams that become reality
แล้วใครได้เป็นเจ้านายคุณหญิง
And who gets to be a boss or a Lady [a noble person]?
แล้วใครถูกทิ้ง ให้หลงลืมกันไป
And who has been tossed aside so as to be forgotten?
(ให้หลงลืมตลอดไป)
(So as to be forgotten forever)

ประชาชนโชคร้ายก็หาใช่
Unlucky citizens are like “NO!”
ที่บ้านเมืองวุ่นวายมันมีเรื่อง
That the country is tumultuous is a problem
เผด็จการผ่านมาจะครองเมือง
Dictators come along and govern the country
แล้วขุ่นเคืองเข่นฆ่าประชาชน
And harass and kill/slaughter the people

ตุลาการตีความไม่ตามผิด
Judges don’t judge the wrong way
เห็นชีวิตของใครสำคัญกว่า
Viewing the lives of some people as more important
อันสังคมเมืองไทยไร้น้ำยา
Thai society lacks that spicy sauce*
จริงมั้ยครับหัวหน้าชวน หลีกภัย
Isn’t that true, Leader Chuan Leekpai**

แล้วใครเล่าทุกข์ติดพัน
And tell me who is occupied with suffering
แล้วใครหลับฝันเป็นจริง
And who dreams dreams that become reality?
แล้วใครได้เป็นเจ้านายคุณหญิง
And who is a boss or a Lady
แล้วใครถูกทิ้ง ให้หลงลืมกันไป
And who has been tossed aside so as to be forgotten?
(ให้หลงลืมตลอดไป)
(So as to be forgotten forever)

แล้วใครเล่าทุกข์ติดพัน
So tell me who is occupied with suffering?
แล้วใครหลับฝันเป็นจริง
And who dreams dreams that become reality?
แล้วใครได้เป็นเจ้านายคุณหญิง
And who gets to be a boss or a Lady [a noble person]?
แล้วใครถูกทิ้ง ให้หลงลืมกันไป
And who has been tossed aside so as to be forgotten?

ถามคุณชวน หลีกภัยใครควรรับผิด
Ask Mr. Chuan Leekpai** who should take responsibility for their mistake
วีรชนเสียชีวิตเดือนพฤษภา
Heros died in the month of May
ถ้าตอบไม่ได้ให้ไปถามมือกีต้าร์
If [he] can’t answer, go ask the guitarist
เขานั้นชื่อปรีชา ชนะภัย
His name is Preecha Chanapai***
แล้วใครเล่าทุกข์ติดพัน
So tell me who is occupied with suffering?
แล้วใครหลับฝันเป็นจริง
And who dreams dreams that become reality?
แล้วใครได้เป็นเจ้านายคุณหญิง
And who gets to be a boss or a Lady [a noble person]?
แล้วใครถูกทิ้ง ให้หลงลืมกันไป
And who has been tossed aside so as to be forgotten?
(ให้หลงลืมตลอดไป)
(So as to be forgotten forever)

* น้ำยา (“naam yaa”) can mean either a liquid medicine or chili paste. To say that someone doesn’t have “น้ำยา” means that they are lacking a certain something that would make them effective. For a man having “naam yaa’ can also be a euphemism for sexual potency; lacking it would mean you are infertile. “mojo” or “gumption” might be a good translation. Here I used “that special spicy sauce.”
** According to Wikipedia, Chuan Leekpai was Thailand’s Prime Minister from 20 September 20, 1992 to May 19. 1995 and again from 9 November 1997 to 9 February 2001.
***I don’t know if this means that Preecha Chanapai (Lek Carabao) has special insight into this issue, or if “Preecha Chanapai” sort of sounds like “Chuan Leekpai” and so this is a way of saying “Ask any random person. We all know whose fault it is.” OR it could be a play on the meaning of their names! “Chuan Leekpai” sounds like “persuade to make room for danger” while “Preecha Chanapai” could mean “ability [to] win against danger”

Lyrics Translations for the Band