Julian Tuwim
Steam Engine

Steam engine settled down at the station
So huge and heavy, beading perspiration-
A greasy sensation.
It pants and it wheezes and puffs dark and smelly,
Heat blazing madly in its red hot belly:
Booh – that is hot!
Oooh – that is hot!
Poof – that is hot!
Uff – that is hot!
It can barely gasp now, it’s ready to burst,
Yet still more coal shovels go after the first.
The cars are all coupled and wait for the tow,
Heavy steel and iron, lined up in a row.
All crowded with people who chatter and rattle,
And one full of horses, and one full of cattle.
The third one is packed up with some chubby chums,
Sitting and eating their sausage and buns.
A ton of bananas piled up in the fourth,
And six shiny pianos, all travelling north,
The next has a cannon, o! that’s really large!
Every wheel fixed tightly with an iron charge!
The seventh car carries oak tables and chairs,
The eighth one – giraffes, elephants and bears.
The ninth – lots of grunting, heavy, fattened swine,
The tenth – piles of boxes and trunks made of pine,
And there’s maybe thirty more cars, side by side,
And it’s just beyond me what could be inside.

But even a thousand strongmen, if they came,
Who’d eaten a thousand pork chops just the same,
Even if they pulled and flexed and all the such,
They would never lift it – it just weighs too much.

Then – a wheeze!
Then – a sneeze!
Fires – burn!
The wheels – turn!

At first
really slowly
at snail’s pace
at best
The engine
starts pulling
the rest.
It tugs cars behind it and toils at the steel,
And turning and turning, each wheel after wheel,
Goes faster and faster, sets off for the race,
It rumbles and tumbles and picks up the pace,

But where does it? Where does it? Where does it go?
Ahead! Down the track, down the track, through the snow,
Through mountains, and rivers, and tunnels all day,
Still faster and faster, it cannot delay!
It rattles the rhythm, a knock to the walk:
Knock toc toc, knock toc toc, knock toc toc, knock toc toc,
So smoothing and soothing, so lost in the reel,
As light as a feather, a beach ball, not steel,
Not heavy contraption, mechanic and panting,
But child’s play, a trifle, a tin toy, enchanting.

But how can it, why can it, how does it go?
What is it, what is it that pushes it so?
So fast and so loud and so puffing, uff - poof!
It’s steam, hot and hissing, that makes it all move
It’s steam from the boiler that runs down the pipes,
To press on the pistons, turn wheels on the sides,
And pushing and turning it sets it in motion,
The wheels and the pistons, the whole locomotion,
And wheels rattle-clatter, and knock to the walk:

Knock toc toc, knock toc toc, knock toc toc, knock toc toc...


(Translated by: Witold Wojtaszko)