I don't speak Hungarian, therefore I cannot say whether the English versions do the original song justice. Opinions tend towards the negatory. Some things don't translate well. Speaking as a translator myself, often one needs to quit translating and just render the meaning and even then it can be hit or miss. That, and I hate Sundays.

In 1992 a version of Gloomy Sunday was released by power diva Diamanda Galas as part of an album with deep blues and gospel influences. Now, anyone who's heard her knows that Galas is a singer with four octaves, the guts to use them, and the attitude of some really merciless god's high priestess. Galas' version of the poem differs significantly from the original Szomorú vasárnap and is pretty much a new work based on, and inspired by, László Jávor's rewrite. The song is a piano and voice piece. Galas uses both instruments like sharp knives and you have no defence against them. A critic once said that, if Sylvia Plath and Maria Callas had a baby, you'd get Diamanda Galas. Songs like this are apt to make one agree with that observation.

The vocals on this track usually elicit a comparison to Billie Holiday (who also performed this song) at her peak, and I can understand where one might think so. Not so, however. Galas herself admits that there's very little Holiday but a lot of Paul Robeson in her style. In fact, she says that this Gloomy Sunday was given an quite startling reception by audiences in Moscow because of this similarity, and given Robeson's special ties to the city and the fact that the original Gloomy Sunday was part of his repertoire too. As you'll notice, the "uplifting" third stanza that was added later is not used by Galas but she follows the "suicide song" two-stanza format. I'll venture to say that Galas' version of the words to this song is superior to Sam Lewis's translation, which is the most common in English

I have little more to say, save that this is one of my favourite Galas songs, and that's pretty much the consensus among her audience. Friends, this is not just a song lyric. This is poetry.

Sadly one Sunday
I waited and waited
With flowers in my arms
All the dream has created
I waited 'til dreams,
Like my heart, were all broken
The flowers were all dead
And the words were unspoken
The grief that I know
Was beyond all consoling
The beat of my heart
Was a bell that was tolling

Saddest of Sundays

Then came a Sunday
When you came to find me
They bore me to church
And I left you behind me
My eyes could not see
What I wanted to love me
The earth and the flowers
Are forever above me
The Bell tolled for me
And the wind whispered, "Never!"
But you I have loved
And I'll bless you forever

Last of all Sundays

Now go get the song and read the words again while listening to it. If this song doesn't speak to you, you have no soul with which to listen.

Gloomy Sunday from The Singer (Mute, 1992)
Writing credits: Diamanda Galas; performed by Diamanda Galas.