Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Index of Brassens’ songs

THE INDEX ON THIS PAGE LISTS THE SONGS IN THE ORDER IN WHICH I POSTED THEM.


TO SEE THESE SONGS LISTED IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER, PLEASE CLICK:

ALPHABETICAL LIST OF MY BRASSENS SONGS WITH SHORT INTRODUCTION

TO SEE THESE SONGS LISTED BY ALBUM IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER, PLEASE CLICK


CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF MY BRASSENS SONGS



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SONG LIST OF MY BRASSENS SONGS IN ORIGINAL ORDER OF POSTING:
The album in which the song is to be found is given in brackets after the song title

The title of each post in the list below links directly to the song(s) on my blogsite.

LeFantôme(1966 -Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète) -A meeting with a ghost and a hot foretaste of the afterlife.

Le Vent  - (Les amoureux des bancs publics) (1953) A jolly song about the mischievous breeze on the Pont Des Arts

L'assassinatLes Trompettes de la Renommé (1961) A tale with great pathos of crime and punishment

L'épave - (1966 -Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète) A human wreck re-appraises his loyalties 

Le mécréant - (Le mécréant 1960) The non-believer, Brassens, tries to follow Blaise Pascal's religious code.

Penelope - ( 1960 – Le Mécréant) How lonely, loveless lives can be made less so.


Au bois de mon coeur - (1957 - Je me suis fait tout petit) In praise of his loyal circle of close mates - the song he wrote for the film "La porte des lilas."

Le Cocu  (1958 - Le Pornographe) A husband whose wife gives herself freely to others asks them for some consideration

Les sabots d'Helene - (1955 - Chanson pour l'auvergnat) Brassens wrapped his admiration for the wife of the local bistro owner in traditional folksong

Je suis un voyou - (1954- Les amoureux des bancs publics) The frank account of his youthful love for a stunning girl called Margo

A l'Ombre du Coeur de Ma Mie - (1958 - Le Pornographe) The traumatic experience of a man who called on another man's wife

La Femme d'Hector - (1958 - Le Pornographe) Dedicated to one lovely and lovable wife in his group of friends in his early life in Paris.

La ronde des jurons - (1958 - Le Pornographe) Celebrating the richness of French swearing in the past and deploring its present aridity

Le mauvais sujet repenti - (1953 - Les amoureux des bancs publics)  The pimp whose repentance was not so glorious.

La marche Nuptiale - (1957 - Je me suis fait tout petit) The wedding march-- a touching song about the poor wedding of Brassens' parents
Celui qui a mal tourne - (1957- Je me suis fait tout petit) About a man who went wrong.  An insight into Brassens' biography?

 La Marine (1953 -La mauvaise reputation) Brassens sings Paul Fort's sailor's song of love


La fessée -  (1966 - Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète) Brassens consoles the beautiful widow of an old school friend


La Guerre de 14- 18 (Les Trompettes de la Renomme 1961).  His wry comment on the so-called glory of war

La Princesse et le croque-notes (Fernande 1972) Anguish following temptation from a 13 year old.

La fille a cent sous  ( 1960 Le Mecreant) -The girl sold by her husband for 100 sous finds true love

La Rose la Bouteille et la Poignee de main (La religieuse 1969) deplores the loss of the warmth and helpfulness, which people were previously safe to show each other in public.

Lenombril des femmes d'agent  (1955 Chanson pour l’auvergnat) A humorous song about an old gentleman with a very individual fetish


Quatre-vingt quinze pour cent 1972 (Fernande) Inequalities of passion during lovemaking

Marquise Les trompettes de la renommee (1961) A love song written by Pierre Corneille - partly!

Jeanne ( 1961 - Les trompettes de la renommée) In praise of Jeanne's infinite kindness



A l'ombre des maris (1972 - Fernande)An entertaining song about the complications of extra-marital love.

Don Juan (Album- Don Juan - 1976)The story of a modern Don Juan who has loved many women. Brassens would like us to look at him in a charitable and tolerant spirit.

Ballade des dames du temps jadis (La mauvaise réputation -1953)Brassens sings Villon's famous poem

Les Croquants (Chanson pour l'Auvergnat - 1955) Brassens sings of love and marriage believing them to be quite separate.

Le testament (1955 - Chanson pour l'Auvergnat).
While still a young man, Brassens thinks of the death he is very reluctant to accept.

Rien à jeter (1969 - La religieuse) A playful love song extolling the beauty of the woman whom he loved so deeply.

Marinette -J'avais l'air d'un c... - Chanson pour l'Auvergnat 1955 .- A light-hearted song about a hopeless lover.

Les Philistins (1957 - Je me suis fait tout petit)-Brassens song of the poem by Jean Richepin about a son who disappointed his parents' aspirations

Le Pornographe (1958 - Le pornographe)Brassens ponders his public reputation

Heureux qui comme Ulysse (Not recorded in an album)- The theme song for the last film of the great French comic actor Fernandel.

Gastibelza, l'homme à la carabine - His song of Victor Hugo's famous poem based on a Spanish folk ballad of love and wealth

BONHOMME - HER GOOD MAN (1958 - Le pornographe)A poem of great pathos as a peasant woman faces the death of her husband and the memories stirred.

Si le bon Dieu avait voulu (1961 Les trompettes de la renommée)Paul Fort's simple and sincere love poem to the woman of his life

Pauvre Martin (1954 - Les amoureux des bancs publics) A sad song about a simple farm labourer, who had asked nothing of life or his neighbours. He earns Brassens' admiration.

Le Petit Cheval (1953 La mauvaise réputation) Brassens sings this sad poem by Paul Fort with memorable lines - now a well-known children's song in France.

L’enterrement de Verlaine – The Funeral of Verlaine - 1960 – Le mécréant - Song of the poem by Paul Fort which depicts the popular tribute on the death of the eminent poet at the height of the Belle Epoque

Colombine - 1955 - Chanson pour l'auvergnat. -Verlaine's melodic poem gives a glimpse of the traditional Italian theatre of the Commedia del Arte

Mysogynie à part - 1969 - La religieuse -This rumbustious and sometimes explicit song raises issues about the nature of human love

Les châteaux de sable (Brassens) Mistral Gagnant (Renaud)The two songs tell of the transitory joys of childhood. The beautiful Vanessa Paradis sings the 2nd song with Le Forestier.

La Première Fille - ( Les amoureux des bancs publics.) 1954 The excitement and enduring memory of a first love.

La Marguerite - (Les trompettes de la renommé) 1961 – A simple poem about a parish priest who is suspected by malicious narrow-minded parishoners of a secret love affair.

J’ai rendez-vous avec vous - (Les amoureux des bancs publics.) 1954 An early love song of the exhileration of his youthful passion for Joha Heiman.

Pensees des morts (La Religieuse)Verses from the poem by Lamartine tell of the sadness when deep love can only be experienced in the emptiness left by some-one's absence

Venus Callipyge (Les copains d'abord) Brassens' song that is pure fun - but not so pure to celebrate anatomy admired all the way back to the days of Ancient Greece.

Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète -from the album of the same name. Brassens' thoughts of his final resting place revive nostalgia for the seaside town of his childhood.

Putain de Toi - The tramp that you are! (Les Amoureux des bancs publics 1953) A beautiful girl who let him down badly.

Trompe la mort - Cheating death (Don Juan 1976) Brassens maintains that his death is not as imminent as the newspapers suggest.

La legende de la Nonne -Based on Hugo's poem: "The legend of the nun", where the nun tells her innocent schoolchildren about her God's horrific terrors for those sin, which bcomes a Hugo classic of poetic exuberation. (Chanson pour l'Auvergnat 1955)

La mauvaise herbe – Useless weed that I am -Brassens sees himself as the outsider. (Les amoureux des bancs publics) 1954

Mourir pour des idees -Dying for your ideas. Brassens has little sympthy for murderous ideology. (Fernande) 1972

La tondue - The girl with the shaven head- Ugly reprisals after the Liberation of 1945 against those who had been friendly with the German occupiers. (Les copains d'abord) 1964/65

La chasse aux papillons (La mauvaise reputation)
A cheerful - if somewhat bawdy- tale of first love.

La non-demande en mariage Reasons for not proposing marriage to to his Puppchen in spite of the great love he feels for her. (Supplique pour etre enterre a la plage de Sete)

Les Trompettes de la Renommee from album of the same name - To those who are persuading him to seek popular attention he details the malignant effects of publicity

Saturne - In praise of the love felt by a middle aged couple- a touching tribute to his "Puppchen" as she reaches middle age (Les copains d'abord)

La Cane de Jeanne (Les Amoureux des Bancs Publics) Jeanne's pet duck has died. Brassens writes a solemn dirge - with gentle teasing.

Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux (Les amoureux des bancs publics) The melancholic poem by Aragon about the nature of love.

Dans l'eau de la claire fontaine (Les trompettes de la renommee) A lyrical song of a chance encounter with a nymph-like girl.

L'Orage (Le Mecreant) A tempestuous love affair on the night of a thunder storm. Another poem of love lost.

1)Les copains d'abord (Les copains d'abord) In praise of long-lasting friendships with men who sailed with him on the inland seas near Sete.

Ballade des dames du temps jadis -one verse

Link to the full text and translation of Villon's poem.

Les amours d’antan (Les trompettes de la renommé) Having sung of the legendary beauties of antiquity in the words of Villon, he now sings of the beautiful girls who taught him love- they are from a very different background.

Fernande (Fernande) Carla Bruni's version is included as the second video clip. She tells us that she had been strongly advised not to sing this song, which had been banned for immorality, but she is doing so all the same.

Les amoureux des bancs publics (Les amoureux des bancs publics) The intolerance of respectable people

Auprès de mon arbre (Chanson pour l’Auvergnat) The nostalgia that Brassens feels for the days when he was young and free - and very poor, unlike today when he is rich,bored and lonely.

Oncle Archibald (Je me suis fait tout petit)
One of the eccentrics who fascinated Brassens and earned his affection.

Le Gorille (La mauvaise réputation)
A provocative song about capital punishment

Le parapluie (La mauvaise réputation)
His first approach to a beautiful, petite young lady who had caught his eye.

La mauvaise réputation (La mauvaise réputation)
Brassens sees himself as the total outsider.

Je me suis fait tout petit (Je me suis fait tout petit) A somewhat lurid account of the submissive role that he plays in his relationship with his lifelong partner.

Chanson pour l’Auvergnat (Chanson pour l’Auvergnat)
Gratitude to those who showed him true charity when he was in desperate need. (Jeanne and her husband)

Il suffit de passer le pont (La mauvaise réputation) The intoxication of the first youthful moment of sexuallove, but also the worries involved.

Les Passantes (Fernande)Antoine Pol's wistful poem about the memorable women who flitted for a moment into his lfe and then were gone

Une jolie fleur (Chanson pour l’Auvergnat)
Trying to get over the loss of a very beautiful woman.

Georges Brassens was born at Sète on the 22nd October 1921 and died on the 29th October 1981 at Saint-Gély-du-Fesc, Hérault, the region of his birth



On this blogsite I have posted more than fifty of the famous songs by Georges Brassens, with videos, French lyrics and my translation.

My hope is to share my enthusiasm for his songs.

In my translation, I seek to make the meaning as clear as possible. Unfortunately a translator cannot convey the poetry, which resides solely in the words written by Georges Brassens. Increasingly I have tried to reflect the rhythm of the songs even though this has moved me away from a precise literal translation.
The quality of Brassens verse has been honoured by the most august literary authorities in France.

He is a true lyric poet because he expresses thoughts and feelings from the heart. He crafts his words and rhythms with infinite care and skill and he tantalises and entertains with different levels of meaning.

And with all this, he does not take himself too seriously and is a great guy!

Les Croquants -

This is a neat and musical song on Brassens’ familiar themes. He tells how respectable parents hand over their daughters in marriage to men of superior status because of their narrow obsession with their future wealth and social status. The result is marriages that are routine, loveless and set until death. In contrast is the girl who loves a man for what he is and not for what has. She is a free spirit, whose life is full of new experiences as she gives her love when and only when she pleases.



Les Croquants
Les croquants(1) vont en ville, à cheval sur leurs sous,
Toffee-nosed men turn up, riding their moneybags
Acheter des pucelle' aux saintes bonnes gens,
To buy virgins from god-fearing proper folk
Les croquants leur mett'nt à prix d'argent(2)
These men get by paying good cash down
La main dessus,(3) la main dessous..(4.).
Their hands on them, their hands under...

Mais la chair de Lisa, la chair fraîch' de Lison
But the flesh of Lisa, the cool flesh of Lison,
(que les culs cousus d'or se fass'nt une raison !)
(Let the arseholes stuffed with money face up to it)
C'est pour la bouch' du premier venu
Is for the mouth of the first man she meets
Qui a les yeux tendre' et les mains nues…
Who comes empty-handed with love-filled eyes..

Les croquants, ça les attriste, ça
The rich sods, it depresses them, it
Les étonne, les étonne,
Astounds them, astounds them
Qu'une fille, une fill' bell' comm' ça,
That a girl, a pretty girl like that
S'abandonne, s'abandonne
Should yield herself, should yield herself
Au premier ostrogoth(7) venu...
To some rough diamond that she meets.
Les croquants, ça tombe des nues
The rich sods just can't believe it

Les fill's de bonnes moeurs, les fill's de bonne vie,
The girls who act nicely, the girls who live nice lives,
Qui' ont vendu leur fleurette(9) à la foire à l'encan,(10)
Who put their flowerlet on sale at public auction
Vont s' vautrer dans la couch' des croquants,
Go and sprawl themselves in the rich sods’ beds
Quand les croquants en ont envie...
When the rich sods fancy a bit…
Mais la chair de Lisa, la chair fraîch' de Lison
But the flesh of Lisa, the cool flesh of Lison
(que les culs cousus d'or se fass'nt une raison !)
(Let the arseholes stuffed with money face up to it)
N'a jamais accordé ses faveurs
Has never given of her favours
À contre-sous, à contrecoeur...
‘gainst money –gainst her wishes

Les croquants, ça les attriste, ça
The rich sods, it depresses them, it
Les étonne, les étonne,
Astounds them, astounds them
Qu'une fille, une fill' bell' comm' ça,
That a girl, a pretty girl like that
S'abandonne, s'abandonne
Should yield herself, should yield herself
Au premier ostrogoth(7) venu...
To some rough diamond that she meets.
Les croquants, ça tombe des nues
The rich sods just can't believe it.

Les fill's de bonne vie ont le coeur consistant
The good-living girls have a heart that’s consistant
Et la fleur(11) qu'on y trouve est garantie longtemps,
And the flower found within’s guaranteed to last,
Comm' les fleurs en papier des chapeaux,
Like the paper flowers upon the hats
Les fleurs en pierre des tombeaux...
The stone flowers upon the tombs…
Mais le coeur de Lisa, le grand coeur de Lison
But the heart of Lisa, the great heart of Lison
Aime faire peau neuve(11) avec chaque saison
Likes to make a new start with every season
Jamais deux fois la même couleur,
Never twice over the same colour
Jamais deux fois la même fleur...
Never twice over the same flower

Les croquants, ça les attriste, ça
The rich sods, it depresses them, it
Les étonne, les étonne,
Astounds them, astounds them
Qu'une fille, une fill' bell' comm' ça,
That a girl, a pretty girl like that
S'abandonne, s'abandonne
Should yield herself, should yield herself
Au premier ostrogoth(7) venu...
To some rough diamond that she meets.
Les croquants, ça tombe des nues
The rich sods just can't believe it.

1955 - Chanson pour l'auvergnat

TRANSLATION COMMENTS
1) Les croquants – The French dictionary, Le Petit Robert, tells us that the word « croquants » was given to peasants who rose in revolt in the reigns of Henri IV and Louis XIII. Robert goes on to tell us that afterwards the word was used simply to mean a peasant, although it is is often used as a pejorative to mean “thief” or “Skinflint”. Brassens’ croquants have too much money for these descriptions to apply. In this poem, when he uses this pejorative, he is thinking of ignorant men enjoying the power of their wealth.

2) A prix d'argent - acheter qch à prix d’or means to pay a (small) fortune for something.(Collins-Robert)

3) La main dessus - "mettre la main sur" means to take possession of to seize hold of.(Robert)

4) La main "dessous" – In the second part of the antithesis is Brassens being rude, suggesting that these objectionable men of money would also put their hands up the girls’ skirts.

5) cousus d'or – cousu is the past participle of coudre to sew. “être (tout) cousu d’or means to be rolling in money.

6) se fass'nt une raison = se faire une raison de qch.means to accept sth./ to put up with sth. (Collins-Robert)

7) ostrogoth(7) = In history the Ostrogoths were the Goths who came from the East. The word has cometo be used to describe a person who is ill-educated,, ignorant, boorish, eccentric. None of these words fit the man that brassens intends to describe. Instead, in this poem, the term represents the person that the anarchistic Brassens admired- a spontaneous person standing apart from the false values of conventional society and indifferent to wealth and personal possessions.

8) tombe des nues – Idioms using these words refer to a state of surprise and incredulity. “Je suis tombé des nues” means you could have knocked me down with a feather

9) La fleurette – Little flower. Brassens uses it as a symbol for virginity

10) à l'encan, ==vendre à l’encan-to sell at auction. (Larousse). (Of course the most common translation for “the auction” is « La vente aux enchères »)

11) la fleur – The flowerlet of the young girl, mentioned earlier, has now matured into a full flower.

12) faire peau neuve = to find a new image - make a new start

Please click here toreturn to the alphabetical list of my Brassens selection

Friday, 12 November 2010

L’enterrement de Verlaine – The Funeral of Verlaine




Brassens sings Paul Fort’s poem, in which he recalls, in his view, the finest day of the Belle Époque- the day he attended the mass tribute at the funeral of one of the most prominent Bohemian geniuses of the age – Paul Verlaine.

The date is early January 1896 and the scene is the Boulevard Saint Michel (referred to colloquially as the Boul’ Mich) in the Latin Quarter. The backdrop is beauty and elegance in an era when the good things in life were enjoyed.

It was a time when talent was respected and a time of tolerance. The people of Paris, supported their eccentric poet, Paul Verlaine, at the end of his scandalous, dissolute life and they turned out in force for his funeral. Thousands of them thronged the elegant boulevard on that cold winter’s morning. However, as far as Paul Fort was concerned, not one of the people present came close to equalling the stature of the dead man.




Georges Brassens - L'Enterrement De Verlaine
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The poem is recited:


Brassens-L'enterrement de Verlaine
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L'ENTERREMENT DE VERLAINE(1)



Le revois-tu mon âme, ce Boul' Mich' d'autrefois
My heart can you recall, that Boul Mich of times past
Et dont le plus beau jour fut un jour de beau froid:
The finest day of which, was a day fine and cold
Dieu ! S'ouvrit-il jamais une voie aussi pure
God ! Was ever grand street so purely laid open
Au convoi d'un grand mort suivi de miniatures ?
For funeral of a great, followed by miniatures ?

Tous les grognards - petits - de Verlaine étaient là,
All the old crowd – small fry- of Verlaine, they were there
Toussotant, frissonnant, glissant sur le verglas,
Coughing and shivering, slipping on the sheet ice,
Mais qui suivaient ce mort et la désespérance,
Yet foll’wing this dead man and the desperation
Morte enfin, du premier rossignol de la France.
Dead at last, of the first nightingale of the French.(2)
Ou plutôt du second (François de Montcorbier,(3)
Or rather, the second. (François de Montcorbier,

Voici belle lurette (4) en fut le vrai premier)
So long, long time ago must truly be the first.)
N'importe ! Lélian,(5) je vous suivrai toujours!
No matter ! Lélian, I’ll follow you always
Premier ? Second ? Vous seul. En ce plus froid des jours.
First ? Second ? You alone. On this most cold of days
N'importe ! Je suivrai toujours, l'âme enivrée
No matter ! I’ll follow always, my heart entranced

Ah ! folle d'une espérance désespérée (6)
Ah ! mad through the hopelessness of my great hopes
Montesquiou-Fezensac(7) et Bibi-la-purée(8)
Montesquiou-Fezensac et Bibi-la-purée
Vos deux gardes du corps, - entre tous moi dernier.
Were your two bodyguards- among them all, I came last.
Paul Fort (9)

Brassens 1960 – Le mécréant



TRANSLATION NOTES

(1) L’enterrement de Verlaine. -Verlaine was only 51 when he died. During his last years in Paris, he had descended into alcoholism and drug addiction. He lived in poverty in slum lodgings and passed periods in public hospitals. He spent his days drinking absinthe in Paris cafés and this is a photo of the poet around 1895. Throughout this time, he continued to be acclaimed the leading poet of France.



(2) Le premier rossignol de la France – Fort appears to be making the very controversial claim that there had been no previous French poet to equal Verlaine. Many people would propose different candidates for this first position – Musset, Vigny, Hugo etc. If he is merely saying that Verlaine had been given the honorific role of “Prince des poètes”, this is factually true as he held this title from 1894 until his death. If he is saying that Verlaine brought a unique musicality to French poetry many would agree enthusiastically.

(3) François de Montcorbier is the correct family name for the great French poet, François Villon (1431- some time after 1463) – His most famous poem “Où sont les neiges d’autan”. Fort appears to confirm that his intention was to designate the leading French poet ever in French literature, when he concedes that the distinction he had first claimed for Verlaine rightly belonged to Villon.

(4) Voici/ il y a belle lurette – This idiom means a very long time ago. (From “heurette” little hour)

(5) Lélian, : Pauvre Lelian is an anagram which his close friend and fellow poet Rimbaud, had formed from the name “Paul Verlaine”. In the nickname there is perhaps implied some mockery of Verlaine’s over-feminine sensitivity.

Verlaine had married a young girl, Mathilde in 1870, but, a year later, he fell in love with the poet Arthur Rimbaud, who was a seventeen year old student. By 1872, he had deserted his wife and child to be with his young lover. Their relationship was tempestuous and in 1873 Verlaine shot him in the arm during a drunken quarrel. He served an 18 month prison sentence as a result.



(6) folle d'une espérance désespérée – We can only speculate why the poet, Paul Fort, felt so emotional about the dashing of his personal hopes. Perhaps he is thinking bitterly of the high hopes he had had for the Théâtre d' Art which he had founded in 1890, while he was a student at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. His aim had been to promote the work of people in the arts, including his friend, Paul Verlaine, and Paul Gauguin. The venture survived no more than a couple of years.

(7)Montesquiou-Fezensac. To modern readers, the two proper names on the penultimate line must be meaningless, but these were big, well known personalities in France at the turn of the 20th century. The Comte Robert de Montesquiou-Fezensac was a descendant of d'Artagnan, whose tale is told in Dumas’ « The Three musketeers.” Montesquiou-Fezensac attempted Symbolist poetry and was an art collector and homosexual dandy. It is believed that he was the model for the Proustian character, the Baron de Charlus in Proust’s “À la recherche du temps perdu”.



(8) Bibi-la-purée – This was the name by which André Joseph Salis de Saglia was known. He dressed like a tramp but was one of the leading personalities of the Latin Quarter at the time and was given the title of le roi de la Bohème. He appears in the poetry of Verlaine, in James Joyce’s Ulysses and is seen in a Picasso painting.

On the morning of the funeral, he took up position by the coffin on the strength of his claim that he had been the dead man’s secretary and lover. This could have been true although he was an inveterate liar. Montesquiou, who was a pall-bearer, then intervened to protest that his ragged, eccentric dress was not in keeping with the dignity of the occasion. Bibi-la-purée was moved to a less conspicuous position, where, it is said, he took advantage to pilfer a number of unattended mourners’ umbrellas.

By the end of the day, the snobbish aristocrat and the professional bohemian were reconciled and were chatting intimately, using the “tu” form.



(9) Paul Fort - He was born in 1872 and in 1912 he was given the title of “Prince de Poètes” which he held until his death in 1960. He was a lover of the French ballad and the folk tradition. His verse, clear and rhythmic, converts fairly readily into song lyrics. Other poems by Fort on which Brassens based songs were: Le Petit Cheval – La Marine – Comme Hier – Si le bon dieu avait voulu – He recorded (spoken only) Fort’s poems – Germaine Tourangelle -Petit Verglas. Brassens also wrote a poem to commemorate Paul Fort’s funeral: L’enterrement de Paul Fort.



Two Personal CommentsVerlaine as the leading French poet

Paul Fort was taking a liberty in designating the leading French poets as this kind of judgement is very subjective. However, I found sympathy with him because the most active legacy that I clung to after studying a selection of French poets at “A” level fifty years ago was the verse of Verlaine. In particular, we analysed and learned by heart his Chanson d'Automne from his collection , Poèmes saturniens (1866). For years afterwards, I quoted the rich assonance of the first verse:

Les sanglots longs
Des violons
De l'automne
Blessent mon cœur
D'une langueur
Monotone.

Similarly I used to enjoy indulging in the melancholy of « Il pleure dans mon cœur » where Verlaine is at his most Lélian

Il pleure dans mon cœur
Comme il pleut sur la ville;
Quelle est cette langueur
Qui pénètre mon cœur?
Ô bruit doux de la pluie
Par terre et sur les toits!
Pour un cœur qui s'ennuie
Ô le chant de la pluie!
etc

From Romances sans paroles (1874)

These are lines, of course, familiar with most students of French - and that says a lot about Verlaine’s pre-eminence in French literature.!


2 Memories of France of the Belle Époque

Paul Fort is describing here a precious memory of an outstanding event in his life. My French professor used to tell an anecdote about the previous holder of his post. Although this, by then, old man was a lover of France, he had never visited Paris for fifty years. Born in the 1870s, he had lived in Paris at the turn of the century. He knew a Paris where elegant people drove around in horse drawn carriages and the streets were lit by gaslight. He had not the heart to return to Paris and erase this splendid image by superimposing that of modern Paris.




Please click here to return to the alphabetical list of my Brassens selection

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Colombine - This poem by Verlaine tells of the female star character of the Italian mime theatre.

Colombine
Brassens put music to this lilting, melodic poem of Paul Verlaine. The poet tells how someone who ruthlessly exploits his or her sexual charm is able to reduce to a state of abject subjugation those who fall victim - and Verlaine’s life story suggests that perhaps he should know! To illustrate this farcical, human situation, he enacts a typical scene, performed by the Italian mime theatre the Commedia dell'arte.(1)







Verlaine's Colombine

Léandre le sot,
Silly Leander,
Pierrot qui d'un saut
Pierrot who with one
De puce
Flea-like jump
Franchit le buisson,
Springs over the bush
Cassandre sous son
Cassander neath his
Capuce,
Deep monk’s cowl,


Arlequin aussi,
Harlequin also,
Cet aigrefin si
That cheating rogue so
Fantasque,
Full of guile
Aux costumes fous,
In crazy costume,
Les yeux luisant sous
His keen eyes glinting
Son masque,
Neath his mask

Do, mi, sol, mi, fa,
Do, mi, so, mi, fa,
Tout ce monde va,
All these go along
Rit, chante
Laugh and sing
Et danse devant
They dance in front of
Une frêle enfant

A skinny girl who
Méchante
Means trouble
Dont les yeux pervers
Whose eyes of menace
Comme les yeux verts
Like the bright green eyes
Des chattes
Of felines
Gardent ses appas (2)
Guard her body’s charms
Et disent :
As they say
"A bas les pattes ! "
Wand’ring hands, keep off!

A verse with no words is played next and then Brassens sings the following as his last verse:

L'implacable enfant,
The child, hard to please
Preste et relevant
Spry and with her skirts
Ses jupes,
Lifted high
La rose au chapeau,
The rose in her hat
Conduit son troupeau
Leads on her flock of
De dupes !
Those she fools!

From the poem of Paul Verlaine
Song by Georges Brassens -1955 - Chanson pour l'auvergnat


NOTES
1)The Commedia dell'arte - The poem gives a glimpse of the “Commedia dell'arte”, the Italian theatre which was popular to French audiences during three centuries. Molière knew it well and its influence is seen in his comedies. Two hundred years later, Balzac, in “Le Père Goriot” shows the members of Parisian high society making a weekly visit to the Italian theatre.
The noble and distinguished people who attended this theatre were enjoying boisterous knockabout comedy, which could be very racy. There was comic portrayal of sex and the plot was often based on sexual infidelity and promiscuity. Situations which enacted shipwrecks and fires allowed the actresses to cast off their clothes.
The admirable skill of these players was to go onstage to perform an unwritten drama which, to a great extent, they improvised on the spot.
The theatre had stock characters and we meet some of them in this poem.
• The young lovers- often naïve. In this poem Leander is the young hero, foolishly besotted (with Colombine).
• The easily deceived old man. In this poem it is Cassander, who is wearing a hood to hide his lustful pursuit of the young girl temptress, Colombine.
• The cheeky young serving girl was very often called Colombine as here. She was usually completely amoral and although she had a lover, she shared her favours as she liked.
• The rascally servants. There were usually several of these. They were usually lazy scoundrels and sometimes cruel and cunning. Although they deceived others, they were often so stupid that they were themselves open to deception. Verlaine gives us here the two most well-known:
a. Pierrot was the white faced clown – hence the acrobatics.
b. Harlequin was one of the characters who traditionally wore a mask. He was deeply in love with Colombine, who caused him great jealousy.
(2) Gardent ses appas – « Les appas » mean charms or charming features. A plural noun with the same sound would be « Les appâts » - the bait used to catch your prey. Both could apply to the armoury of the predatory female.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Misogynie à part - Setting misogyny aside

Explicit lines in this poem make it suitable only for adult readers. After long hesitation, I include it because I see in the song true Brassens qualities and genuine Brassens fun –as can be seen from the audience reaction in the video.
This poem describes a dysfunctional relationship where the girl while enjoying passionate and adventurous lovemaking, spoils her lover’s experience by insisting on elements of middle class gentility and by merging her sexual ecstasy with the religious ecstasy it aroused in her.


georges Brassens - misogynie a part
Uploaded by bisonravi1987. - Up-to-the minute news videos.


Misogynie à part

Misogynie à part, le sage avait raison :
Misogyny apart, the wise man was quite right
Il y a les emmerdantes,(1) on en trouve à foison,
There are enmerdant girls, you find them in plenty
En foule elles se pressent,
In great throngs, they come at you,
Il y a les emmerdeuses(1), un peu plus raffinées,
There are enmerdous girls, a little more refined
Et puis, très nettement au-dessus du panier,
And then very clearly, at the top of the heap
Y a les emmerderesses(1).
There are girl enmerderesses.

La mienne, à elle seule, sur tout's surenchérit,
Mine stands out alone, outclasses the whole lot
Ell' relève à la fois des trois catégories,
She ticks at the same time all three categories
Véritable prodige,
Veritable prodigy
Emmerdante, emmerdeuse, emmerderesse itou,
Enmerdant, enmerdous, enmerderesse alike.
Elle passe, ell' dépasse, elle surpasse tout,
She goes further, outstrips, she surpasses them all,
Ell' m'emmerde, vous dis-je.
She enmerds me, I tell you.

Mon dieu, pardonnez-moi ces propos bien amers,
Oh god, pray pardon me these very bitter words
Ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmer-
She enmerds me, she enmerds me, she enmerds me
De, elle abuse, elle attige.
She goes quite wrong, goes too far.
Ell' m'emmerde et j' regrett' mes bell's amours avec
She enmerds me and I regret my fine amours spent with
La p'tite Enfant d' Marie (3) que m'a soufflée l'évêque,
The young child of Mary, the bishop pinched from me.
Ell' m'emmerde, vous dis-je.
She enmerds me, I tell you

Ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmerde, et m'oblige à me cu-
She enmerds, she enmerds, and forces me to clean
Rer les ongles avant de confirmer son cul,
Up my nails before confirming her rear.
Or, c'est pas Callipyge(4).
Now she is no Callipyge
Et la charité seul' pouss' ma main résignée
And charity alone drives my resign-ed hand
Vers ce cul rabat-joie, conique, renfrogné,
To this joyless bottom, cone-shaped, sad looking
Ell' m'emmerde, vous dis-je.
She enmerds me I tell you.

Ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmerde, je le répète et quand
She enmerds me, she enmerds me, I repeat it and when
Ell' me tape sur le ventre, elle garde ses gants,
She bangs on my stomach, she won’t take off her gloves
Et ça me désoblige.
And this causes me offence.
Outre que ça dénote un grand manque de tact,
Besides this displaying a great lack of tact,
Ça n' favorise pas tellement le contact,
That in no way favours any sense of contact.
Ell' m'emmerde, vous dis-je.

Ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmerd' , quand je tombe à genoux
She enmerds, she enmerds, when I fall to my knees
Pour certain's dévotions qui sont bien de chez nous
For certain devotions that are OK with the French
Et qui donn'nt le vertige,
And which bring on vertigo
Croyant l'heure venue de chanter le Credo,
Believing the time come for singing of the creed
Elle m'ouvre tout grand son missel sur le dos,
She flings open out wide her missel on my back
Ell' m'emmerde, vous dis-je.
She enmerds me, I tell you

Ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmerde, à la fornication
She enmerds me, she enmerds me during fornication
Ell' s'emmerde, ell' s'emmerde avec ostentation, (5)
She enmerds me she enmerds me with ostentation
Ell' s'emmerde, vous dis-je
She enmerds me, I tell you.
Au lieu de s'écrier : "Encore ! hardi ! hardi !"
Instead of crying out : « Once more ! Go on! Go on!
Ell' déclam' du Claudel (6) ! du Claudel, j'ai bien dit,
She declaims from Claudel ! From Claudel you heard right
Alors ça, ça me fige
Well then that - that stops me dead.

Ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmerd', j'admets que ce Claudel
She enmerds me, she enmerds me, I admit that this Claudel
Soit un homm' de génie, un poète immortel,
Is a man of genius, a poet immortal
J' reconnais son prestige,
I acknowledge his prestige
Mais qu'on aille chercher dedans son œuvre pie,
But that one goes seeking within his wordy tomes(7)
Un aphrodisiaque, non, ça, c'est d' l'utopie!(8)
An aphrodisiac, no that’s pure Utopia
Ell' m'emmerde, vous dis-je.
She enmerds me, I tell you.

Georges Brassens
1969 - La religieuse

COMMENTS ABOUT THE TRANSLATION.

(1) emmerdantes, emmerdeuses, emmerderesses - These words and the idea behind them come from Paul Valéry (1871-1945) the famous poet, critic and essayist. Like Brassens, Valéry was born in Sètes and like Brassens is buried there – but not in the same cemetery. Brassens talks about him in another poem on this website – see Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète - .
Valéry is quoted as saying: « Il y a trois sortes de femmes: les emmerdeuses, les emmerdantes... et les emmerderesses ». My Collins dictionary lists the verb « emmerder » to badly annoy/ to bug someone. It lists “emmerdant”, the participle used as an adjective, to translate the word “annoying” with pejorative force suggesting various English oaths. The dictionary also shows this adjective forming a noun in “quel emmerdant!” = what a bloody nuisance. However there is a real noun form “emmerdement” and the exclamation “quel emmerdement!” also means “what a bloody nuisance”. For a person who is an absolute nuisance, Collins gives the word “un emmerdeur” with the feminine form “une emmerdeuse”. Collins does not give the word “emmerderesse », which Valéry seems to have invented himself by analogy with other words made feminine with the suffix “esse” e.g. “pécheur”/ “pécheresse” = sinner.
All these words are based on the word “merde” which means “s**t”. Although this word is used more freely in French and has lost some of the shock of the English translation, its basic meaning still applies.
On translating this poem, I tried to use the words “annoy” “irritate” “exasperate”, but found them very deficient in meaning. In desperation, I have imitated my colleagues in sociology and invented my own code word:
To enmerd = to drive some-one to desperation by imposing on them a load of pointless, demeaning rubbish (merde)

2) Misogynie à part – Who is the misogynist? Paul Valéry seems to be saying that all women are guilty of emmerdement, which is a very sweeping condemnation of the female sex. This is obviously a misogynistic remark. I feel that Brassens shows by his choice of title that he recognised the misogyny of Valéry’s sentiments, but, all the same, he was glad to use Valéry’s terminology as a springboard for this provocative song.

3) La p'tite Enfant d' Marie – The 1930s saw the growth of political youth movements. In the Soviet Union, there were the pioneers. In Germany, there was the Hitler Youth. The Catholic Church formed a youth movement for boys, called « Les Croisés » and for girls called “Les Enfants de Marie” aimed particularly against Communist atheism which had growing support among the left-wing in France. This membership gives an expectation of strict sexual morals.

4) Vénus callipyge - The statue of the Venus Kallipygos is now in the Royal Museum in Naples. The worship of this Venus had been widespread in Ancient Greece and then had spread to Italy. The word Kallipygos is formed by an adjective, Κάλλος, which means beautiful and a noun πυγὴ, which means bum.

5) Ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmerde - This word, emphatic in itself, is made even more emphatic by its repetition, six times in three lines. However, some of the humour comes from the sense that this is a pretend indignation, while describing their mutual pleasure. Also the style of their lovemaking seems to be an established routine to which each returned willingly. No doubt, Brassens was fascinated and amused by his quirky young partner. The vehemence of his overstatement is comic as we see from the reaction of singer and audience.

6) Ell' déclam' du Claudel - Paul Claudel (1868 -1955) was a very prominent man of letters, who produced an incredible output of poems, plays, travel books, literary criticism and more. His plays were extremely long- one lasting eleven hours. In his writings, he expressed his very strong faith in Roman Catholicism. Like many influential French Catholics, he had been a strong supporter of the ideals of the collaborationist Vichy government of General Pétain, to whom he addressed a eulogical poem. This background served to limit Claudel’s appeal to those on the political left, such as Brassens.
The article about Claudel in Wikipedia, has a sentence which seems relevant to this poem. We read there that Claudel used “scenes of passionate, obsessive human love to convey with great power God's infinite love for humanity”. Above the physical detail of lovemaking, which Brassens has described in his poem, most people are probably aware of a spiritual dimension- although not necessarily with religious connotations. In the play Les Miserables, Jean Valjean says "to love another person is to see the face of God.". There is another quotation- also from Victor Hugo I think- that when two people make love, God is always present at that altar.
Perhaps the unconventional, strong-minded young girl gets the better in this poem! At the start we had expectations that she would have conformist, life-denying inhibitions but instead she emerges as an individualist, seeking her own answers. Despite his over-loud protestations against his partner, Brassens has given us another example of one of life’s eccentrics, so dear to him.

Please click here toreturn to the alphabetical list of my Brassens selection


Sunday, 10 October 2010

LES CHÂTEAUX DE SABLE (Brassens) - MISTRAL GAGNANT (Renaud)


 
Here are two songs sung by the famous French singer, Maxime le Forestier, on the theme of the transitory pleasures of childhood and youth. This precious experience disappears in a flash and its passing is imperceptible.
The first song by Brassens suggests an unseen epic dimension behind ordinary human life, which is the inevitably destructive wheel of history. Although he was happy with this poem, Brassens never set it to music. Here, Le Forestier is singing the melody written for the song by Jean Bertola.

In the second song from 1998, “Mistral Gagnant”, Le Forestier, sings a duet with the beautiful Vanessa Paradis. The lyrics of this song are by the French singer- song writer, Renaud. As well as individual memories, Renaud lists the specific objects which formed part of the magic world of his 1950 -1960 childhood, which time, the assassin, stole away.



LES CHÂTEAUX DE SABLE (BRASSENS – 1978)

sung by Maxime Le Forestier






Je chante la petite guerre (1)
I sing of the little war waged
Des braves enfants de naguère
By the nice children of recent past
Qui sur la plage ont bataillé (2)
Who on the beach put up a fight
Pour sauver un château de sable
In order to save a sandcastle
Et ses remparts infranchissables
And its ramparts that could not be breached
Qu'une vague allait balayer.
Which one wave would come wash away


J'en étais : l'arme à la bretelle,
I with them : weapons at the ready
Retranchés dans la citadelle,
Firm entrenched within the citadel
De pied ferme nous attendions
Resolute,we were awaiting
Une cohorte sarrazine
A great horde of saracen fighters (1)
Partie de la côte voisine
Embarked from the coast close by us
À l'assaut de notre bastion.
For the assault on our bastion


À cent pas de là sur la dune,
Hundred yards from there upon the dune
En attendant que la fortune
While waiting for the fortune of war
Des armes sourie aux vainqueurs,
To smile forth upon the vanquishers
Languissant d'être courtisées
Languishing for sweet courtships to come
Nos promises, nos fiancées
Our own betrothèd, promised to us,
Préparaient doucement leur coeur. (3)
Were gently preparing their hearts


Tout à coup l'Armada sauvage (1)
All at once the savage Armada
Déferla sur notre rivage
Launched its might upon our sandy shores
Avec ses lances, ses pavois, (4)
Pitting its lances, its bucklers
Pour commettre force rapines,
To carry out their widespread plunder
Et même enlever nos Sabines (5)
And even run off with our Sabine girls
Plus belles que les leurs, ma foi.
More beautiful than theirs, in truth

La mêlée fut digne d'Homère, (1)
The skirmish was worthy of Homer
Et la défaite bien amère
And the defeat was very bitter
À l'ennemi pourtant nombreux,
For the foe though strong in number
Qu'on battit à plate couture,
Whom we beat in resounding manner
Qui partit en déconfiture
Who went off in complete disarray
En déroute, en sauve-qui-peut.
Put to flight, running for their lives


Oui, cette horde de barbares
Yes, all that horde of barbarians
Que notre fureur désempare
Whom our awesome fury tears apart
Fit retraite avec ses vaisseaux,
Retreated with all its vessels,
En n'emportant pour tous trophées,
Carrying off as sole trophies
Moins que rien, deux balles crevées,
Next to nothing, a pair of bursted balls
Trois raquettes, quatre cerceaux. (6)
And three rackets, four bowling hoops.


Après la victoire fameuse
After the victory illustrous
En chantant l'air de "Sambre et Meuse"(7)
Singing the tune of « Sambre et Meuse »
Et de "La Marseillaise", ô gué, (8)
And of « the Marseillaise » pom pom pom,
On courut vers la récompense
We ran off for the sweet recompense
Que le joli sexe dispense
Which the fairer sex lavishes on
Aux petits héros fatigués.
Little heroes tired from the fray.


Tandis que tout bas à l'oreille
Whilst in soft tones into the ear
De nos Fanny, de nos Mireille,
Of our Muriels, of our Fannys
On racontait notre saga,
We related our stirring tale
Qu'au doigt on leur passait la bague,
Whilst on their finger we slipped the ring
Surgit une espèce de vague (9)
There rose up something like a sea swell
Que personne ne remarqua.
Of which nobody was aware


Au demeurant ce n'était qu'une
All said and done, it was only one
Vague sans amplitude aucune, (10)
Wave without real consequence at all
Une vaguelette égarée,
A little wave that lost its way
Mais en atteignant au rivage
But on its arrival on the shore
Elle causa plus de ravages,
It brought on more devastation
De dégâts, qu'un raz-de-marée.
More damage, than a tsunami.


Expéditive, la traîtresse
Expeditious, the treach’rous one
Investit notre forteresse,
Invested our fortress so doughty
La renversant, la détruisant.
Knocking it down, destroying it.
Adieu donjon, tours et courtines,
Farewell dungeon, towers and castle walls
Que quatre gouttes anodines
Which four harmless seeming water drops
Avaient effacés en passant.
Had oblit’rated in passing


À quelque temps de là nous sommes (11)
T'was some time later that we went
Allés mener parmi les hommes
To join in some more fights as men
D'autres barouds plus décevants,
Which turned out more disappointing.
Allés mener d'autres campagnes,
Went out to join in some more campaigns
Où les châteaux sont plus d'Espagne,(12)
Where castles are purer fancy
Et de sable qu'auparavant.
And made more of sand, than before


Quand je vois lutter sur la plage
When I see them fighting upon the beach
Des soldats à la fleur de l'âge,
Soldiers in the full bloom of life,
Je ne les décourage pas,
I offer no discouragement
Quoique je sache, ayant naguère
Although I know, having not long past
Livré moi-même cette guerre,
Been myself engaged in this war,
L'issue fatale du combat.
The fatal outcome of the fight


Je sais que malgré leur défense,
I know that in spite of their defence
Leur histoire est perdue d'avance,
Their history is doomed in advance
Mais je les laisse batailler,
But I leave them to fight it out
Pour sauver un château de sable
To rescue a castle made of sand
Et ses remparts infranchissables
And its ramparts so unbreachable
Qu'une vague allait balayer.
That one wave would wipe away.

TRANSLATION NOTES

1) Je chante la petite guerre This first line is a deliberate echo of the opening words of Virgil’s Aeniad : "Arma virumque cano" (Of arms and the man I sing). The Roman poet was writing of the epic wars that led to the foundation of Rome. Brassens is talking of a war little in comparison, but the mock epic tone of his first line suggests that the small war has deep significance for humanity. We will see that the ordinary events of the poem are described in terms which refer to epic events in history: La mêlée fut digne d'Homère -- cohorte sarrazine -- l'Armada – the rape of the Sabine women – military victories -Sambre et Meuse

2) ..... braves enfants......... sur la plage. The theme of the poem is the carefree pleasures of childhood and youth. Brassens represents this with the games of children on the beach, boisterous and probably not too popular with some adults. Brassens’ song « Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète », expresses his lifelong love for the beaches of the town where he passed his childhood.

3) nos fiancées .....préparaient doucement leur cœur. Events of childhood and puberty merge in this poem. The assailants would seem to be youths from the surrounding area come to make advances to their women. Although the newcomers are described as alien Saracens, the girls of Sète are excitedly preparing to accept the boys who emerge best from the encounters. Romantic love has as little place with Brassens as it had with George Bernard Shaw, whose play “Arms and the Man” also put a different cast on Virgil’s epic view. One of Shaw’s themes was the folly of basing your affections on idealistic notions of love.

4) Pavois (bucklers) were small shields gripped in the fist by the fighter.

5) Sabines. In Roman legend, the Romans attacked the region of the Sabines to forcibly capture and take away their women, when Rome had not enough women to provide brides for the native men folk.

6) deux balles crevées, trois raquettes, quatre cerceaux .... After the epic battle, it comes as a surprise that the defeated “Saracens” made off only with these childhood toys. The first amorous episodes of youth mark the end of childhood and we are too involved in the new excitement to realise that the no longer used toys that we pass on contain precious years of our life, with familiar places and vivid experiences now receding into the past.

7) Sambre et Meuse ……. La Marseillaise. These are of course great French patriotic songs to mark their victory. The army of Sambre-et-Meuse was the famous French revolutionary army, which, in 1794, turned the tide of war by defeating the Austrians and the Dutch in Flanders.

8) gué is a standard interjection found in songs and poems to express a mood of rejoicing. Larousse tells me that the word is a corruption of “gai”

9) Surgit une espèce de vague --- The responsibilities of adult life end the exhilarating freedom of youth and a most significant step is when a couple engage in what Brassens sees as the imprisonment of marriage. (See also La non-demande en mariageJe me suis fait tout petitLes amoureux des bancs publics etc)

10) Amplitude means “large scale”.

11) À quelque temps de là ---This verse expresses the disillusionment that life brings after the relative innocence of childhood and youth.

12) châteaux d'Espagne - Castles in Spain mean fanciful ideas.  In English we also say "castles in the air".



Mistral gagnant – (Renaud 1998)

sung by Vanessa Paradis and Maxime Le Forestier

This song recalls the mischievous, irresponsible pleasures of childhood in France during the 1950s and 1960s –ruining your shoes by splashing in puddles to get your mum going etc. The title “Winning Mistral” was a sherbet style sweet that children bought or pinched from the shop and if it said “Winner” in the packet,you got another packet free. These were happy days filled with love, but time carries off the laughter of children.


Ah... m'asseoir sur un banc
cinq minutes avec toi
et regarder les gens
tant qu'y en a
Te parler du bon temps
qu'est mort ou qui r'viendra
en serrant dans ma main
tes p'tits doigts
Pi donner à bouffer
à des pigeons idiots
leur filer des coups d'pied
pour de faux
Et entendre ton rire
qui lézarde cracks les murs
qui sait surtout guérir
mes blessures
Te raconter un peu
comment j'étais, mino
les bombecs fabuleux
qu'on piquait chez l'marchand
car en sac et Mintho
caramels à un franc
et les Mistral gagnants
Ah... marcher sous la pluie
cinq minutes avec toi
et regarder la vie
tant qu'y en a
Te raconter la Terre
en te bouffant devouring des yeux
Te parler de ta mère
un p'tit peu
Et sauter dans les flaques
pour la faire râler grumble
Bousiller ruin nos godasses shoes
et s'marrer
Et entendre ton rire
comme on entend la mer
s'arrêter, repartir
en arrière
Te raconter surtout
les Carambars d'antan http://uk.saveurdujour.com/images/CarambarsCara.gif
et les coco-boërs
et les vrais roudoudous
qui nous coupaient les lèvres
et nous niquaient les dents
et les Mistral gagnants
Ah... m'asseoir sur un banc
cinq minutes avec toi
regarder le soleil
qui s'en va
Te parler du bon temps
qu'est mort et je m'en fous
Te dire que les méchants
c'est pas nous
Que si moi je suis barge crazy/ dizzy
ce n'est que de tes yeux
car ils ont l'avantage
d'être deux
Et entendre ton rire
s'envoler aussi haut
que s'envolent les cris
des oiseaux
Te raconter enfin
qu'il faut aimer la vie
et l'aimer même si
le temps est assassin
et emporte avec lui
les rires des enfants
et les Mistral gagnants
et les Mistral gagnants

To see Le Forestier in his youth, see his duet with Georges Brassens. Click
Les Passantes

A poem in English that deals with the same theme is “I remember, I remember,” written by Thomas Hood, who was born in 1799. In Hood’s case, the contrast between the magic of childhood and the disillusionment of the later years was all the more grim, because he suffered from a painful illness from his early thirties. He died shortly before his 46th birthday. Within this sad framework, however, his picture of the joys of his childhood are very vivid’
I remember, I remember,
The house where I was born,
The little window where the sun
Came peeping in at morn;
He never came a wink too soon,
Nor brought too long a day,
But now, I often wish the night
Had borne my breath away!

I remember, I remember,
The roses, red and white,
The vi'lets, and the lily-cups,
Those flowers made of light!
The lilacs where the robin built,
And where my brother set
The laburnum on his birthday,--
The tree is living yet!

I remember, I remember,
Where I was used to swing,
And thought the air must rush as fresh
To swallows on the wing;
My spirit flew in feathers then,
That is so heavy now,
And summer pools could hardly cool
The fever on my brow!

I remember, I remember,
The fir trees dark and high;
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was a childish ignorance,
But now 'tis little joy
To know I'm farther off from heav'n
Than when I was a boy

Saturday, 24 April 2010

La première fille

La première fille

Once again Brassens sings about the excitement of first love and its eternal charm


Georges Brassens got his words wrong in the last verse. I suspect that it is because he was seated so close to his audience, composed of a number of sweet young girls, and felt he had to cut out the explicit words. This led to a mix up with his accompanists.I like the way, when Georges went wrong, his young audience sang it for him.

Here is a sound recording of Brassens singing the song- posted on YouTube


(As Brassens sings the song, he glides over the words that I have broken up with a dash)
J'ai tout oublié des campagnes
I’ve forgotten all about campa-aigns
D'Austerlitz et de Waterloo
Of Austerlitz and Waterloo
D'Italie, de Prusse et d'Espagne,
Italy, Prussia and in Spa-ain
De Pontoise et de Landerneau
Of Pontoise and of Landerneau.(1)

Jamais de la vie
Never in your lifetime
On ne l'oubliera,
You’ll ever forget her
La première fill'
The very first girl
Qu'on a pris' dans ses bras,
Whom you took in your arms


La première étrangère
The first girl, you had hardly known
À qui l'on a dit "tu" (2)
But asked out, heart in mouth.
Mon coeur, t'en souviens-tu ?)
My heart do you remember ?
Comme ell' nous était chère...
How dear she was to us
Qu'ell' soit fille honnête(3)
Whether she’s a virtuous girl
Ou fille de rien,(4)
Or girl not up to much
Qu'elle soit pucelle (5)
Whether you’re her first boy
Ou qu'elle soit putain, (5)
Or follow quite a lot
On se souvient d'elle,
You still remember her
On s'en souviendra,
You will remember this
D'la première fill'
About the first girl
Qu'on a pris' dans ses bras
Whom you took in your arms


Ils sont partis à tire-d'aile
They flew away at great spee-eed
Mes souvenirs de la Suzon,
My recollections of Susan
Et ma mémoire est infidèle
And my memory’s been unfaithful
À Julie, Rosette ou Lison
To Julie, Rosetta or Liza.

Jamais de la vie
Never in your lifetime
On ne l'oubliera,
You’ll ever forget her
La première fill'
The very first girl
Qu'on a pris' dans ses bras,
Whom you took in your arms


C'était un' bonne affaire
We struck a very good bargain
(Mon coeur, t'en souviens-tu ?)
My heart do you remember ?
J'ai changé ma vertu
I traded my virtue
Contre une primevère...
And got a primrose flower (6)
Qu' ce soit en grand' pompe
Whether it’s done with great pomp
Comme les gens "bien",
As the « proper » folk do
Ou bien dans la ru',
Or else down in the street
Comm' les pauvre' et les chiens,
As the poor people and the dogs
On se souvient d'elle,
You still remember her
On s'en souviendra,
You will remember this
D'la première fill'
About the first girl
Qu'on a pris' dans ses bras
Whom you took in your arms


Toi, qui m'as donné le baptême
You who gave me the baptism-me
D'amour et de septième ciel,
Of love and of the seventh heaven
Moi, je te garde et, moi, je t'aime,
Know I keep you, Know I love you
Dernier cadeau du Pèr' Noël !
Last gift sent from Santa Claus (7)

Jamais de la vie
Never in your lifetime
On ne l'oubliera,
You’ll ever forget her
La première fill'
The very first girl
Qu'on a pris' dans ses bras,
Whom you took in your arms

On a beau fair' le brave,
So much for the brave front
Quand ell' s'est mise nue
When she stripped herself bare
(Mon coeur, t'en souviens-tu ?)
My heart do you remember?
On n'en menait pas large(8)...
You fell right down to my boots.
Bien d'autres, sans doute,
Many others, there’s no doubt
Depuis, sont venues,
Have come along since then
Oui, mais, entre toutes
Yes, but, among them all,
Celles qu'on a connues,
The ones that you have known-
Elle est la dernière
She is the very last one
Que l'on oubliera,
Who will get forgotten
La première fill'
The very first girl
Qu'on a pris' dans ses bras,
Whom you took in your arms

NOTES
(1) Brassens says that he has forgotten all the history he learnt at school and to illustrate the point he includes in the last line two places that do not figure in war history.
(2) The change from using the “vous” form of you to the « tu » form is made when you assume you have reached a certain stage of familiarity. It can be a sensitive moment. In English, the first tense and embarrassing moment of asking a girl to go out with you is luckily not a linguistic problem.
(3) fille honnête – As well as the most usual meaning of honest, “honnête” also has the sense of decent. When speaking of a woman it means virtuous. It seemed an old fashioned adjective, but, in the end, I stuck with it. In the royal court of the 17th century, there was the concept of the “honnête homme” which was the equivalent of acting like a gentleman.
(4) De rien means “worth nothing”. This seemed too harsh in English.
(5) pucelle means virgin and putain means whore, but I wanted to soften these lines, as the harsh moral standards of the 50s, which Brassens deplored, no longer apply.
(6) Brassens uses elsewhere, the primrose, flower of early spring, as a symbol of the young love that replaces lost virginity
(7) The experience of lovemaking marked the end of childhood.
(8)On n'en menait pas large- is an idiom that means "your heart was in your boots"

Georges Brassens
(1954 - Les amoureux des bancs publics.)

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Notes on the classics of French literature. During my years of teaching, I wrote thousands of pages for my students. Preferring not to discard all these years of work, I am posting them on the Internet as a resource for teachers and students and I am using my blogsite as the portal in order to give access to the individual books. During my university course, I was an Assistant for one year in Arras and my nostalgia for Georges Brassens stems from these happy days- now long gone- when his songs were first being recorded and he was all the rage among the student surveillants. When I opened this Blogsite many years ago, I used David Barfield, my maternal family name, as my Internet alias. My actual name is David Yendley and if any of my past students come across this site, I send them my best wishes. They were great company to be with.