Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Index of Brassens’ songs



If you are looking for one particular song, you are recommended to use one of the following indexes.  The name of each is the link:







The index below lists my Brassens selection in the order in which I have translated and posted the songs and it represents the random sequence of my choice over the last seven years. 

If you are looking for one particular song, you will find my alternative indexes useful: 1) Index inAlphabetical Order – 2) Index in Album Order.  I have put links to these alternative indexes at the top of this page.

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LIST OF MY BRASSENS SONGS IN ORIGINAL ORDER OF POSTING:

To access the song, click on the song title -  which links directly to the song on my blogsite.


La Prière « Chanson pour l’auvergnat » (1955).  Brassens shares the view of poet Francis Jammes of the trials and tribulations of all creatures of the world

Cupidon s'en fout -(Don Juan- 1976) - How a very promising date with a young lady in the forest turns out

GRAND-PÈRE (Je me suis fait tout petit -1957) - Events after his grandad’s sudden death arouse in him bitter feelings of social injustice.

Brave Margot  - (Les amoureux des bancs publics) (1954)- A popular song about naughty going-ons  in French country life of the past


Le petit joueur de flûtiau  - (1964 - Les copains d'abord ) The story of a royal musician explains a choice Brassens had made


Le Fantôme(1966 -Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète) -A meeting with a ghost provides 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 man wrecked by ill-health reassesses his list of true friends

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 - inappropriately!


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 sexual love, but also the worries involved.

Les Passantes (Fernande)Antoine Pol's wistful poem about the memorable women who flitted for a moment into his life 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 eighty 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!

Links to David Yendley’s French Culture Websites

Links to My French Literature Sites
Anatole France – Les Dieux ont Soif – 
Summary and Historical Background  - A vivid picture of life during « The Terror » of the French Revolution.

Balzac – Le Père Goriot – 
Summary – Biography of Balzac and Complete Student Notes for this Coming of age novel: A young student forces his way into Paris High Society and learns its extravagance, its corruption and its cruelty.

Bazin (Hervé)  Vipère au Poing -  
Summary – Author’s Biography and Essay Topics – This autobiographical novel shows the crippling effects of an oppressive upbringing in an extremist Catholic family.

Camus – L’étranger - 
Summary and Author’s Biography – Essay Topics- This famous novel shows how society treats the individual who is not able to conform to conventional values.

Camus – La Chute - 
Summary - Author’s Biography and Essay Topics
In this enigmatic novel, Camus is once again exploring the situation of a social dropout.

Duhamel- Le Notaire du Havre – 
Summary -  Biography of Georges Duhamel - Essay Topics for students- A dramatic and very human autobiographical story of the wild hopes of an impecunious middle class family, living in Paris at the  end of the 19th Century.

Mme de Lafayette – La Princesse de Clèves - 
Summary and Full Essay Topics.  This classic historical novel tells of life in France of the 16th Century, but reflects the life of Mme de Lafayette’s own time – the court life under Louis XIV a century later.

Voltaire – Candide – 
Summary -  Biography of Voltaire and Complete Student Notes -  In an action packed story of many different episodes, Voltaire takes his innocent hero on journey across the world, to review the situations and events of his century.  Voltaire is asking throughout whether this is indeed the “best of all possible worlds”, which the contemporary school of Optimist philosophy are so obstinate to claim
.
Marcel Pagnol's Biography. - Summary of the novel - Background to the story, which tells of Pagnol’s idyllic family holidays at their remote cottage in Provence during the decade before the First World War.  However, drama also intervenes and this is a very moving story.


Links to the Sites of Two favourite French Singers
Brassens – 80+ songs with English translations and commentary

With videos from YouTube

Carla Bruni – Most of her songs with English translations and commentary - 
With videos from YouTube




Les Croquants - Admiration for a girl who is a free spirit

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,
Acheter des pucelle' aux saintes bonnes gens,
Les croquants leur mett'nt à prix d'argent(2)
La main dessus,(3) la main dessous..(4.).





Mais la chair de Lisa, la chair fraîch' de Lison

(que les culs cousus d'or(5) se fass'nt une raison !)(6)
C'est pour la bouch' du premier venu
Qui a les yeux tendre' et les mains nues…
Les croquants, ça les attriste, ça
Les étonne, les étonne,
Qu'une fille, une fill' bell' comm' ça,
S'abandonne, s'abandonne
Au premier ostrogoth(7) venu...
Les croquants, ça tombe des nues(8)






Les fill's de bonnes moeurs, les fill's de bonne vie,
Qui' ont vendu leur fleurette(9) à la foire à l'encan,(10)
Vont s' vautrer dans la couch' des croquants,
Quand les croquants en ont envie...


Mais la chair de Lisa, la chair fraîch' de Lison
(que les culs cousus d'or se fass'nt une raison !)
N'a jamais accordé ses faveurs
À contre-sous, à contrecoeur...



Les croquants, ça les attriste, ça
Les étonne, les étonne,
Qu'une fille, une fill' bell' comm' ça,
S'abandonne, s'abandonne
Au premier ostrogoth  venu...
Les croquants, ça tombe des nues.




Les fill's de bonne vie ont le coeur consistant
Et la fleur(11) qu'on y trouve est garantie longtemps,
Comm' les fleurs en papier des chapeaux,
Les fleurs en pierre des tombeaux...




Mais le coeur de Lisa, le grand coeur de Lison

Aime faire peau neuve(12) avec chaque saison
Jamais deux fois la même couleur,
Jamais deux fois la même fleur...


Les croquants, ça les attriste, ça
Les étonne, les étonne,
Qu'une fille, une fill' bell' comm' ça,
S'abandonne, s'abandonne
Au premier ostrogoth(7) venu...
Les croquants, ça tombe des nues



1955 - Chanson pour l'auvergnat

The big shots , ride in town astride their moneybags
To buy up virgins from righteous goodly folk
 The big shots, by making down-payments in cash, get
Their hands on them, their hands under...




But the flesh of Lisa, the cool flesh of Lizie,
(Let the arseholes stuffed with money face up to it)
Is for the mouth of the first man she meets
Who comes empty-handed, eyes filled with love.
The rich sods, it depresses them, it
Astounds them, astounds them
That a girl, a pretty girl like that
Should yield herself, should yield herself
To the first troglodyte that comes along.
The rich sods just can't believe it.



The girls with right manners, the girls who live nice lives,
Who sold their flowerlets  at public auction
Spreadeagle themselves in the rich sods’ beds
When the rich sods fancy a bit…


But the flesh of Lisa, the cool flesh of Lizie,
(Let the arseholes stuffed with money face up to it)
Has never given of her favours
‘ gainst money –gainst her wishes


The rich sods, it depresses them, it
Astounds them, astounds them
That a girl, a pretty girl like that
Should yield herself, should yield herself
To the first troglodyte that comes along.
The rich sods just can't believe it.



The good-living girls have a heart that’s consistent
And the flower within has a long guarantee,
Like the paper flowers found upon hats
And like the stone flowers found upon tombs…

But the heart of Lisa, the great heart of Lizie
Likes to make a new start with every season
Never, twice over, the same colour
Never, twice over, the same flower


The rich sods, it depresses them, it
Astounds them, astounds them
That a girl, a pretty girl like that
Should yield herself, should yield herself
To the first troglodyte that comes along.
The rich sods just can't believe it.


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.



L'ENTERREMENT DE VERLAINE(1)

Le revois-tu mon âme, ce Boul' Mich' d'autrefois
Et dont le plus beau jour fut un jour de beau froid:
Dieu ! S'ouvrit-il jamais une voie aussi pure
Au convoi d'un grand mort suivi de miniatures ?



Tous les grognards - petits - de Verlaine étaient là,
Toussotant, frissonnant, glissant sur le verglas,
Mais qui suivaient ce mort et la désespérance,
Morte enfin, du premier rossignol de la France.(2)
Ou plutôt du second (François de Montcorbier,(3


Voici belle lurette (4) en fut le vrai premier)
N'importe ! Lélian,(5) je vous suivrai toujours!
Premier ? Second ? Vous seul. En ce plus froid des jours.
N'importe ! Je suivrai toujours, l'âme enivrée
Ah ! folle d'une espérance désespérée (6)




Montesquiou-Fezensac(7) et Bibi-la-purée(8)
Vos deux gardes du corps, - entre tous moi dernier.


From the poem of Paul Fort 
My heart, can you see that Boulevard Mich of yore
And whose finest day was a day of cold beauty
God ! Was ever city highway so pure opened up
For hearse of a great man with lesser folk behind?



All of Verlaine’s old crowd – little rated - were there
Coughing and shivering, slipping on the sheet ice
But who followed this corpse and the sense of despair,
Dead at last, of the first nightingale of the French.
Or rather, the second. (François de Montcorbier…


Here we have, by a long chalk, the firstcomer
No matter ! Lélian, I’ll follow you always.
The first ? Second ? Just you. On this coldest of days
No matter! I'll follow always, soul enraptured-
Ah ! driven mad by a hope despaired of




Montesquiou-Fezensac and Bibi-la-purée
Your two pall-bearers- among them, me, at the back.


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 Comments


1 Verlaine 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.




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The poem is recited:


Brassens-L'enterrement de Verlaine
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