Friday, 8 February 2008

Chanson pour l'auvergnat - His gratitude to those who stood by him

During his youth, Brassens had a traumatic experience, when he brought disgrace on himself and his family after being convicted of petty theft.  There are references in this poem that seem to reflect these events.However the most immense debt of gratitude of Brassens life was due to a couple whom he met later, Marcel Planche and his wife, Jeanne.  At great risk to themselves, they hid him and looked after him after Brassens had absconded from a forced labour camp in Germany in 1944.  Marcel Planche came originally from the Auvergne.

I tell the story in my essay on the love of Georges Brassens and Jeanne Planche





Chanson pour l'auvergnat

Elle est à toi cette chanson
Toi l'Auvergnat qui, sans façon,
M'a donné quatre bouts de bois
Quand dans ma vie il faisait froid.

Toi qui m'a donné du feu quand
Les croquantes et les croquants
Tous les gens bien intentionnés
M'avaient fermés la porte au nez.

Ce n'était rien qu'un feu de bois
Mais il m'avait chauffé le corps
Et dans mon âme, il brûle encore
À la manière d'un feu de joie...


Toi, l'Auvergnat quand tu mourras
Quand le croc-mort t'emportera
Qu'il te conduise à travers ciel
Au père éternel.

Elle est à toi cette chanson
Toi l'hôtesse qui, sans façon,
M'a donné quatre bouts de pain
Quand dans ma vie il faisait faim.

Toi qui m'ouvrit ta huche quand
Les croquantes et les croquants
Tous les gens bien intentionnés
S'amusaient à me voir jeuner.

Ce n'était rien qu'un peu de pain
Mais il m'avait chauffé le corps
Et dans mon âme, il brûle encore
À la manière d'un grand festin...

Toi, l'hôtesse quand tu mourras
Quand le croc-mort t'emportera
Qu'il te conduise à travers ciel
Au père éternel.

Elle est à toi cette chanson
Toi l'étranger qui, sans façon,
D'un air malheureux m'a sourit
Lorsque les gendarmes m'ont pris.

Toi qui n'a pas applaudi quand
Les croquantes et les croquants
Tous les gens bien intentionnés
Riaient de me voir rammené.

Ce n'était rien qu'un peu de miel
Mais il m'avait chauffé le corps
Et dans mon âme, il brûle encore
À la manière d'un grand soleil...

Toi, l'étranger quand tu mourras
Quand le croc-mort t'emportera
Qu'il te conduise à travers ciel
To God eternal.
Song for the man from the Auvergne

It is for you this little song
Man of Auvergne who without fuss,
Once gave to me four bits of wood
When in my life there was real cold.

You who gave fire to warm me when
Staid members of the upper crust
All the people with good intent
Had slammed their doors shut in my face.

It was merely a fire of sticks
But it had warmed my body through
And in my soul it burns on still
In the way a bonfire would do.


You man from Auvergne, when you die
When the mortician bears you off
May he take you across heaven,
To the God everlasting.

It is for you this little song
You the hostess who, without fuss,
Once gave to me four bits of bread
When in my life there was hunger .

You who opened your larder when
Staid members of the upper crust
All the people with good intent
Enjoyed seeing me go without.

It was merely a bit of bread
But it had warmed my body through
And in my soul, it burns on still
In the way a great feast would do.

You, the hostess, when you will die
When the mortician bears you off,
May he take you across heaven,
To God everlasting.

It is for you this little song
You, the stranger, who, without fuss,
Looking dejected, smiled at me,
When the policemen took me off.

You who didn’t join the applause when
Staid members of the upper crust
All the people with good intent
Laughed to see me be led away.

T'was merely a touch of honey
But it had warmed my body through
And in my soul it burns on still
In the way bright sunshine would do ...

You, the stranger, when you will die
When the mortician bears you off
May he take you across heaven,
To God everlasting.









TRANSLATION NOTE
(1) Les Croquants - Le Petit Robert dictionary tells us that « les croquants » were peasants who rose in revolt during the reigns of Henri IV and Louis XIII. It says that the word then took on the meaning of peasants and is sometimes used with sense of thief or skinflint. Since working on Brassens’ song “Les Croquants”, I have formed the idea that the word is a pejorative for someone who arouses your strong hostility just as we say: “the bastards!” and the reason for the hostility depends on the context. In this case, I think Brassens found his respectable neighbours superior and judgemental.


A BRIEF BIOGRAPHICAL SUMMARY
If the song suggests that acts of friendship are rare, this would certainly not represent the life of Georges Brassens. He had a unique gift of friendship. In March 1943, he was conscripted to a German work camp at Basdorf. The friends he made there were his friends for life. Among them was a particularly close friend, Pierre Onténiente.

When Brassens returned to Paris on leave in March 1944, he went into hiding, sheltered by a married couple, Marcel and Jeanne Planche, who lived in a slum house in Paris. They were to play a big part in his life. Brassens' temporary stay in this insalubrious quartier extended until 1966.

 The Auvergnat who is thanked in this song is Marcel Planche and the hostess who served him his food is Jeanne. He wrote other songs for Jeanne, the most famous are "Jeanne" and “La cane de Jeanne”.  I suspect too that Jeanne was the real heroine of his song "La femme d'Hector"
                           
She was an inveterate animal lover.


Jeanne was Brassens’ mother and companion. But there was a stronger emotional tie. Speaking long after the death of Brassens, Pierre Onténiente, confided that Jeanne was in love with Georges and was jealous about him. Marcel was either indifferent or unaware, as his habit was to start to get drunk from eight in the morning

It was a great loss for Brassens when Jeanne died in 1968.

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Anonymous said...
Thank you for the translations. I was looking for a translation of "Chanson Pour L'Auvergnat" when I found your site. I first heard the song performed by Cornelis Vreeswijk (Dutch-Swedish artist resembling and inspired by Brassens) with a very different text, "Alice's Snaps", in Swedish. In fact I thought it was Brassens who had copied him when I heard "Chanson Pour L'Auvergnat" first time on the radio. You migth be intereseted in checking Vreeswijk out, some songs on youtube although I don't find "Alice's Snaps" there. His texts are all in Swedish, I think, unfortunately for non-Swedish speakers.

Have a nice Easter,
Morten
22 MARCH 2008 14:29

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11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this beautiful blog. Your translation and notes made my love to GB even bigger.

Eli
New York, New York.

Anonymous said...

merci, site devant être classé d'intérêt général!
Greg, prof de français au Mozambique

Anonymous said...

thanx

Michael said...

Thank you so much for your translation. I was using lyricstraining.com to get some kind of an understanding of this song with my limited French but the translation was kind of ropey! This is brilliant. I'm sure I'll be using your blog as much as I can from now on. Thanks again.

patrick dorfman said...

Merci and Thank you for posting this- just what I was looking for. I really love George Brassen's music

alan said...

Thanks for all your time and effort, it's much appreciated!!

Leo Neuhofer said...

Les croquantes et les croquants are the petits bourgeois...That's a better translation that what you assumed it to be.

Mary C. said...

Thank you so much for this site! I love using songs with my students to help their pronunciation and to introduce them to some French singers, so your translations and explanations have really made this task a lot easier for me! Mary Carden Northampton UK

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the translation. We came across a group of people singing this song at a musical festival in Dijon and and really enjoyed it, but we didn't know what it was about. We do now thanks to your translation.

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