Tuesday, 28 April 2009

La mauvaise herbe - The famous song where he portrays himself as the social outcast

This is another of Brassens' songs that was banned on French radio.  It is not hard to imagine why.

In this song, Brassens asks people to allow some space and tolerance to individualists, like him, who cannot accept the conventional values of society. He feels indifferent to patriotism and has no respect for conventional sexual morality.  He has a natural affinity with those whose life-style gets them looked down upon as outsiders.



La mauvaise herbe – The worthless weed (1)



Quand l' jour de gloire est arrivé, (2)
Comm' tous les autr's étaient crevés,
Moi seul connus le déshonneur
De n' pas êtr' mort au champ d'honneur.


Je suis d'la mauvaise herbe,
Braves gens, braves gens,
C'est pas moi qu'on rumine
Et c'est pas moi qu'on met en gerbe...(3)



La mort faucha les autres
Braves gens, braves gens,
Et me fit grâce à moi,
C'est immoral et c'est comm' ça !
La la la la la la la la


Et je m' demand'
Pourquoi, Bon Dieu,
Ça vous dérange (5)
Que j' vive un peu...
Et je m' demand'
Pourquoi, Bon Dieu,
Ça vous dérange
Que j' vive un peu...



La fille à tout l'monde(6) a bon coeur,
Ell' me donne, au petit bonheur
Les p'tits bouts d' sa peau, bien cachés,
Que les autres n'ont pas touchés.


Je suis d'la mauvaise herbe,
Braves gens, braves gens,
C'est pas moi qu'on rumine
Et c'est pas moi qu'on met en gerbe...


Elle se vend aux autres,
Braves gens, braves gens,
Elle se donne à moi,
C'est immoral et c'est comme ça !
La la la la la la la la


Et je m' demand'
Pourquoi, Bon Dieu,
Ça vous dérange
Qu'on m'aime un peu.
Et je m' demand'
Pourquoi, Bon Dieu,
Ça vous dérange
Qu'on m'aime un peu..




Les hommes sont faits, nous dit-on,
Pour vivre en band', comm' les moutons.
Moi, j' vis seul, et c'est pas demain
Que je suivrai leur droit chemin.




Je suis d'la mauvaise herbe,
Braves gens, braves gens,
C'est pas moi qu'on rumine
Et c'est pas moi qu'on met en gerbe...


Je suis d' la mauvaise herbe,
Braves gens, braves gens,
Je pousse en liberté
Dans les jardins mal fréquentés !
La la la la la la la la


Et je m' demand'
Pourquoi, Bon Dieu,
Ça vous dérange
Que j' vive un peu...
Et je m' demand'
Pourquoi, Bon Dieu,
Ça vous dérange
Que j' vive un peu...



Georges Brassens from the album
(1954) - Les amoureux des bancs publics


When th’ day of glory came to pass
As all the rest were dead and gone
I alone knew the dishonour
Of not dying on field of battle.


I'm a mere worthless weed
Goodly folk, goodly folk,
It’s not I, gets chewed t’cud
And I'm not what gets put in sheaves.



Death mowed down the others
Goodly folk, goodly folk,

And me it left unharmed,
It’s immoral - it's how things go!
La la la la la la la la.


And I wonder
Why then, Good Lord,
It  upsets you
That I live a bit
And I wonder
Why, Good Lord,
It  upsets you
That I live a bit




The girl enjoyed by all all is kind,
She offers me, when I’m in luck,
Her littl' bits of skin well hidden
That the other men have not touched.


I'm a mere worthless weed

Goodly folk, goodly folk,
It’s not I, gets chewed t’cud
And I'm not what gets put in sheaves.


She charges other men,
Goodly folk, goodly folk,

For what she gives to me.
It’s immoral , that’s how things go!
La la la la la la la la


And I wonder
Why then, Good Lord,
It  upsets you
I get loved a bit
And I wonder
Why, Good Lord,
It  upsets you
I get loved a bit




All men are made, they tell us,
To live in flocks, the way sheep do,
I live alone and it's not soon,
That I'll be foll’wing their strait path.





I'm a mere worthless weed

Goodly folk, goodly folk,
It’s not I, gets chewed t’cud
And I'm not what gets put in sheaves.



I'm a mere worthless weed

Goodly folk, goodly folk,
I grow entirely free
In gardens where few folk venture!
La la la la la la la la


And I wonder
Why then, Good Lord,
It  upsets you
That I live a bit
And I wonder
Why, Good Lord,
It  upsets you
That I live a bit



Translation Notes

(1) “La mauvaise herbe” means “the weed”, but I put “worthless” in front because of image conveyed in English when the epithet is applied to a person - we think of some-one weak and ineffectual. This is not appropriate for the powerful physical presence and personality of Brassens. In reality, weeds are often the biggest and sturdiest plants in our gardens and I suppose that some-one described as a weed ought to feel quite flattered.

(2) “Le jour de gloire est arrive” – a well-known line in the French National Anthem-

(3) The “Good people” are not weeds like the author of the poem. The contrasting image for these worthy folk is the corn of the fields. They have a useful purpose in the world, just as the corn feeds the cattle and yields a fruitful harvest, evidenced by the sheaves in the fields.

(4) « Faire grâce à » means « to spare ».

(5) “Ça vous derange” – The “you” he is addressing is not primarily God but all the worthy people who might disapprove of him and his conduct- in which case “Good God” would seem to be more of an exclamation.



(6) The girl who sells herself to everyone has put herself outside the bounds of respectable society. She recognises that he is a fellow outsider. In their natural fellowship, the poet and the prostitute enjoy an uninhibited and sincere relationship.


Brassens had depicted himself as an outsider in his song collection of the previous year with his song; "La mauvaise reputation".


Please clickhere to return to the full alphabetical list of my Georges Brassens selection

1 comment:

Andy Fincham said...

Many thanks indeed - nice translation. I shall learn this today. Best Andy