Monday, 6 December 2010

Le petit cheval - Georges Brassens

Brassens makes a song of Paul Fort’s poem about a little white horse. With its catchy refrain lines: “Tous derrière, tous derrière” ........... “Tous derrière et lui devant »this has become a popular children’s song often taught in French primary schools. Yet a French girl commenting after the YouTube recording tells how it always made her cry as a child and now that she sees it again at eighteen, it has the same effect.

Here Brassens is accompanied by Nana Mouskouri




Le petit cheval
Le p'tit ch'val dans le mauvais temps
Qu'il avait donc du courage !
C'était un petit cheval blanc
Tous derrière, tous derrière
C'était un petit cheval blanc
Tous derrière et lui devant !

Il n'y avait jamais de beau temps
Dans ce pauvre paysage !
Il n'y avait jamais de printemps
Ni derrière, ni derrière,
Il n'y avait jamais de printemps
Ni derrière ni devant !

Mais toujours il était content
Menant les gars du village
A travers la pluie noire des champs
Tous derrière, tous derrière
A travers la pluie noire des champs
Tous derrière et lui devant !

Sa voiture allait poursuivant
Sa bell' petit' queue sauvage
C'est alors qu'il était content
Tous derrière, tous derrière
C'est alors qu'il était content
Tous derrière et lui devant !

Mais un jour dans le mauvais temps,
Un jour qu'il était si sage
Il est mort par un éclair blanc
Tous derrière, tous derrière
Il est mort par un éclair blanc(1)
Tous derrière et lui devant !


Il est mort sans voir le beau temps
Qu'il avait donc du courage !
Il est mort sans voir le printemps
Ni derrière, ni derrière
Il est mort sans voir le printemps
Ni derrière, ni devant !

Paul Fort

Brassens (1953) La mauvaise réputation

The little horse in bad weather
What a lot of courage he had!
He was just a little white horse
All at the back, all at the back
He was just a little white horse
All at the back and he in front!

There wasn’t ever fine weather
On this ill-favoured countryside
There was never a sign of Spring
Not at the back, Not at the back,
There was never a sign of Spring
Not at the back nor in front!

And yet he was always content
Taking the lads of the village
Through heavy black rain of the fields
All at the back, all at the back
Through heavy black rain of the fields
All at the back and he in front!

His cart rolled along, pursuing
His fine lit’le tail wildly lashing
It was then that he was content
All at the back, all at the back
It was then that he was content
All at the back and he in front!

But one day in the bad weather,
One day when he’d been oh so good
He died struck by a lightning flash
All at the back, all at the back
He died struck by a lightning flash
All at the back and he in front!


He died without see’ng fine weather
What a lot of courage he had!
He died without seeing the spring
Not at the back, Not at the back,
He died without seeing the spring
Not at the back, nor in front!








TRANSLATION NOTE

1) un éclair blanc – There are two contrasting colours in this poem, the black pessimism of the grim scene and its weather with its black rain. In contrast there is the white optimism of the horse and surprisingly the force that kills him is white. Perhaps there is a symbol that the horse, who did no wrong, was too good for this world and was taken to join the light.


Click here to return to the Index of Brassens songs

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

First, I would like to echo the thank you for all your hard work. If I may say so in all humility your translations achieve both neatness and accuracy- no easy task.
As to the French girl's comment, one imagines that if she had read about Trompette in "Germinal", she would never have made it to 18!

Fanny LE MASSON said...

My Grandpa use to sing us this song before bed when we were kids. I don't think i was very attentive to the lyrics at the time, but now whenever i listen to this song it makes me want to smile and cry at the same time!

Fanny LE MASSON said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Brassens was played in our house since I was a child, so I have now been listening to him for over 50 years, never failing to be moved deeply... all with no French... And now, thanks to you, the meaning of the words is joining the emotion. Thank you with all my heart.

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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.