Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Heureux qui, comme Ulysse - The song Brassens sang for the last film of Fernandel

This is the song that was written for the last film of the great French comic Fernadel. The title of the song was also the title of the film. In writing the melody, Brassens collaborated with the famous composer, Georges Delerue(4). The film script and the words of this song were written by Brassens’ old friend, the film producer, Henri Colpi(3) , whom Brassens knew from his time in Sète. Both men loved this area of southern France and although their eventful lives had led them away, when they returned, they relished the places where they had spent their happy earlier years. The very famous poem by Joachim du Bellay (1525 -1560), from which this song takes its title, was learnt at secondary school by all pupils of the generation of Colpi and Brassens. Colpi uses du Bellay’s sonnet not only for the sources of his titles and for the first two lines of this song but for the theme of the quest for a lost idyll after years of trials and tribulations.



Heureux qui comme Ulysse

Heureux qui comme Ulysse
Lucky he who like Ulysses
A fait un beau voyage,(1)
Journeyed far and wide
Heureux qui comme Ulysse
Lucky he who like Ulysses
A vu cent paysages
Has seen hundreds of lands
Et puis a retrouvé, après
And has regained again, after
Maintes traversées,
Many years of wand’ring
Le pays des vertes années.
The country of his youthful years

Par un petit matin d'été,
On an early Summer morning
Quand le soleil vous chante au cœur,
When the sun sings within your heart
Qu'elle est belle la liberté,
Then how fine it is to be free
La liberté!(5)
Fine to be free !

Quand on est mieux ici qu'ailleurs,
When you’re better here than elsewhere
Quand un ami(5) fait le bonheur,
When one friend can make you happy
Qu'elle est belle la liberté,
Then how fine it is to be free
La liberté!(5)
Fine to be free !

Avec le soleil et le vent,
With the days of sun and of wind
Avec la pluie et le beau temps,
With the weather rainy and fine
On vivait bien contents,
We lived very content
Mon cheval,(5) ma Provence et moi,
My horse my Provence and myself
Mon cheval, ma Provence et moi.
My horse my Provence and myself

Heureux qui comme Ulysse
Lucky he who like Ulysses
A fait un beau voyage
Jorneyed far and wide
A vu cent paysages
Has seen hundreds of lands
Et puis a retrouvé, après
And has regained again, after
Maintes traversées,
Many years of wand’ring
Le pays des vertes années.
The country of his youthful years

Par un joli matin d'été,
On an lovely Summer morning
Quand le soleil vous chante au cœur,
When the sun sings within your heart
Qu'elle est belle la liberté,
Then how fine it is to be free
La liberté!
Fine to be free !

Quand c'en est fini des malheurs,
When your woes are over and gone
Quand un ami sèche vos pleurs,
When there’s a friend to dry your tears
Qu'elle est belle la liberté,
Then how fine it is to be free
La liberté!
Fine to be free !

Battus de soleil et de vent,
Beaten by hot sun and by wind
Perdus au milieu des étangs,
Lost in its complex of salt lakes(2)
On vivra bien contents,
We will live quite content
Mon cheval, ma Camargue et moi,
My horse, my Camargue and myself.
Mon cheval, ma Camargue et moi,
My horse, my Camargue and myself

Henri Colpi(3) / Georges Delerue(4)
(Hors album) 1970

TRANSLATION NOTES

1) The first two lines are taken word for word from Du Bellay’s sonnet - see my notes below on this important poet
2) Perdus au milieu des étangs – The Camargue on the Mediterranean coast of France is the area of river delta at the mouth of the Rhône. Much of the region of the Camargue is under water and the salt water lakes which are formed are called étangs
3) Henri Colpi (1921 -2006) was a French film director, who made his name with the film Une aussi longue absence (1961), which included music by Georges Delerue(4). He was also a successful film editor and worked on about twenty films including Hiroshima mon amour (1961) and L'Année dernière à Marienbad (1963).

4) Georges Delerue (1925- 1992) was a very talented and a very prolific composer for cinema and television. During his 42 years career he wrote music for 325 long and short movies, 70 TV films and 35 TV serials. Directors he worked for were François Truffaut, Jean-Luc Godard, Alain Resnais, Louis Malle, and Colpi – as mentioned above. In Hollywood, he wrote scores for two Oliver Stone films.
5) La liberté! - Un ami - Mon cheval There are references in this poem that do not seem to fit well with Brassens. The declaration of liberty seems unnecessary -and perhaps over-dramatic- for some-one who had lived independent of the strictures of state, church and conventional social code all his life. The possession of one friend does not fit in with Brassens to whom a wide circle of friends was important. We do not think of Brassens as a keen horseman. The animals that were important in his life were his cats.
The explanation is that this was the theme song of a film and these references relate directly to the plot. The old man, who is the central character of the film, discovers that his beloved old horse has been sold to the picadors of the bullring, where it will face a cruel death. His answer is steal the horse and lead it to the Camargue, where he releases to roam safe and free among the wild white horses.

NOTES ON DU BELLAY’S POEM
The link between Du Bellay’s poem and his biography interests me.

The actor Gérard Philipe reads du Bellay’s poem



Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage
Heureux qui, comme Ulysse, a fait un beau voyage,
Lucky he who like Ulysses journeyed far and wide
Ou comme cestuy-là qui conquit la toison,
Or like the sturdy man who won the golden fleece
Et puis est retourné, plein d'usage et raison,
And then came back, full of civil charm and reason
Vivre entre ses parents le reste de son âge !
To live with his family the rest of his years

Quand reverrai-je, hélas, de mon petit village
When shall I, alas, see again in my small town,
Fumer la cheminée, et en quelle saison
The chimney smoking, and at what time of the year,
Reverrai-je le clos de ma pauvre maison,
Will I see again the patch around my poor house
Qui m'est une province, et beaucoup davantage ?
Which to me is a province and is much more else

Plus me plaît le séjour qu'ont bâti mes aïeux,
The home built by my forefathers pleases me more
Que des palais Romains le front audacieux,
Than the splendid frontals of Roman palaces
Plus que le marbre dur me plaît l'ardoise fine :
Much more than their harsh marble, our fine slate pleases:

Plus mon Loir gaulois, que le Tibre latin,
Rather my Gallic Loire than the Latin Tiber
Plus mon petit Liré, que le mont Palatin,
Rather my little Liré than Mount Palatine,
Et plus que l'air marin la doulceur angevine
And rather than sea air,the balm of Angiers


Joachim du Bellay, Les Regrets, sonnet XXXI, 1558


—THE LIFE OF DU BELLAY
Joachim du Bellay was born in 1525 in the little market town of Liré near to Angers. From an early age he had a great interest in literature. At the age of twenty-three years he struck up a friendship with the poet, Ronsard and became determined to make this his own vocation.
In the following year (1548), he followed Ronsard to Paris and went on to publish a collection of sonnets in the manner of Petrarch: “The Olive”. However soon afterwards, he had to leave Paris to go to Rome, where he was to work as secretary to his cousin, who was a cardinal.

At first, du Bellay was filled with enthusiasm for the antiquities of the eternal city and wrote in praise of them (les Antiquités de Rome). However later he became very disillusioned by the less commendable features of life in Rome and in the Vatican. He began to long for “la doulceur angevine”.

In 1558, after four years away, Du Bellay returned to France and published two books based on his experiences. “Les Regrets” is a collection of sonnets detailing his feelings of bitterness and melancholy. He describes political events in Rome and particularly at the Vatican. He expresses his disgust at the sexual immorality and the financial corruption that he observed, but the book also conveys his admiration for this city which was, at that time the centre of European culture and of modern ideas. In spite of this, Du Bellay was constantly homesick for his own little corner of France around the town of his birth and this is a major theme

Sadly, his life after his return to France was not the idyll to which he had looked forward during his exile in Rome. As a result of his criticism of the Church, he found himself deprived of the protectors who had financed him and he lived in relative poverty. He was in failing health and died in 1560, when he had only just turned thirty-five.

As the years went by, his poetry had become more subjective and spontaneous. This poem “Heureux qui comme Ulysse”, shows his fluency and ease of expression and, from our acquaintance with his life story, we know that it is written from the heart.
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Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Gastibelza, l'homme à la carabine - Victor Hugo's famous poem

This Brassens song is based on a poem by Victor Hugo, included in his collection of poems, “Les rayons et les ombres” of 1837. The piece was inspired by a Spanish folksong, the central story of which is that of a young woman, Sabine, a girl from a Moorish family, who was so incredibly beautiful that she could have chosen any man, including the highest in the land. In the event, she chose the one who offered her the greatest wealth. This is to the dismay of the narrator, a lowly local shepherd, Gastibelza, who was madly in love with her.

Brassens - Gastibelza
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Gastibelza l'homme à la carabine

Gastibelza(1), l'homme à la carabine,(2)
Chantait ainsi :
« Quelqu'un a-t-il connu Doña Sabine ?
Quelqu'un d'ici ?
Chantez, dansez, villageois ! La nuit gagne
Le mont Falu.(3)..
Le vent qui vient à travers la montagne
Me rendra fou.



« Quelqu'un de vous a-t-il connu Sabine,
Ma señora ?
Sa mère était la vieille maugrabine(4)
D'Antequera,
Qui chaque nuit criait dans la Tour Magne
Comme un hibou..
Le vent qui vient à travers la montagne
Me rendra fou.


 « Vraiment, la reine eût près d'elle été laide
Quand, vers le soir,
Elle passait sur le pont de Tolède
En corset noir.
Un chapelet du temps de Charlemagne
Ornait son cou...
Le vent qui vient à travers la montagne
Me rendra fou.




« Le roi disait, en la voyant si belle,
À son neveu :
"Pour un baiser, pour un sourire d'elle,
Pour un cheveu,
Infant Don Ruy, je donnerai l'Espagne
Et le Pérou !"
Le vent qui vient à travers la montagne
Me rendra fou.




« Je ne sais pas si j'aimais cette dame,
Mais je sais bien
Que, pour avoir un regard de son âme,
Moi, pauvre chien,
J'aurais gaiement passé dix ans au bagne
Sous les verrous...
Le vent qui vient à travers la montagne
Me rendra fou.



« Quand je voyais cette enfant, moi le pâtre
De ce canton,
Je croyais voir la belle Cléopâtre,
Qui, nous dit-on
Menait César, Empereur d'Allemagne,
Par le licou...
Le vent qui vient à travers la montagne
Me rendra fou.



« Dansez, chantez, villageois, la nuit tombe.
Sabine, un jour,
A tout vendu, sa beauté de colombe,
Tout son amour,
Pour l'anneau d'or du comte de Saldagne,
Pour un bijou...
Le vent qui vient à travers la montagne
M’a rendu fou.
Gastibelza, the man with hunting rifle,
Would sing this song :
Did anyone know young Dona Sabina ?
Someone from here ?
Dance, sing up, you villagers ! The darkness falls
On Mount Falou…..
The roar of the wind that blows ‘cross the mountain(4)
Will drive me mad.

Did anyone of you ever know Sabina
My senora ?
Her mother was the old Moorish woman from
Antequera
Who each night screamed inside the Grand Tower
Like a screech owl
The roar of the wind that blows ‘cross the mountain
Will drive me mad.


« In truth, the queen would have, beside her, seemed plain
When t’wards even’
She went by on the bridge of Toledo
In black bodice.
A string of beads from the time of Charlemagne
Adorned her neck.
The roar of the wind that blows ‘cross the mountain
Will drive me mad.


The king said, seeing her so beautiful
To his nephew
« For one mere kiss, for a single smile from her
For just one hair,
Infant Don Ruy, I shall give the whole of Spain
And of Peru »
The roar of the wind that blows ‘cross the mountain
Will drive me mad.


« I don’t know if I truly loved that lady
But know full well
That, to get from her one heartfelt glance
I, her poor dog,
I would gladly have done ten years in the jail
Bolted inside
The roar of the wind that blows ‘cross the mountain
Will drive me mad.


“Whenever I saw this young girl, I the shepherd
Of this canton
I thought to see beautiful Cleopatra
Who, people say
Led Caesar, Emperor of Germany,(5)
By the dog collar….
The roar of the wind that blows ‘cross the mountain
Will drive me mad.


Dance, sing up, you villagers! Night is falling.
One day, Sabin’
Sold it all away, her beauty dovelike pure
All of her love,
For the gold ring of the Count of Saldagna
For one jewel
The roar of the wind that blows ‘cross the mountain
Has driven me mad.




TRANSLATION NOTES

1) Gastibelza – Hugo enjoyed the effect that can be achieved by the use of proper names. This name from the original folk song is formed by the Basque word gazte (young man) and belza (black)

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2) la carabine – the carbine rifle was a shorter rifle designed for use by cavalrymen. When Franz Liszt put music to this song of Hugo, the German version of this line reads: Gastibelza the grey, old huntsman and I thought this idea replaced something once the lilt of “la carabine” was lost in the English.

3) Le mont Falu – There is peak in Corsica called Falu ( pronounced “Falou”. Hugo was capable of taking liberties when he liked the sound of a word – and sometimes it gave him a rhyme as here.

4) The wind that blows ‘cross the mountain - The Tramontane is one of the famous prevailing winds of southern Europe like the Mistral. Wikipedia tells me: “The continuous howling noise of the tramontane is said to have a disturbing effect upon the psyche.”

5) Maugrabine –Of Moorish ancestry, originating from Magreb. Notice Hugo’s use of proper names

6) Caesar, Emperor of Germany – Once again Hugo is introducing proper names - not too precisely. Although Caesar had subdued many Germanic tribes, the country of Germany did not exist at that time.

Listen to the  verve of this poem as sung by the admirable Sandrine Devienne:

Gastibeza .Hugo-Brassens par Sandrine Devienne
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A COMMENT ON MY TRANSLATION

I found myself asking why Hugo was attracted to re-write this Spanish folk song in his own verse. By chance, I found the answer in Hugo’s personal notes. I have copied the relevant extract and I translate it in the side column.

Les filles de village et les jolies grisettes de Bayonne se baignent avec des chemises de serge souvent fort trouées sans trop se soucier de ce que les trous montrent et de ce que les chemises cachent. 

Le second jour que j'allai à Biarritz, comme je me promenais à la marée basse au milieu des grottes, cherchant des coquillages et effarouchant les crabes qui fuyaient obliquement et s'enfonçaient dans le sable, j'entendis une voix qui sortait de derrière un rocher et qui chantait le couplet que voici en patoisant quelque peu, mais pas assez pour m'empêcher de distinguer les paroles :

Gastibelza, l'homme à la carabine,
chantait ainsi :
- quelqu'un a-t-il connu dona Sabine,
quelqu'un d'ici ?
Dansez, chantez, villageois, la nuit gagne
le mont Falu. -
Le vent qui vient à travers la montagne
me rendra fou.


C'était une voix de femme. Je tournai le rocher. La chanteuse était une baigneuse. Une belle fille qui nageait vêtue d'une chemise blanche et d'un jupon court dans une petite crique fermée par deux écueils à l'entrée d'une grotte. Ses habits de paysanne gisaient sur le sable au fond de la grotte.

En m'apercevant, elle sortit à moitié de l'eau et se mit à chanter sa seconde stance, et voyant que je l'écoutais immobile et debout sur le rocher, elle me dit en souriant dans un jargon mêlé de français et d'espagnol :

- Senor estrangero, conoce usted cette chanson ?
- Je crois que oui, lui dis-je. Un peu.
- Puis je m'éloignai, mais elle ne me renvoyait pas.


Est-ce que vous ne trouvez pas dans ceci je ne sais quel air d'Ulysse écoutant la sirène ? La nature nous rejette et nous redonne sans cesse en les rajeunissant, les thèmes et les motifs innombrables sur lesquels l'imagination des hommes a construit toutes les vieilles mythologies et toutes les vieilles poésies.


Somme toute, avec sa population cordiale, ses jolies maisons blanches, ses larges dunes, son sable fin, ses grottes énormes, sa mer superbe, Biarritz est un lieu admirable.

The village girls and the pretty grisettes* of Bayonne go swimming in serge shifts often very full of holes without worrying too much about what the holes show and about what the shifts are hiding.

On the second day when I went to Biarritz, as I was walking at low tide in the midst of the caves looking for shells and scaring the crabs that scuttered off obliquely and buried themselves in the sand I heard a voice that came out from behind a rock and which sang this verse here, with a bit of local patois thrown in, but not enough to prevent me from making out the words.

Gastibelza, the man with hunting rifle,
Would sing this song :
Did anyone know young Dona Sabina ?
Someone from here ?
Sing and dance, you villagers ! The darkness falls
On Mount Falou….



It was a woman’s voice. I went round the rock. The singer was a female bather. A beautiful girl, who was swimming dressed in a white shift and a short petticoat in a little creek enclosed by two reefs at the entrance of a cave. Her peasant clothes were lying on the sand at the back of the cave.

On becoming aware of me, she came half out of the water, and seeing that I was listening to her
motionless and standing on the rock, she said to me, smiling, in garbled words mixing up French and Spanish

- Does monsieur the stranger know this song ?
- I think I do a little.
Then I moved off, but she did not tell me to leave.



Do you not find in this some kind of flavour of Ulysses listening to the siren? Nature constantly throws back to us and gives us again, while rejuvenating them, the countless themes and motifs, upon which the imagination of humankind has built all the old mythologies and all the old poetry.


All in all, with its friendly people, its pretty houses of white, is extensive dunes, its fine sand, its enormous caves, its superb sea, Biarritz is an admirable place. 



*The word grisette has been used with reference to a French working-class woman since the late 17th century. The 1694 edition of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie française simply described a grisette as "a woman of lowly condition". By the 1835 edition of the dictionary, there were other connotations. She was described as: a young working woman who is coquettish and flirtatious. (Thanks to Wikipedia for this information)

** The town of Bayonne is a little less than 5 kilometres from Biarritz. The word Bayonne also describes this district to the north of of the Pyrenees, which is the French Basque region - the name coming from the Basque name “ Baïona”

Click here to go to the Index of my Brassens selection

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Bonhomme - a peasant woman redresses the scales of her marriage at the last




This pessimistic song tells of the poverty of the underprivileged and of the sadness of human mortality in stark terms.  This would leave us with a gloomy, to the English mind, a Victorian poem.  Such indeed is the background but there is more to the poem than this.   There is a hidden message and the clue is in the last line of each verse: the old man is dying "De mort naturelle".  The man is old and ill, therefore what is the significance of repeatedly giving this reassurance about his death.  We should ponder this as we hear the poem.





BONHOMME - HER GOOD MAN LIES DYING

Malgré la bise ( 1) qui mord,
La pauvre vieille de somme(2)
Va ramasser du bois mort
Pour chauffer Bonhomme,
Bonhomme qui va mourir
De mort naturelle

Mélancolique, elle va
À travers la forêt blême(3)
Où jadis elle rêva
De celui qu'elle aime,
Qu'elle aime et qui va mourir
De mort naturelle.


Rien n'arrêtera le cours
De la vieille qui moissonne(4)
Le bois mort de ses doigts gourds,
Ni rien ni personne,
Car Bonhomme va mourir
De mort naturelle.


Non, rien ne l'arrêtera
Ni cette voix de malheur
Qui dit : "Quand tu rentreras
Chez toi, tout à l'heure
Bonhomm' sera déjà mort
De mort naturelle."

Ni cette autre et sombre voix,
Montant du plus profond d'elle
Lui rappeler qu'autrefois
Il fut infidèle,
Car Bonhomme, il va mourir
De mort naturelle.(5)

Georges Brassens
1958 - Le pornographe
In spite of the biting wind
The old female beast of burden
Goes to gather some firewood 
To warm her fella
Her fella who’s goin’ t’ die
From natural causes.

Melancholic, she goes
Through the gloom of the forest
Where in times gone she dreamt
Of the one whom she loves
Whom she loves, and who’s goin’ t’ die
From natural causes.


Nothing will now stop in her path
The old woman who is harvesting
The dead wood with numb fingers
Neither thing nor person
For her fella’s goin’ t’ die
From natural causes.


No there’s nothing that will stop her
Neither that doom laden voice,
Which says “When you get back to
Your home, in a bit
He will already have died
From natural causes."

Nor this other, sombre voice
Rising from deep down within her
To remind her in distant past
He was unfaithful
For her Good Man, he'll be dead
From natural causes.







TRANSLATION NOTES - and how I see this poem.


1)La bise – the cold winter wind
2) Une bête de somme – a beast of burden
3 blême = pale , pallid but there seems an eerie quality about the word
4) moissonner= to harvest.

5) De mort naturelle - I see irony in this phrase.  The man is suffering from a terminal illness and is lying in bed in the final throes.  The couple love each other and always have, but he could not resist the charms of other women and made her suffer by his infidelity.  In these last moments she feels the compulsive necessity to go out of the cottage and leave him cold and alone, while she goes away to collect the firewood which will warm the room for her husband's corpse.  She thus adds to their loving relationship her own act of infidelity, which counterbalances his own..

The poem is thus a sad moral tale, not just of peasant life but of people of all classes.

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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

Friday, 3 December 2010

List of Brassens songs on my blogsite in album order

Each song title is a link to the Brassens song on my blog with English translation.

To access a selected song please click on its title


Album- La mauvaise réputation (1953)
La mauvaise réputation
Le gorille
Le petit cheval

Ballade des dames du temps jadis

La chasse aux papillons
Le parapluie

La Marine
Il suffit de passer le pont


Album-2 - Les amoureux des bancs publics (1954)

Les amoureux des bancs publics
Brave Margot
Pauvre Martin
La première fille

La cane de Jeanne
Je suis un voyou
J'ai rendez-vous avec vous
Le vent
Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux
La mauvaise herbe
Le mauvais sujet repenti
Putain de toi


Album-3 - Chanson pour l'auvergnat (1955)

Chanson pour l'Auvergnat
Les sabots d'Hélène
Marinette - j'avais l'air d'un con
Une jolie fleur
La légende de la nonne
Colombine
Auprès de mon arbre

Gastibelza, l'homme à la carabine
Le testament

La Prière 
Le nombril des femmes d'agent
Les Croquants


Album-4 - Je me suis fait tout petit (1957)

Je me suis fait tout petit
Oncle Archibald
La Marche Nuptiale
Au bois de mon coeur
Grandpere
Celui Qui A Mal Tourné
Les Philistins

Album-5 - Le pornographe (1958)

La ronde des jurons
A l'Ombre du Coeur de Ma Amie
Le Pornographe
La femme d'Hector
Bonhomme
Le Cocu

Album-6 - Le mécréant (1960)

L'enterrement de Verlaine
Pénélope
L'orage
Le mécréant
La fille a cent sous


Album-7 - Les trompettes de la renommée (1961)

Les trompettes de la renommée
Jeanne
Dans l'eau de la claire fontaine
La marguerite
Si le Bon Dieu l’avait voulu
La guerre de 14- 18
Les amours d'antan

Marquise
L'Assassinat

Album-8 - Les copains d'abord (1964)

Les copains d'abord
La tondue
Vénus callipyge
Saturne


Album-9 - Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète (1966)

Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète
LeFantôme
La fessée
La non-demande en mariage

L'Épave

Album-10 - La religieuse (1969)

Misogynie à part
Rien à jeter
La rose, la Bouteille et laPoignée de main
Pensées des morts


Album-11 – Fernande (1972)

Fernande
La Princesse et le croque-notes
Mourir pour des idées
Quatre-vingt quinze pour cent

Les passantes

A l'ombre des maris


Album-12 - Don Juan (1976)

Trompe la Mort

Do
n Juan


Cupidon s'en fout

13 – Not in a Brassens album

Heureux qui comme Ulysse 1970

Les châteaux de sable (1978)

Pauvre Martin - A touching song of a farm labourer who asked nothing from life and got it.

Brassens paints a touching portrait of an impoverished agricultural labourer, whose life is hard but who accepts his fate with total equanimity - Another of society’s outsiders for whom he felt great compassion.



Pauvre Martin

Avec une bêche à l'épaule,
Avec à la lèvre un doux chant,
Avec à la lèvre un doux chant,
Avec à l'âme (1) un grand courage,
Il s'en allait trimer aux champs
Pauvre Martin, pauvre misère,(2)
Creuse la terre, creuse le temps

Pour gagner le pain de sa vie,
De l'aurore jusqu'au couchant,
De l'aurore jusqu'au couchant,
Il s'en allait bêcher la terre
En tous les lieux, par tous les temps
Pauvre Martin, pauvre misère,
Creuse la terre, creuse le temps


Sans laisser voir sur son visage
Ni l'air jaloux ni l'air méchant,
Ni l'air jaloux ni l'air méchant,
Il retournait le champ des autres,
Toujours bêchant, toujours bêchant
Pauvre Martin, pauvre misère,
Creuse la terre, creuse le temps

Et quand la mort lui a fait signe
De labourer son dernier champ,
De labourer son dernier champ,
Il creusa lui-même sa tombe
En faisant vite, en se cachant
Pauvre Martin, pauvre misère,
Creuse la terre, creuse le temps


Il creusa lui-même sa tombe
En faisant vite, en se cachant
En faisant vite, en se cachant,
Et s'y étendit sans rien dire
Pour ne pas déranger les gens
Pauvre Martin, pauvre misère,
Dors sous la terre, dors sous le temps!(3)

Georges Brassens
1954 - Les amoureux des bancs publics


With a spade upon his shoulder
With, on his lips, a little song
With, on his lips, a little song
With, deep within, spirit unbroken
He would go to the fields to toil
Poor old Martin, mis'rably poor
Digs at the earth, digs away time.

To earn enough bread to live off
From crack of dawn ‘til setting sun
From crack of dawn ‘til setting sun
He would go off to work the land
Off anywhere in all weather
Poor old Martin, mis'rably poor
Digs at the earth, digs away time.


He let appear upon his face
No look of envy or of spite
No look of envy or of spite
Tilling fields belonging to others
Digging nonstop, digging nonstop
Poor old Martin, mis'rably poor
Digs at the earth, digs away time

And when death gave him the signal
To begin work on his last field
To begin work on his last field
He dug for himself his own grave
Getting done quick, keeping hidden
Poor old Martin, mis'rably poor
Digs at the earth, digs away time.


He dug for himself his own grave
Getting done quick, keeping hidden
Getting done quick, keeping hidden
And laid him there with no word said
So as not to trouble people.
Poor old Martin, mis'rably poor
Sleep neath the earth, sleep under time







TRANSLATION NOTES

1) Avec à l'âme = Literally  - With, in his soul, ...

2) We French teachers bore or perhaps amuse people by talking about "faux amis". The word "misère" is one of these - it looks like the English word "misery" but it means extreme poverty (Of course the two ideas are not unrelated).

3) Brassens often talks of death and the ravages of time in his songs.

Barbara sings this song:





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SI LE BON DIEU AVAIT VOULU -Paul Fort's simple love song

Brassens puts to music Paul Fort’s simple and sincere love poem to his wife,the woman who meant everything in his life.


(I cannot find now a Brassens recording of this song, but the Spanish singer Eva Denia is a brilliant performer of Brassens' music,



SI LE BON DIEU L'AVAIT VOULU
Based on the poem of Paul Fort --


Si le bon Dieu l'avait voulu,
Lanturlurette, lanturlu
J'aurais connu la Cléopâtre(1)
Et je ne t'aurais pas connue.


J'aurais connu la Cléopâtre,
Et je ne t'aurais pas connue.
Sans ton amour que j'idolâtre
Las ! que fussé-je devenu ?

Si le bon Dieu l'avait voulu,
J'aurais connu la Messaline,(2)
Agnès(3), Odette(4) et Mélusine(5)...
Et je ne t'aurais pas connue.

J'aurais connu la Pompadour(6),
Noémi(7), Sarah(8), Rebecca(9),
La Fille du Royal-Tambour!(10),
Et la Mogador(11) et Clara(12).

Mais le bon Dieu n'a pas voulu
Que je connaisse leurs amours.
Je t'ai connue, tu m'as connu.
Gloire à Dieu au plus haut des nues !


Las ! que fussé-je devenu
sans toi la nuit, sans toi le jour ?
Je t'ai connue, tu m'as connu.
Gloire à Dieu au plus haut des nues !

1961 Les trompettes de la renommée
If the Good Lord had wished it so
Dum dee dum dum, dum dee dum dee
I would have known yon Cle’patre
I would not have got to know you.

I would have known yon Cle’patre
I would not have got to know you.
Without your love that I worship
Alas! What might I have become?

If the Good Lord had wished it so
I would have known yon Mess’lina
Agnes, Odette and Mel’sina
I would not have got to know you

I would have known yon Pompadour
Naomi, Sarah, Rebecca,
The girl of the Royal Tambour,
And yon Mogador and Clara.

But the Good Lord did not wish it
That I should know their loving charms
I got to know you and you - me
Praise to God in highest heaven.

Alas! what would I have become
Without you by me night and day
I got to know you and you - me
Praise to God in highest heaven!







Translation notes



THE WOMEN PAUL FORT CHOOSES TO ILLUSTRATE HIS POEM

Paul Fort makes a list of a number of ladies whom he could have got to know, instead of the lady who became the love of his life. In fact these are among the most illustrious women in world history, famous some for their legendary beauty, some for the intensity of the passion they showed or the passion they aroused, famous some for their momentous effect on world history.  By putting “la” in front of their names, he is pretending personal familiarity with them as if they were girls in the next street.


(1) Cléopâtre is well known, of course, as the beautiful queen of Egypt, with whom Julius Caesar and Anthony fell in love, with important consequences in history.

(2) La Messalina was the wife Emperor Claudius, famous for the ruthlessness of her political intrigues and the excesses of her sexual adventures.

(3) Agnès is perhaps Agnès Sorel, favourite mistress of Charles VII (1422-1450), who was known as the "Dame de Beauté".
Her portrait in "La Vierge à l'Enfant" byJean Fouquet is famous.

(4) Odette – There is an Odette, with whom Charles Swann falls obsessively in love in "Un Amour de Swann", a book of Marcel Proust’s « A la Recherche du Temps Perdu ?

(5) Mélusine – A character in French fables, who was the daughter of a fairy, but could transform herself into a snake.

(6) La Pompadour – La Marquise de Pompadour (1721-1764) was the official mistress of Louis XV.
She was a very influential personality in the royal court and an active patroness of the arts.

(7) Noémie, - These next three are three famous biblical characters.  Naomi was the mother-in-law of Ruth. It was she who persuaded Ruth to seduce the rich old man, Booz, in order to perpetuate her lineage which had been broken by the deaths of her two sons. The son born of this union was Obed, the ancestor of Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus. Victor Hugo gives a poetic account of Ruth’s night of love in his famous poem "Booz endormi".

(8) Sarah, - We are told that Sarah, the wife of Abraham gave him a son, Isaac, when she was ninety years old!

(9) Rébecca - the wife of Isaac, was the mother of Esau and of Jacob. She ranks among the ruthless women who changed the course of history. She cheated her dying husband into giving the birthright of their elder son Esau to her favourite son Jacob instead. She did this by putting goat skins on his hands and neck to deceive the blind old man into believing that his hands rested on the hairy skin of Esau. Jacob, who, according to the legend, was renamed “Israel” some years later by an angel of God, became one of the great fathers of the Jewish nation.

(10) La Fille du Royal Tambour – I am unsure who this female can be. There is a famous theatre in Paris called the Royal Tambour. There was also a soldier’s song of the 18th century with this title of the daughter of the Royal Drummer.

(11) Mogador – I am grateful to this poem for acquainting me for the first time with Céleste Mogador, 1824-1909, comtesse Céleste de Chabrillan. She was the illegitimate daughter of Anne-Victoire Vénard and had a deprived and unhappy childhood. At 15 she was imprisoned for vagrancy and at 16 she became a prostitute. After six months she took the name of Céleste Mogador when she became a successful dancer and the toast of Paris. Later she had success as an actress and wrote her memoirs. 
She had become the mistress of Lionel, Comte de Chabrillan, whom she married in January 1854. When he was appointed French consul-general in Australia, she went with him, to the anger of his family.  She lived a somewhat lonely life in Australia, ostracised by the respectable. However she formed a love of the country and wrote three novels set in Australia. During these years she re-educated herself completely, teaching herself correct French to make up for the deficiencies of her education and learning English. 
Her Mémoires were now selling well in France and from her earnings she was able to pay off her husband’s debts. Unfortunately, Lionel died from dysentery in December 1858. Céleste had a prodigious literary output on her return to Paris. In total, she wrote twelve novels, twenty-six plays, seven operettas, poems and songs. 
She was the friend of writers , politicians and many public figures. Her friendship with the Count of Naurois gave her financial security until her death in 1909. I intend to read her Mémoires soon.- "Les mémoires de Céleste de Chabrillan."

(12) Clara – Looking for a famous love story, we might suggest Clara Schumann (1819- 1896).Her skills as a musician had gained for Clara Wieck a Europe wide reputation as a child prodigy. Robert Schumann, the composer, met her in Leipzig when she was just sixteen and began to court her. Her father tried to prevent any contact between the couple and when Schumann made a request to marry her in 1837, her father refused. He continued to block the wishes of the couple for the next three years. In 1839, the couple submitted a petition to the Court of Appeals to marry without the consent of Friedrich Wieck. This was granted in 1840 and they married on September 12, one day before Clara’s 21st birthday.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This is recent a recording of the song by Yves Uzureau, who is accompanied by Pierre Debiesme.  The vdeo gives us good illustrations of the fabled beauty, whom Paul Fort would not consider in comparison with the love of his wife.  Other photos of Georges Brassens with Joha Heiman suggest that when Brassens put the song to music, he might have had his relationship with his Püppchen in mind.



 

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