Friday, 27 May 2011

Don Juan- He makes a conquest but we hope both of them win

“Don Juan” is the title song of Georges Brassens’ last album in 1976, (five years before his death). The first two lines of each verse describe incidents, which are mainly humorous.  In them, different people, whose contribution to human well-being is not normally positive, for once break their routines, disobey orders, or flaunt convention to allow life to be more civilised. The remaining lines of each verse tell the continuous tale of a womaniser making a conquest, beginning with his first approach to the girl in verse one and finishing with the climax in verse five.

This continuous narrative running through the song tells how a notorious womaniser also is capable of an exceptional act to create moments of happiness where circumstances had precluded it.  Different opinions will be formed whether Georges Brassens parable is convincing or tasteful!





georges brassens _ don juan by bisonravi1987

Gloire à qui freine à mort, de peur d'écrabouiller
Le hérisson perdu, le crapaud fourvoyé !
Et gloire à Don Juan, d'avoir un jour souri
À celle à qui les autr's n'attachaient aucun prix !
Cette fille est trop vilaine, il me la faut.






Gloire au flic qui barrait le passage aux autos
Pour laisser traverser les chats de Léautaud(1) !
Et gloire à Don Juan d'avoir pris rendez-vous,
Avec la délaissée, que l'amour désavoue !
Cette fille est trop vilaine, il me la faut.


Gloire au premier venu qui passe et qui se tait
Quand la canaille crie : "Haro sur le baudet(2) !"
Et gloire à Don Juan pour ses galants discours
À celle à qui les autr's faisaient jamais la cour !
Cette fille est trop vilaine, il me la faut(3).



Et gloire à ce curé sauvant son ennemi
Lors du massacre de la Saint-Barthélémy(4) !
Et gloire à Don Juan qui couvrit de baisers
La fille que les autr's refusaient d'embrasser !
Cette fille est trop vilaine, il me la faut.



Et gloire à ce soldat qui jeta son fusil
Plutôt que d'achever l'otage à sa merci !
Et gloire à Don Juan d'avoir osé trousser(5)
Celle dont le jupon restait toujours baissé !
Cette fille est trop vilaine, il me la faut.





Gloire à la bonne sœur qui, par temps pas très chaud
Dégela dans sa main le pénis du manchot(6)
Et gloire à Don Juan qui fit reluire un soir
 (7)
Ce cul désherité ne sachant que s'asseoir !
Cette fille est trop vilaine, il me la faut.(8)





Gloire à qui n'ayant pas d'idéal sacro-saint
Se borne à ne pas trop emmerder ses voisins !
Et gloire à Don Juan qui rendit femme celle
Qui, sans lui, quelle horreur, serait morte pucelle(9) !
Cette fille est trop vilaine, il me la faut.


1976 Album -Don Juan
Praise to those who slam brakes, for fear of squashing flat
The little hedgehog lost, the toad gone the wrong way
And praise to Don Juan, for having smiled one day
At the one whom the rest did not rate in the least!
That girl is too downright ugly, I must have her.


Praise to the cop who stopped the cars from going through
To let all the cats of Léautaud get across!
And praise to Don Juan for the date he made with
The girl left on the shelf, from whom love turns away!
That girl is too downright ugly, I must have her.

Praise to the first person who walks by with no word
When the wild rabble yells: «Get him- let’s string him up! »
And praise to Don Juan for his amorous words
To the one whom the rest never thought worth courting!
That girl is too downright ugly, I must have her.

And praise goes to that priest saving his enemy
The day of the mass’cre of Saint-Barthélémy !
And praise to Don Juan who covered in kisses
The girl that the others refused a single one!
That girl is too downright ugly, I must have her.

And praise to the soldier who threw aside his gun
Rather than kill off the hostage at his mercy!
And praise to Don Juan for daring pull thigh high
The skirts of the girl who wore them demurely low!
That girl is too downright ugly, I must have her.

Praise to the kind nun, who, in weather none too hot
Thawed in her hand the penis of the limbless man.
And praise to Don Juan who one night set aflame
This bum none cared for, whose sole use was sitting on!
That girl is too downright ugly, I must have her.


Praise to those who having no sacrosanct ideals
Just seek not to give too much grief to those around!
And praise to Don Juan who made into a woman
She, who, but for him, would ne'er have  known a man's love!
That girl is too downright ugly, I must have her.




TRANSLATION NOTES

1) Les chats de Léautaud – The writer and critic Paul Léautaud, who died in 1956, was a reclusive who was said to have owned at least 300 cats and 150 dogs in his lifetime.

2) Quand la canaille crie : "Haro sur le baudet !" - This is the rallying cry of a lynch mob and they are saying “Let’s string up the donkey”. Brassens’ audience would have understood this reference immediately. It is a line in La Fontaine’s very famous fable: “ Les Animaux Malades de la Peste”. The kingdom had been hit by a terrible plague and the Lion King decided it was God’s punishment for wrongs they had done and asked all to confess. The King began by telling of the sheep and shepherds he had eaten and the other powerful predators of court made similar confessions. All the self flatterers of the court agreed that there was no harm in these deeds. Then came the turn of the humble donkey and he confessed that he had once eaten a mouthful of grass from some-one else’s meadow :
« Je tondis de ce pré la largeur de ma langue.
Je n'en avais nul droit puisqu'il faut parler net.
A ces mots, on cria haro sur le Baudet. »


The rich and powerful courtiers were in uproar at the crime of the poor donkey:
“Sa peccadille fut jugé un cas pendable.
Manger l'herbe d'autrui! Quel crime abominable!
Rien que la mort n'était capable
D'expier son forfait : on le lui fit bien voir. »


So they hanged the donkey. La Fontaine dangerously explains how his fable relates to justice in the court of Louis XIV:
“Selon que vous serez puissant ou misérable,
Les jugements de cour vous rendront blanc ou noir. »


3) Cette fille est trop vilaine, il me la faut – This Don Juan finds a strong attraction in this girl that he can’t explain and he is risking the derision of every one of his mates in seeking love with this girl.

4) Massacre de la Saint-Barthélémy- On the 23rd August (Saint-Barthélémy’s Day) 1572, a pogrom was launched against the Huguenots of France . The death toll has been estimated as high as 30,000 and the Protestant movement in France, which had been a powerhouse of religious reform, was dealt a severe blow.

 5) Trousser celle dont le jupon –“ Trousser les jupes” means to tuck up the skirts “trousser une femme” means to lift a woman’s skirts. Trousser also has the meaning of “to stuff” in cooking e.g. “ trousser un poulet” and from this the verb “trousser” has the same vulgar usage as the English translation. From this double entendre comes a hidden message that the French audience will discreetly understand- that he made vigorous love to the girl at this point. 

6) manchot -  means short of an arm or a hand and the English translation would be “one-armed” but that would not work here. “Limbless”, which I use, is “sans membres”, but there is a French expression that gives you the creeps :”Homme tronc”

7) fit reluire - to polish up (furniture etc) . As there is the sense of rubbing up, the words are found in vulgar usage with erotic connotations. We have, therefore, another double entendre as in note (5).  Some French commentators tell us that the precise meaning is that he brought the girl to orgasm. I have kept to the literal meaning - plus a bit of vagueness.

8) That girl is too downright ugly, I must have her. - I hope that the refrain repeated at the end of the poem means that the man continues under the spell of the girl after their night together. If so there is the nice irony that the “ugly” girl has seduced Don Juan! This song makes me think of “Mysogynie à Part”, where, in a background of male chauvinism, the girl who has been treated with disrespect comes off best to my mind:

9) serait morte pucelle – Literally “would have died a maid/an old maid”.  In my translation, I have chosen not to stress the issue of virginity feeling that these primitive taboos have practically died out in the course of the last 50 years. I recognise that, as a translator of an actual text, I did not have the right.




Click here to go back to my full index of selected Brassens songs


Click here to go to the chronological list of songs in my selection

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