Tuesday, 7 August 2012

The Rose, the Bottle and the Handshake- the outlawing of warm spontaneous greetings by political correctness


Brassens deplores the fact that spontaneous gestures of friendliness and goodwill that were quite normal in the past are increasingly seen as suspect and are even being proscribed by the contemporary  social code. He describes the hostile reactions to the offer of a flower in admiration of a passing girl, the offer to share drinks with a group of strangers, the suggestion of reconciliation from outside to warring parties.   Modern developments, such as the imposition of political correctness, have shown how right Brassens was in his perception of this trend.  The interactive relations of individuals have now become fraught with fabricated complications that make us more and more tentative in our dealings with each other. 




  LA ROSE, LA BOUTEILLE ET LA POIGNÉE DE MAIN (1)
The rose, the bottle and the handshake

Cette rose avait glissé de
This rose had slipped out of the wreath
La gerbe qu'un héros gâteux

Borne by a doddering hero
Portait au monument aux Morts.
At the monument to the dead.
Comme tous les gens levaient leurs

As all the people raised up their
Yeux pour voir hisser les couleurs,

Eyes to see the colours hoisted
Je la recueillis sans remords.

I picked it up without remorse.

Et je repris ma route et m'en allai quérir

And I went on my way and I set out to find
Au petit bonheur la chance, un corsage à fleurir(2).
Perchance a bodice which the flower could adorn.
Car c'est une des pires perversions qui soient

For it is one of the worst perversions that be
Que de garder une rose par-devers soi.
To hold on to a rose just for yourself alone.

La première à qui je l'offris
The first to whom I offered it
Tourna la tête avec mépris,

Looked away contemptuously,
La deuxième s'enfuit et court

The second one took flight and runs
Encore en criant "au secours!"

On still, while screaming out for help
Si la troisième m'a donné

If the third swiped me ‘cross the face
Un coup d'ombrelle sur le nez,

With a swing of her umbrella
La quatrième, c'est plus méchant,

The fourth one, that was nastier,
Se mit en quête d'un agent.
Went off to get a policeman.


Car, aujourd'hui, c'est saugrenu,
For, nowadays it’s  ludicrous
Sans être louche, on ne peut pas
Without being a weirdo, you can’t
Fleurir(2) de belles inconnues.

Give flow’rs to beautiful strangers.
On est tombé bien bas, bien bas...
We have fallen so low, so low….

Et ce pauvre petit bouton
And that poor little rosebud
De rose a fleuri(2) le veston

Became the tunic buttonhole
D'un vague chien de commissaire,

Of some vile police inspector
Quelle misère(3)!

What a disgrace!

Cette bouteille était tombée
That bottle had fallen out of

De la soutane d'un abbé
The cassock of the local priest
Sortant de la messe ivre mort.

Coming out of mass quite plastered.
Une bouteille de vin fin

A bottle of quality wine
Millésimé, béni, divin,

Consecrated, vintage divine,
Je la recueillis sans remords.

I picked it up without remorse.

Et je repris ma route en cherchant, plein d'espoir,

And I went on my way looking for, full of hope
Un brave gosier sec pour m'aider à la boire.

A worthy dry gullet to help me to drink it.
Car c'est une des pires perversions qui soient

For it is one of the worst perversions that be
Que de garder du vin béni par-devers soi.
To hold consecrated wine for yourself alone

Le premier refusa mon verre,
The first one turned down my glassful
En me lorgnant d'un oeil sévère,

Giving me a very stern look
Le deuxième m'a dit, railleur,

The second told me for a laugh
De m'en aller cuver ailleurs.

To go, sober up somewhere else,
Si le troisième, sans retard,

If the third one, right there and then
Au nez m'a jeté le nectar,

Threw the nectar back in my face
Le quatrième, c'est plus méchant,

The fourth one, that was nastier,
Se mit en quête d'un agent.
Went off to get a policeman.

Car aujourd'hui, c'est saugrenu,
For, nowadays it’s  ludicrous
Sans être louche, on ne peut pas
Without being a weirdo, you can’t
Trinquer avec des inconnus,

Share a round of drinks with strangers,
On est tombé bien bas, bien bas...
We have fallen so low, so low.

Avec la bouteille de vin
With the self-same bottle of wine
Millésimé, béni, divin,

Consecrated, vintage divine,
Les flics se sont rincé la dalle(4),

T’was the cops that wet their whistle
Un vrai scandale!

A real scandal!

Cette pauvre poignée de main

That poor little shake of the hand
Gisait, oubliée, en chemin,

Lay there on the way, forgotten
Par deux amis fâchés à mort.(5)

By two friends now at daggers drawn.
Quelque peu décontenancée,

Looking somewhat disconcerted
Elle était là, dans le fossé.

It was left there down in the ditch
Je la recueillis sans remords.

I picked it up without remorse.

Et je repris ma route avec l'intention

And I went on my way with the full intention
De faire circuler la virile effusion,

To see that the man to man gesture was passed on
Car c'est une des pires perversions qui soient

For it is one of the worst perversions that be
Que de garder une poignée de main par-devers soi.
To hold on to a handshake for yourself alone.

Le premier m'a dit: "Fous le camp!
The first told me to “Just clear off !”
J'aurais peur de salir mes gants."

I’d be scared of dirtying my gloves
Le deuxième, d'un air dévot,

The second piously gave me
Me donna cent sous, d'ailleurs faux.

One hundred sous, fake moreover.
Si le troisième, ours mal léché,(6)

If the third one, an uncouth oaf,
Dans ma main tendue a craché,

Spat into the hand I proffered,
Le quatrième, c'est plus méchant,

The fourth one, that was nastier,
Se mit en quête d'un agent.
Went off to get a policeman.

Car aujourd'hui, c'est saugrenu,

For, nowadays it’s  ludicrous
Sans être louche, on ne peut pas
Without being a weirdo, you can’t
Serrer la main des inconnus,
Exchange handshakes with pure strangers
On est tombé bien bas, bien bas...
We have fallen so low, so low.

Et la pauvre poignée de main
And the poor shake of the hand
Victime d'un sort inhumain,

Victim of an inhuman fate
Alla terminer sa carrière

Went to finish its career
A la fourrière!

Impounded by the law.

Georges Brassens, 1969.  Album « La religieuse »

POSTSCRIPT

In the comments that follow the above You Tube video of this song, a Frenchman, calling himself “Lawlikoo”, expressed the meaning of the song with what he saw as the advantage of a chemically enhanced perspicacity.  At all events, the blogger, was asserting his defiant individuality and love of life, in a way that Brassens would have most certainly approved of. This is what he wrote:

Je viens de réaliser la portée de cette chanson, je ne sais pas si c'est dû au fait que je viens de flamber une branche de cannabis, mais mon esprit s'est soudainement éveillé. De plus en plus, le fait de complimenter ou d'être agréable à quelqu'un devient un comportement suspicieux. Brassens en raconte les prémices, j'en constate l'évolution aujourd'hui.   Bon j'y vais, ma Margot m'attend sur les draps.


To see the extreme effects of this tendency for looking for depravity in normal human contact, read this article in The Times on 10/07/2014



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

AN IMPRESSIVE RUSSIAN VERSION OF THIS SONG

Pierre Schuler on his authoritative Brassens blogsite, “Auprès de son arbre” recommands the following Russian version of this song by the Russian singer Alexandre Avanessov.  His transposition of the style of Brassens and his performance of his music is very admirable.  The cartoon drawings that accompany the song are clever and exact.



2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy that you are updating more regularly now. I'm looking forward to the next translation! Thank you for this blog.

Anonymous said...

Please, where are the additional comments (1)-(6)? I absolutely love your clarifications! I have been translating Brassens into Flemish, by now a hundred songs, but this one I didn't do yet.