1) je m'ennoblis - French commentators disagree about how he ennobles himself by fishing
2) Ma femme sacrifie à – Brassens often uses the verb "sacrifier" with the preposition « à » with the meaning of « to devote oneself to » and there is often as here a sexual connotation.
3) je suis cocu, j'ai du cerf sur la tête – In France, the very well-known symbol of a cuckold is the wearing of deer’s antlers on the head, Once again French commentators dispute the source of this association. One suggestion that fits quite neatly is based on the legend of the Celtic god , Cernunnos. He represented fertility and wore deers’ antlers. He was the husband of the goddess “Earth”, who was unfaithful to him on numerous occasions.
4) On fait force de trous – The Le Littré dictionary says : faire un trou à la lune veut dire s'enfuir de nuit pour une mauvaise affaire. The idea is of a furtive, wicked act.
5) la malheureuse écorne – “écorner” means to damage by chipping away at. Brassens chooses the word because it contains the word “corne” – horn – thus damage by cucoldry
6) Que je ne sache plus où donner de la corne – There is a French expression : "ne plus savoir où donner de la tête" which means that you are overwhelmed by events. In this case the head is wearing horns.
7) la providence des écornifleurs – Larousse says that un écornifleur is a pique-assiette – some-one who pinches the meals of others. The elements of the word seem to fit the particular misdeed in question here – “écorner” discussed above and “renifler” to sniff.
8) On cueille dans mon dos – « faire quelque chose dans/ derrière le dos de quelqu’un » means to do something behind someone’s back.
9) la tendre primevère- A primevère is a primula or primrose- a spring flower symbolizing young romance. Brassens uses this image in other songs with strong sexual connotations
10) le dessus du panier – the pick of the bunch, (sociological sense) – the social crust.
(11) le port de la feuille de vigne,-. Brassens is amused to make a passing reference to the campaign of prudery by the Church. When Michaelangelo and others had adorned the palatial cathedrals with their art, they had included grand naked figures in the tradition of the art of Ancient Greece. As a result, the nominally celibate dignitaries of the Church, found themselves processing under an array of penises, pudenda, buttocks and breasts. During the Counter-Reformation, in the mid C16th, the Councils of Trent forbade this sexual depiction in church art. For paintings, the offending body parts were obscured by adding bits of drapery and foliage, but the only way of doing it on statues was by attaching fig leaves. The cover-up, involving the defacement and destruction of artistic masterpieces, went on for the next 450 years.
12) Couvrir de safran – In France, yellow is the colour that represents deceived husbands and so "accommoder son mari au safran" means to have adultery.
13) Amphitryon – In Greek mythology, he was the son son of Alcaeus, king of Tiryns. During his absence, his wife, Alcmene, became pregnant by Zeus, who had disguised himself . When her husband returned, she became pregnant again by him and from these unions twin boys were born. Brassens is exploiting two ideas from this story: the adultery and a guest who abuses the hospitality of his host, eating his food.
14) Partager sa moitié – As in English e.g. “my better half”, « moitié » is used humorously to mean « wife »
15) la chère et la boisson – La chère means food as in the English « good cheer », which means food and drink. Perhaps Brassens also wanted the second meaning: “the dear girl.”
16) "Il est cocu, le chef de gare..- This is a famous French popular song on the subject of cuckoldry. The stationmaster is busy all hours of the day and night, being important on the platform in his official uniform. All this time, his wife is free to enjoy herself with whichever men sneak into her bed.
17) le chef de gar', c'est mon meilleur ami – Although this verse is flippant, it seems to be a psychological truth that we are often more upset to see another person in the same predicament than we are for ourselves. Perhaps this is because in our own case, elements of self-blame come into play. The man describing his unhappy situation in this song probably realizes that in spite of her outrageous behaviour, he is still in love with the girl and the one outcome that he cannot contemplate is losing her. His humiliation is thus his painful choice.
Please click here toreturn to the alphabetical list of my Brassens selection