Monday, 2 September 2013

Le cocu- a plea for consideration for the man who has to share the wife he loves.



In this song, Brassens describes the hurt and cruel humiliation suffered by a husband when his wife insists on continuing her sexually free lifestyle after their marriage.  
We might doubt the sincerity of the indignation that Brassens shows as he frankly admitted his preference for the freedom from commitment which affairs with married women permitted him.  He said that Parisian women offered a wealth of opportunity and he himself made cuckolds of numerous husbands, most prominently, his host, Marcel Planche.   
However, Brassens felt that this arrangement of three and more in a marriage, however convenient and even normal, should be conducted with discretion, while showing the utmost consideration to the husband.  In this poem, he condemns those who fail to do this as ignorant, self-centered boors.



Le cocu


Comme elle n'aime pas beaucoup la solitude,
Cependant que je pêche et que je m'ennoblis(1),
Ma femme sacrifie à(2) sa vieille habitude
De faire à tout venant les honneurs de mon lit
De faire à tout venant les honneurs de mon lit.


Eh ! oui, je suis cocu, j'ai du cerf sur la tête(3),
On fait force de trous (4)dans ma lune de miel,
Ma bien-aimée ne m'invite plus à la fête
Quand ell' va faire un tour jusqu'au septième ciel
Quand ell' va faire un tour jusqu'au septième ciel.

Au péril de mon cœur, la malheureuse écorne(5)
Le pacte conjugal et me le déprécie,
Que je ne sache plus où donner de la corne(6)
Semble bien être le cadet de ses soucis
Semble bien être le cadet de ses soucis.

Les galants de tout poil viennent boire en mon verre,
Je suis la providence des écornifleurs(7),
On cueille dans mon dos(8) la tendre primevère (9)
Qui tenait le dessus de mon panier(10) de fleurs.
Qui tenait le dessus de mon panier de fleurs.


En revenant fourbu de la pêche à la ligne,
Je les surprends tout nus dans leurs débordements.
Conseillez-leur le port de la feuille de vigne(11),
Ils s'y refuseront avec entêtement
Ils s'y refuseront avec entêtement.




Souiller mon lit nuptial, est-c'que ça les empêche
De garder les dehors de la civilité ?
Qu'on me demande au moins si j'ai fait bonne pêche,
Qu'on daigne s'enquérir enfin de ma santé.

Qu'on daigne s'enquérir enfin de ma santé !



De grâce, un minimum d'attentions délicates
Pour ce pauvre mari qu'on couvre de safran(12) !

Le cocu, d'ordinaire, on le choie, on le gâte,
On est en fin de compte un peu de ses parents
On est en fin de compte un peu de ses parents

À l'heure du repas, mes rivaux détestables
Ont encor' ce toupet de lorgner ma portion !
Ça leur ferait pas peur de s'asseoir à ma table.
Cocu tant qu'on voudra, mais pas amphitryon(13)
Cocu tant qu'on voudra, mais pas amphitryon.


Partager sa moitié(14), est-c'que cela comporte
Que l'on partage aussi la chère et la boisson(15)

Je suis presque obligé de les mettre à la porte,
Et bien content s'ils n'emportent pas mes poissons
Et bien content s'ils n'emportent pas mes poissons.



Bien content qu'en partant ces mufles ne s'égarent
Pas à mettre le comble à leur ignominie
En sifflotant "Il est cocu, le chef de gare...(16) "
Parc' que, le chef de gar', c'est mon meilleur ami(17)
Parc' que, le chef de gar', c'est mon meilleur ami.



(1958 - Le pornographe, 9)

As she doesn’t much like being on her own Whilst I’m off on my noble pastime of fishing
My wife devotes herself to her previous habit
Of granting all comers the honours of my bed
Of granting all comers the honours of my bed


Ah ! Yes, I’m a cuckold, I’ve antlers on my head, Men pepper illicit holes in my honeymoon.
My love invites me to the party no longer
When she’s going on a trip to seventh heaven
When she’s going on a trip to seventh heaven


Hazarding my heart, the unfortunate girl breaks
The conjugal pact and just laughs it off to me.
That I’m now being driven off my antlered head
Seems clearly to be the least of her worries
Seems clearly to be the least of her worries


All kinds of would-be lovers come drink from my glass
I am the god-send for the sneaks who come sniffing 
They pluck behind my back the tender primula Which had  pride of place in my bouquet of flowers
Which had pride of place in my bouquet of flowers.



On returning dead beat from long hours of angling
I surprise them stark naked in their excesses
Advise them to cover themselves with a fig-leaf
They will refuse to do in the most stubborn way.
They will refuse to do in the most stubborn way.


To defile my marriage bed, is that what stops them
From preserving the trappings of civility?
Let them ask me at least if the fishing went well.
Let them deign to enquire how I have been keeping!
Let them deign to enquire how I have been keeping!


For pity’s sake display a minimum of thought
For this poor husband whom they smother in saffron !
The cuckold normally is pampered, he is spoilt For we are, after all, in one way, related.
For we are, after all, in one way, related.


When mealtimes approach, my detestable rivals
Have the cheek furthermore to eye my helping
They would have no qualms at sitting at my table
Cuckold as much as you like but not amphitryon
Cuckold as much as you like but not amphitryon



To share one’s better half, does that really entail That you share food and drink at your table as well
I am almost forced to throw them out of the house
And am so pleased if they don’t run off with my fish.
And am so pleased if they don’t run off with my fish.



I'm pleased that on leaving these oafs don’t go so far
As to stretch their ignominy to its limit
By whistling “He’s a cuckold the stationmaster » 
Because, the stationmaster, he’s my very best friend
Because, the stationmaster, he’s my very best friend




TRANSLATION NOTES
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



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