Saturday, 14 November 2015

GRAND-PÈRE-Brassens at his rudest and most irreverent as he rages against social inequality


This is a song of Brassens, the social reformer and with its violent element also of Brassens, the anarchist.  His attitude was shaped by the straitened circumstances of the, nevertheless, happy family home of his childhood, when money had been in short supply.  Brassens’ song about the marriage of his parents "La Marche Nuptiale"tells the same story of a humble family fighting for its dignity.







GRAND-PÈRE
Grand-père suivait en chantant
La route qui mène à cent ans.
La mort lui fit, au coin d'un bois,
L' coup du pèr' François.(1)

L'avait donné de son vivant
Tant de bonheur à ses enfants
Qu'on fit, pour lui en savoir gré,(2)
Tout pour l'enterrer

Et l'on courut à toutes jam-
-bes quérir une bière, mais...
Comme on était léger d'argent(3),
Le marchand nous reçut à bras fermés.(4)


"Chez l'épicier, pas d'argent, pas d'épices,
Chez la belle Suzon, pas d'argent, pas de cuisse...(5)
Les morts de basse condition
C'est pas de ma juridiction."

Or, j'avais hérité d' grand-père
Un' pair' de bott's pointues
S'il y a des coups d' pied què'que part qui s' perdent,(6)
C'lui-là toucha(7) son but

C'est depuis ce temps-là que le bon apôtre(8)
C'est depuis ce temps-là que le bon apôtre
Ah ! c'est pas joli...
Ah ! c'est pas poli...
A un' fess' qui dit merde à l'autre(9)

Bon papa(10),
Ne t'en fais pas:
Nous en viendrons
À bout de (11) tous ces empêcheurs d'enterrer en rond(12)

Le mieux à faire et le plus court,
Pour qu' l'enterrement suivît son cours,
Fut de borner nos prétentions
À un' bièr' d'occasion.(13)

Contre un pot de miel (14) on acquit
Les quatre planches d'un mort qui
Rêvait d'offrir quelques douceurs
À une âme soeur.


Et l'on courut à toutes jam-
-bes quérir un corbillard, mais...
Comme on était léger d'argent,
Le marchand nous reçut à bras fermés.


"Chez l'épicier, pas d'argent, pas d'épices,
Chez la belle Suzon, pas d'argent, pas de cuisse...
Les morts de basse condition,
C'est pas de ma juridiction."

Ma bott' partit, mais je m' refuse
De dir' vers quel endroit,
Ça rendrait les dames confuses
Et je n'en ai pas le droit

C'est depuis ce temps-là que le bon apôtre
C'est depuis ce temps-là que le bon apôtre
Ah ! c'est pas joli...
Ah ! c'est pas poli...
A un' fess' qui dit merde à l'autre


Bon papa,
Ne t'en fais pas
Nous en viendrons
À bout de tous ces empêcheurs d'enterrer en rond

Le mieux à faire et le plus court,
Pour qu' l'enterrement suivît son cours,
Fut de porter sur notre dos
L' funèbre fardeau.
S'il eût pu revivre un instant,
Grand-père aurait été content
D'aller à sa dernièr' demeur'
Comme un empereur.

Et l'on courut à toutes jam-
-bes quérir un goupillon(15), mais...
Comme on était léger d'argent,
Le marchand  nous reçut à bras fermés.


"Chez l'épicier, pas d'argent, pas d'épices,
Chez la belle Suzon, pas d'argent, pas de cuisse...
Les morts de basse condition,
C'est pas de ma bénédiction."

Avant même que le vicaire(16)
Ait pu lâcher un cri,
J' lui bottai l' cul au nom du Pèr',
Du Fils et du Saint-Esprit.

C'est depuis ce temps-là que le bon apôtre
C'est depuis ce temps-là que le bon apôtre
Ah ! c'est pas joli...
Ah ! c'est pas poli...
A un' fess' qui dit merde à l'autre.


Bon papa,
Ne t'en fais pas:
Nous en viendrons
À bout de tous ces empêcheurs d'enterrer en rond
À bout de tous ces empêcheurs d'enterrer en rond
Georges Brassens
 (1957 - Je me suis fait tout petit, 7)




Grandpa walked the road, singing,
That leads to his hundred years.
Death sneaked on him down in the woods
And snuffed him out short.

He had given in his life time
Such happiness to his children
That, gratefully, they did their all
For his funeral.

And they ran fast as legs would
Take them to get a coffin, but
As they’d little ready money
The man who dealt in them turned them right down.

"At the grocers, no money, no groceries
At fair Susie’s house, no money, no fun …
Deaths low on the social scale
Aren’t under my jurisdiction.”

Now, I’d inherited from Grandad
A pair of pointy boots
If there are kicks up the bum somewhere done on the quiet
This pair was just the job.


The coffin maker has had ever since
This same fine fellow has had ever since
Ah, it is not nice
Ah, it’s not polite
A very twisted bum which makes him wince.

Kind grandpa
Don't get upset
We will manage to
Sort out those who stand in the way
Of burials due

The best thing to do and quickest
So the funeral might be carried out
Was to limit our requirements
To a second hand coffin

We acquired for a jar of honey
Four planks from a dead man who
Dreamt of giving some sweet things
To a great soul-mate.


And we ran fast as legs would
Take us to get a hearse, but
As we’d little ready money
The man who dealt in them turned us right down

"At the grocers, no money, no groceries
At fair Susie’s house, no money, no fun …

Deaths low on the social scale
Are not in my jurisdiction.”

My boot lashed out,  but I refuse
To tell the spot aimed at
T’would embarrass the ladies
And I don’t have the right to

And the fine fellow has had ever since
And the fine fellow has had ever since
Ah, it is not nice
Ah, it’s not polite
A very twisted bum which makes him wince.

Kind grandpa
Don't get upset
We will manage to
Sort out those who stand in the way of burials due

The very best way and the quickest
So the funeral might follow its course
Was to carry on our backs
The funeral burden.
If he could’ve come back to life a bit
Grandfather would have been content
To go to his final place of rest
Just like an emperor

And we ran at full speed to get
A  holy water sprinkler, but
As we’d little ready money
The man who dealt in them turned us right down.

"At the grocers, no money, no groceries
At fair Susie’s house, no money, no fun …
Deaths low on the social scale
Are not in my benediction.”


Even before the curate
Could give forth a cry
I kicked his arse in name of the
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

And the fine fellow has had ever since
And the fine fellow has had ever since
Ah, it is not nice
Ah, it’s not polite
A very twisted bum which makes him wince.

Kind grandpa
Don't get upset
We will manage to
Sort out those who stand in the way
Of burials due
Sort out those who stand in the way
Of burials due










Translation notes
1)     Faire le coup du père francais – He compares the sudden, severe stroke that killed his grandfather, with symptoms, no doubt, of fighting for breath, to a mortal attack by notorious French street robbers.
     
The dictionary, Reverso tells their story : Originally, in the course of the second half of the 19th century, the real « coup du père François » could only be carried out if there were two scoundrels, whose aim was to relieve of his money the average citizen, who had the audacity and imprudence to walk out at night in ill-lit streets.
The crime was carried out in the following manner: the first of the attackers would get into conversation with the stroller, with some everyday remark such as asking for a light or asking the time.   The accomplice, armed with a belt to form a slip knot, came up from behind to strangle the victim, while he retained the back of the victim against his own back. The latter, with his feet of the ground was like a sack of potatoes, struggling to breathe and to free himself from the noose,   All the while the man at the front was free to rummage through and empty his pockets.  When the theft was completed, the victim was generally in a very bad state, although not necessarily dead.  The partners in crime would then recuperate the belt they had used and make off.


2)     Pour lui en savoir gré - savoir gré à quelqu’un de quelque chose means to show some-one gratitude for something. 

3)     Léger d’argent – my French dictionary quotes “Abîmé de dettes et léger d'argent ».  Léger can mean in short supply

4)     Reçut à bras fermés – Brassens is using the opposite of the common expression: “recevoir à bras ouverts” to welcome with open arms

5)     Chez la belle Suzon, pas d'argent, pas de cuisse. « Cuisse » means « thigh » because what the lovely Susie had to sell was her body.
 
6)     Des coups de pied quelque part qui se perdent- se perdre has an idiomatic use.  The dictionary says that an act « qui se perd », is an act which is committed with impunity.  I n modern English we talk of things “passing under the radar”.

7)     Toucha  son but - We are reminded that “toucher” also has the sense of “to hit one’s target” –hence the cry in fencing: “touché!”

8)     le bon apôtre – Apôtre means apostle  However the word is sometimes used ironically for some-one who does not live up to the standards pretended.  My translation - “fine fellow”-  is meant to be ironical

9)     Il a un' fess' qui dit merde à l'autre.  Brassens gives this line a build up as « not nice" and "impolite ».  This phrase is making a play on the awful expression: “Il a un oeil qui dit merde  à l’autre”, which means “He is cross-eyed”.  In Brassens’ version “merde” may seem to have reference to the physical locality. But in the original’ it would seem to have its normal colloquial usage to express surprise or pain.  The translation should therefore describe a permanently deformed bottom, associated with pain and should shock the reader or listener.  Not easy!  To restore the emphasis that I have lost , I have added a rhyme.

10)  Bon Papa – In those days “Bon Papa” was a way of saying « Grandad »

11)  Nous en viendrons à bout de – « Venir à bout de quelque chose » means to manage to overcome something

12)  Tous ces empêcheurs d'enterrer en rond.  The expression « les empêcheurs de tourner/danser en rond » means the spoil-sports –.   The expression is applied to people who gratuitously stop you doing what you are fully entitled to do.

13)  Une bière d’occasion. In those days, we are told , planks from previously used coffins were on sale in cemeteries in France by the common graves.  I am puzzled how the dead people came to vacate their coffins!  I haven't the heart to research such a grim subject but I guess that some corpses buried in a common grave were emptied from the coffin first so that it or its timber could be resold, 

14)  Un pot de miel….offrir….à une âme soeur  - The strange story is told that the Brassens family bought the second-hand coffin from the family of a man who had recently died. The latter had stipulated that the price obtained for these boards would have to be to enough to buy a jar of honey. This honey  was to be be given to his great soulmate.  

15)  Ça rendrait les dames confuses – as a modern languages teacher, I used to irritate my classes, so they told me, by talking about « faux amis ».  The word “confus” was one on my list.  In fact “confus has two meanings in French and one is the same meaning as in English – un esprit confus is a confused mind.  However”confus” is a faux ami because the French also use it in a sense not given to the word in English –it often means, as here, embarrassed/ashamed.  He would have embarrassed the ladies by this final line, but he would not not have confused them, if he had said frankly that he landed his pointed boot up the arse of each of the “apostles”.

16)  Un goupillon in Church use is a sprinkler of holy water.  In domestic use, it is brush for cleaning jars

17)  Le vicaire is the curate – the assistant priest to the curé.  The word “vicar”, as used in the Anglican church is priest in charge of the Parish and thus would translate as curé, if it needed to be translated into French.  It is perhaps deliberate that Brassens makes it a lesser priest, who behaves so badly in his story.



Please click here to return to the alphabetical list of my Brassens selection








Friday, 23 January 2015

Brave Margot - A heart-breaking tale of a shepherdess, who adopts a lost kitten

This is a very well-known song with a catchy chorus that people enjoy singing.  It is set in a rustic France whose way of life was characterised by joie de vivre and in British eyes with a lot of harmless naughtiness.  Cat lovers need consoling that it is only a made-up story.



Brave Margot

Margoton la jeune bergère
Trouvant dans l'herbe un petit chat
Qui venait de perdre sa mère
L'adopta
Elle entrouvre sa collerette(1)
Et le couche contre son sein
C'était tout c' qu'elle avait, pauvrette,
Comm' coussin
Le chat la prenant pour sa mère
Se mit à téter tout de go(2)
Émue, Margot le laissa faire
Brav' Margot

Un croquant passant à la ronde(3)
Trouvant le tableau(4) peu commun
S'en alla le dire à tout l' monde
Et le lendemain
(Chorus)
Quand Margot dégrafait son corsage
Pour donner la gougoutte(5) à son chat
Tous les gars, tous les gars du village
Étaient là, la la la la la la
Étaient là, la la la la la
Et Margot qu'était simple et très sage
Présumait qu' c'était pour voir son chat
Qu'tous les gars, qu'tous les gars du village
Étaient là, la la la la la la
Étaient là, la la la la la

L' maître d'école et ses potaches
Le mair', le bedeau, le bougnat(6)
Négligeaient carrément leur tâche
Pour voir ça
Le facteur d'ordinair' si preste(7)
Pour voir ça, ne distribuait plus
Les lettres que personne au reste
N'aurait lues
Pour voir ça, Dieu le leur pardonne,
Les enfants de chœur au milieu
Du saint sacrifice(8) abandonnent
Le saint lieu
Les gendarmes, mêm' les gendarmes
Qui sont par natur' si ballots(9)
Se laissaient toucher par les charmes
Du joli tableau

Chorus
Quand Margot dégrafait son corsage
Pour donner la gougoutte(3) à son chat
Tous les gars, tous les gars du village
Étaient là, la la la la la la
Étaient là, la la la la la
Et Margot qu'était simple et très sage
Présumait qu' c'était pour voir son chat
Qu'tous les gars, qu'tous les gars du village
Étaient là, la la la la la la
Étaient là, la la la la la


Mais les autr’s femm’s de la commune
Privées d’leurs époux, d’leurs galants,
Accumulèrent la rancune
Patiemment…
Puis un jour, ivres de colère(10),
Elles s’armèrent de bâtons
Et, farouches, elles immolèrent(11)
Le chaton…


La bergère, après bien des larmes
Pour s’consoler prit un mari
Et ne dévoila plus ses charmes
Que pour lui…
Le temps passa sur les mémoires,
On oublia l’événement,
Seuls des vieux racontent encore
À leurs p’tits enfants…

(Chorus)

Quand Margot dégrafait son corsage
Pour donner la gougoutte(3) à son chat
Tous les gars, tous les gars du village
Étaient là, la la la la la la
Étaient là, la la la la la
Et Margot qu'était simple et très sage
Présumait qu' c'était pour voir son chat
Qu'tous les gars, qu'tous les gars du village
Étaient là, la la la la la la
Étaient là, la la la la la

(1954 – (Les amoureux des bancs publics 2).
Kind-hearted Margot


Li’l Margot the young shepherdess
Finding in the grass a small cat
Which had got lost from his mother
Adopted him
She half opens her dress collar
And lays him up against her breast
It was all that she’d got, poor girl,
For a pillow.
The cat, thinking her his mother
Started to suckle straight away
Thrilled, Margot let him carry on
Kind Margot

An oafish man walking around
Finding the tableau unusual
Went to tell everyone the tale
And the day after
(Chorus)
When Margot was undoing her blouse
To give her cat its drop of milk
All of the lads of the village,
Were out there, la la la la la la
Were out there, la la la la la
And Margot, a simple, very good girl Presumed it was to see her cat
That all the lads of the village,
Were there, la la la la la la
Were there, la la la la la

The school teacher and his pupils
The mayor, the beadle, the coalman
Flagrantly neglected their work
To see this.
The postman, normally so prompt
To see this, stopped delivering
The mail that, besides, no-body
Would have read.
To see this, may God forgive them,
The altar boys right at the height
Of the Holy Sacrifice sneak off
From God’s house.
The gendarmes, even the gendarmes,
Who are, by nature, so cumbrous
Let themselves be touched by the charms
O’the pretty tableau.

(Chorus)
When Margot was undoing her blouse
To give her cat its drop of milk
All of the lads of the village,
Were out there, la la la la la la
Were out there, la la la la la
And Margot, a simple, very good girl Presumed it was to see her cat
That all the lads of the village,
Were there, la la la la la la
Were there, la la la la la


But the other women of the district
Deprived of husbands or boyfriends,
Built up their resentment
Patiently …
Then one day, vicious with anger,
They armed themselves with staves
And ferociously slayed
The small cat …


The shepherdess, after much weeping,
So to console herself, got wed
And ne’er again revealed her charms
But for him …
Time passed over the memories;
The happenings were forgotten;
Just some old men still tell the tale
To their grandchildren …

(Chorus)

When Margot was undoing her blouse
To give her cat its drop of milk
All of the lads of the village,
Were out there, la la la la la la
Were out there, la la la la la
And Margot, a simple, very good girl Presumed it was to see her cat
That all the lads of the village,
Were there, la la la la la la
Were there, la la la la la






Translation Notes

1)     Collerette- Larousse tells us that this is a little round collar, often pleated, made of fine linen

2)     Le chat se mit à téter tout de go.  This fact gives us a problem.  If the young shepherdess has milk in her breasts, she must be a nursing mother and we find out later that she was not then married.  From this it would appear that she is not so “sage” in the French sense ( not such a good girl) and perhaps not so young.
On the other hand it is important for the poem that the shepherdess is young and innocent.  Perhaps the answer is that Brassens is being very relaxed about human biology for the sake of his tale.
3)     A la ronde= around -  for example «  à des kilomètres à la ronde » translates as  « for miles around »

4)     Le tableau : We would normally translate the word « tableau » as “picture” and this would be acceptable  here, but its meaning in French is also “theatrical scene” and   the French word is used in English.  The dictionary defines “ tableau » in English as: “an arrangement of people who do not move or speak, especially on a stage, who represent a view of life, an event, etc.”.

5)     Le bougnat – Larousse tells us that this word refers to a coal merchant.

6)     La gougoutte : is baby talk for « la goutte » - the drop (of water etc).

7)     Preste – Robert translates this as “nimble”.  It describes speed of movement and as an interjection “preste!” means “hurry up!”  I suppose that is why British magicians say “Hey presto!”

8)     Au milieu du saint sacrifice – thus at the climax of the mass.

9)     Ballot :  in correct speech this means parcel/ package.  Robert says that this is a noun in familiar speech meaning “nitwit”.  The basic idea seems to be heavy and plodding of movement. The idea of policemen being like a parcel seems to link with the policeman image in the children’s story, where he is “Mr Plod – the policeman”.

10)  Ivres de colère – the most common translation for « ivre » is drunk/ intoxicated but it also means in the grip of extreme passions hence: ivre de joie= wild with joy, ivre de sang= thirsting for blood.


11)  Larousse tells us that immoler is to offer an animal or a human being as a sacrifice/to put to death/massacre.

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This Russian version of the song by the talented Alexandre Avanessov has some charming and amusing illustrations