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  sexual naughtiness, usually harmless.  Cat lovers will need consoling that the following 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 –  In the album:
Les amoureux des bancs publics ).
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 oaf of a man passing round
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.  It gives us a little sketch:


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 Enid Blyton's children’s stories of the "Noddy" series.  Her policeman is called “Mr Plod 
.
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. Brassens, like Jeanne a cat lover, would never have condoned such cruelty against animals.  One of his major grievances against his teenage lover. Jo, was that she maltreated his cats- see "Putain de toi"




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




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


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