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.



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