Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Les Passantes Text with translation

Les Passantes

This is Georges Brassens' setting of the poem by Antoine Pol

"Les Passantes" is the song that achieves the most hits on my Brassens website.

The poetic words of Antoine Pol say that most of the romantic experiences of life prove to be incomplete and unsatisfactory. Yet the song itself reminds us that, in spite all this, life has its own melancholic music.

Biographical Note

Brassens tells us that when he wrote this verse, he had in his thoughts his partner Joha Heiman, who was enduring a loveless marriage when he first met her.

Je veux dédier ce poème
A toutes les femmes qu'on aime
Pendant quelques instants secrets
A celles qu'on connait à peine
Qu'un destin différent entraîne
Et qu'on ne retrouve jamais

A celle qu'on voit apparaître
Une seconde à sa fenêtre
Et qui, preste, s'évanouit
Mais dont la svelte silhouette
Est si gracieuse et fluette
Qu'on en demeure épanoui


A la fine et souple valseuse
Qui vous sembla triste et nerveuse
Par une nuit de carnaval
Qui voulut rester inconnue
Et qui n'est jamais revenue
Tournoyer dans un autre bal

A la compagne de voyage
Dont les yeux, charmant paysage
Font paraître court le chemin
Qu'on est seul, peut-être, à comprendre
Et qu'on laisse pourtant descendre
Sans avoir effleuré sa main.

A celles qui sont déjà prises
Et qui, vivant des heures grises
Près d'un être trop différent (1)
Vous ont, inutile folie,
Laissé voir la mélancolie
D'un avenir désespérant

Chères images aperçues
Espérances d'un jour déçues
Vous serez dans l'oubli demain
Pour peu que le bonheur survienne
Il est rare qu'on se souvienne
Des épisodes du chemin

Mais si l'on a manqué sa vie
On songe avec un peu d'envie
A tous ces bonheurs entrevus
Aux baisers qu'on n'osa pas prendre
Aux cœurs qui doivent vous attendre
Aux yeux qu'on n'a jamais revus.

Alors, aux soirs de lassitude
Tout en peuplant sa solitude
Des fantômes du souvenir
On pleure les lèvres absentes
De toutes ces belles passantes
Que l'on n'a pas su retenir

I wish to dedicate this poem
To all of the women that one loves
For just a few secret moments
To those whom you scarcely know
Whom a different fate bears away
And whom you see never again.

To the one whom you saw appear
For a brief second at her window
And who, straightway, is lost from sight
And yet whose slender silhouette
Is so graceful and alluring
That you stay tingling with her glow.

To the lithe girl of a stylish waltz
Who seemed to you nervous and sad
Creature of  Carnival night
Who wished to remain a stranger
And who never came back to join
In the whirl of another ball.

To the girl who shared your journey,
Whose eyes, charming to look upon ,
Make the route you travelled seem short 
Whom just you, p’rhaps could understand
Yet whom you allow to go off
Without the mere touch of her hand.

To those women already taken
Who, living long and dull hours
With a person too different
Let you see, pointless folly
The depth of the melancholy
Of a future deprived of hope.

Dear images only half seen
Disappointed hopes of just one day
You’ll be quite forgotten the next 
If only good fortune prevails.
It's unusual that one retains
Trivial events on life’s way.

But if you have missed out on life
You ponder with tinges of envy,
All those moments of bliss you glimpsed
The kisses you did not dare take
The hearts which must be left waiting
The eyes that were not seen again.

And so, on wearisome evenings,
While peopling your loneliness
With the phantoms of  memory
One weeps for lips, sadly absent
Of all those beaut’ful passers-by
Whom you knew not how to keep hold.


:Oxzen said...

 I've been looking for a good translation of "Les Passantes" for years, so many thanks for this, David. Very well laid out and displayed. Particularly liked the way you incorporated the excellent video. Have you seen the version sung by Francis Cabrel? 

It has some nice bluesy guitar work and a fantastic blues harmonica solo in the middle. 5 minutes of real bliss.
Not surprising that a fellow Libran should have such a love of this beautiful piece of work, and of Brassens generally.
11 April 2008 at 15:03 

Here is Francis Cabrel's recording:

I am always amazed by the expressiveness of a single guitar in the hands of a virtuoso, such as the following by Michel Sadanowsky (2013):

To return to my list of translations of over 80 Brassens' songs, please click on the following link :