Friday 3 December 2010

SI LE BON DIEU AVAIT VOULU -Paul Fort's simple love song

Brassens puts to music Paul Fort’s simple and sincere love poem to his wife,the woman who meant everything in his life.

(I cannot find now a Brassens recording of this song, but the Spanish singer Eva Denia is a brilliant performer of Brassens' music,

Based on the poem of Paul Fort --

Si le bon Dieu l'avait voulu,
Lanturlurette, lanturlu
J'aurais connu la Cléopâtre(1)
Et je ne t'aurais pas connue.

J'aurais connu la Cléopâtre,
Et je ne t'aurais pas connue.
Sans ton amour que j'idolâtre
Las ! que fussé-je devenu ?

Si le bon Dieu l'avait voulu,
J'aurais connu la Messaline,(2)
Agnès(3), Odette(4) et Mélusine(5)...
Et je ne t'aurais pas connue.

J'aurais connu la Pompadour(6),
Noémi(7), Sarah(8), Rebecca(9),
La Fille du Royal-Tambour!(10),
Et la Mogador(11) et Clara(12).

Mais le bon Dieu n'a pas voulu
Que je connaisse leurs amours.
Je t'ai connue, tu m'as connu.
Gloire à Dieu au plus haut des nues !

Las ! que fussé-je devenu
sans toi la nuit, sans toi le jour ?
Je t'ai connue, tu m'as connu.
Gloire à Dieu au plus haut des nues !

1961 Les trompettes de la renommée
If the Good Lord had wished it so
Dum dee dum dum, dum dee dum dee
I would have known yon Cle’patre
I would not have got to know you.

I would have known yon Cle’patre
I would not have got to know you.
Without your love that I worship
Alas! What might I have become?

If the Good Lord had wished it so
I would have known yon Mess’lina
Agnes, Odette and Mel’sina
I would not have got to know you

I would have known yon Pompadour
Naomi, Sarah, Rebecca,
The girl of the Royal Tambour,
And yon Mogador and Clara.

But the Good Lord did not wish it
That I should know their loving charms
I got to know you and you - me
Praise to God in highest heaven.

Alas! what would I have become
Without you by me night and day
I got to know you and you - me
Praise to God in highest heaven!

Translation notes


Paul Fort makes a list of a number of ladies whom he could have got to know, instead of the lady who became the love of his life. In fact these are among the most illustrious women in world history, famous some for their legendary beauty, some for the intensity of the passion they showed or the passion they aroused, famous some for their momentous effect on world history.  By putting “la” in front of their names, he is pretending personal familiarity with them as if they were girls in the next street.

(1) Cléopâtre is well known, of course, as the beautiful queen of Egypt, with whom Julius Caesar and Anthony fell in love, with important consequences in history.

(2) La Messalina was the wife Emperor Claudius, famous for the ruthlessness of her political intrigues and the excesses of her sexual adventures.

(3) Agnès is perhaps Agnès Sorel, favourite mistress of Charles VII (1422-1450), who was known as the "Dame de Beauté".
Her portrait in "La Vierge à l'Enfant" byJean Fouquet is famous.

(4) Odette – There is an Odette, with whom Charles Swann falls obsessively in love in "Un Amour de Swann", a book of Marcel Proust’s « A la Recherche du Temps Perdu ?

(5) Mélusine – A character in French fables, who was the daughter of a fairy, but could transform herself into a snake.

(6) La Pompadour – La Marquise de Pompadour (1721-1764) was the official mistress of Louis XV.
She was a very influential personality in the royal court and an active patroness of the arts.

(7) Noémie, - These next three are three famous biblical characters.  Naomi was the mother-in-law of Ruth. It was she who persuaded Ruth to seduce the rich old man, Booz, in order to perpetuate her lineage which had been broken by the deaths of her two sons. The son born of this union was Obed, the ancestor of Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus. Victor Hugo gives a poetic account of Ruth’s night of love in his famous poem "Booz endormi".

(8) Sarah, - We are told that Sarah, the wife of Abraham gave him a son, Isaac, when she was ninety years old!

(9) Rébecca - the wife of Isaac, was the mother of Esau and of Jacob. She ranks among the ruthless women who changed the course of history. She cheated her dying husband into giving the birthright of their elder son Esau to her favourite son Jacob instead. She did this by putting goat skins on his hands and neck to deceive the blind old man into believing that his hands rested on the hairy skin of Esau. Jacob, who, according to the legend, was renamed “Israel” some years later by an angel of God, became one of the great fathers of the Jewish nation.

(10) La Fille du Royal Tambour – I am unsure who this female can be. There is a famous theatre in Paris called the Royal Tambour. There was also a soldier’s song of the 18th century with this title of the daughter of the Royal Drummer.

(11) Mogador – I am grateful to this poem for acquainting me for the first time with Céleste Mogador, 1824-1909, comtesse Céleste de Chabrillan. She was the illegitimate daughter of Anne-Victoire Vénard and had a deprived and unhappy childhood. At 15 she was imprisoned for vagrancy and at 16 she became a prostitute. After six months she took the name of Céleste Mogador when she became a successful dancer and the toast of Paris. Later she had success as an actress and wrote her memoirs. 
She had become the mistress of Lionel, Comte de Chabrillan, whom she married in January 1854. When he was appointed French consul-general in Australia, she went with him, to the anger of his family.  She lived a somewhat lonely life in Australia, ostracised by the respectable. However she formed a love of the country and wrote three novels set in Australia. During these years she re-educated herself completely, teaching herself correct French to make up for the deficiencies of her education and learning English. 
Her Mémoires were now selling well in France and from her earnings she was able to pay off her husband’s debts. Unfortunately, Lionel died from dysentery in December 1858. Céleste had a prodigious literary output on her return to Paris. In total, she wrote twelve novels, twenty-six plays, seven operettas, poems and songs. 
She was the friend of writers , politicians and many public figures. Her friendship with the Count of Naurois gave her financial security until her death in 1909. I intend to read her Mémoires soon.- "Les mémoires de Céleste de Chabrillan."

(12) Clara – Looking for a famous love story, we might suggest Clara Schumann (1819- 1896).Her skills as a musician had gained for Clara Wieck a Europe wide reputation as a child prodigy. Robert Schumann, the composer, met her in Leipzig when she was just sixteen and began to court her. Her father tried to prevent any contact between the couple and when Schumann made a request to marry her in 1837, her father refused. He continued to block the wishes of the couple for the next three years. In 1839, the couple submitted a petition to the Court of Appeals to marry without the consent of Friedrich Wieck. This was granted in 1840 and they married on September 12, one day before Clara’s 21st birthday.

This is recent a recording of the song by Yves Uzureau, who is accompanied by Pierre Debiesme.  The vdeo gives us good illustrations of the fabled beauty, whom Paul Fort would not consider in comparison with the love of his wife.  Other photos of Georges Brassens with Joha Heiman suggest that when Brassens put the song to music, he might have had his relationship with his Püppchen in mind.


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