Thursday 7 February 2008

Les passantes - Video Lyrics Translation

Click here to go to the full list of my selection of Brassens songsIn alphabetical order

This song is ranked among the best-loved songs of  Georges Brassens
He has put to music a melancholic poem of Antoine Pol.  The poet reviews the attractive women who have passed briefly in and out of his life, because he did know how to take the opportunity for romance.  In his later lonely years, he is left with no other consolation than these fleeting pictures in his memory.

Les Passantes

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
You stay there tingling with her glow.

The lithe girl of a stylish waltz
Who to you seemed nervous and sad
On that one night of  Carnival.
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, charm to the spectator,
Make the route travelled seem short 
Whom just you p'rhaps could understand
And 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
Have 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 the good times should come along.
It is rare that one remembers
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.

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

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

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

We probably all have brief “might have been” relationships that stay with us for all time. The English poet, Thomas Hardy had a pretty redhead called Elizabeth Brown.

To Lizbie Browne

Dear Lizbie Browne,
Where are you now?
In sun, in rain? —
Or is your brow
Past joy, past pain,
Dear Lizbie Browne?

Sweet Lizbie Browne
How you could smile,
How you could sing! —
How archly wile
In glance-giving,
Sweet Lizbie Browne!

And Lizbie Browne,
Who else had hair
Bay-red as yours,
Or flesh so fair
Bred out of doors,
Sweet Lizbie Browne?

When, Lizbie Browne,
You had just begun
To be endeared
By stealth to one,
You disappeared,
My Lizbie Browne!

Ay, Lizbie Browne,
So swift your life,
And mine so slow,
You were a wife
Ere I could show
Love, Lizbie Browne.

Still, Lizbie Browne,
You won, they said,
The best of men
When you were wed....
Where went you then,
O Lizbie Browne?

Dear Lizbie Browne,
I should have thought,
"Girls ripen fast,"
And coaxed and caught
You ere you passed,
Dear Lizbie Browne!

But, Lizbie Browne,
I let you slip;
Shaped not a sign;
Touched never your lip
With lip of mine,
Lost Lizbie Browne!

So, Lizbie Browne,
When on a day
Men speak of me
As not, you'll say,
"And who was he?" —
Yes, Lizbie Browne!

Comment: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.

Les Passantes is beautiful in Italian as well: (But the Italian translation is very free!


Anonymous said...

Little mistake in the original lyrics :

Third sentence, it's not "Pendant quelques instants sacrés" but "Pendant quelques instants secrets".

You should correct, as the meaning is totally different.

Good work anyway.

David Yendley said...

Many thanks for this correction DB

Unknown said...

The translation is good to understand the meaning of the song, unfortunately it doesn't translate any of the poetry expressed by the original or any of the ryhmes.

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