Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Une jolie fleur - Video and Text

Une jolie fleur – a song for all men who were jilted by the only woman they could ever love.

The singer tells us that he does not feel any resentment against his lost mistress now. I am not sure that some of his description of her is very charitable though! When a man has lost a woman, who, to use John Denver’s phrase totally “filled up his senses”, it is hard to be objective.




Jamais sur terre il n'y eut d'amoureux
Plus aveugle que moi dans tous les âges
Mais faut dir' qu' je m'étais crevé les yeux(1)
En regardant de trop près son corsage.



Un' jolie fleur dans une peau d'vache (2)
Un' jolie vach' déguisée en fleur
Qui fait la belle et qui vous attache
Puis, qui vous mèn' par le bout du cœur (3)


Le ciel l'avait pourvue des mille appas(4)
Qui vous font prendre feu dès qu'on y touche
L'en avait tant que je ne savais pas
Ne savais plus où donner de la bouche.



Un' jolie fleur dans une peau d'vache (1)
Un' jolie vach' déguisée en fleur
Qui fait la belle et qui vous attache
Puis, qui vous mèn' par le bout du cœur (2)


Ell' n'avait pas de tête, ell' n'avait pas
L'esprit beaucoup plus grand qu'un dé à coudre
Mais pour l'amour on ne demande pas
Aux filles d'avoir inventé la poudre (3)


Un' jolie fleur dans une peau d'vache (1)
Un' jolie vach' déguisée en fleur
Qui fait la belle et qui vous attache
Puis, qui vous mèn' par le bout du cœur (2)


Puis un jour elle a pris la clef des champs (4)
En me laissant à l'âme un mal funeste
Et toutes les herbes de la Saint-Jean (5)
N'ont pas pu me guérir de cette peste (6)

Un' jolie fleur dans une peau d'vache (1)
Un' jolie vach' déguisée en fleur
Qui fait la belle et qui vous attache
Puis, qui vous mèn' par le bout du cœur (2)


J' lui en ai bien voulu, mais à présent
J'ai plus d'rancune et mon cœur lui pardonne
D'avoir mis mon cœur à feu et à sang (7)
Pour qu'il ne puisse plus servir à personne


Un' jolie fleur dans une peau d'vache (1)
Un' jolie vach' déguisée en fleur
Qui fait la belle et qui vous attache
Puis, qui vous mèn' par le bout du cœur (2)


1955 – Chanson pour l’auvergnat
Never on earth has there been any lover,
Throughout all the ages more blind than me
But I must say that I’d poked out my eyes
Looking at her bust at too close quarters.


A pretty flower in the guise of a bitch
A pretty bitch disguised as a flower
Who flaunts her beauty and who hooks you
Then who can lead you on by your heartstrings.


Heaven had supplied her thousands of charms
Which set you aflame at the very first touch
She’d so many that I just did not know
I no longer knew where to give my mouth.


A pretty flower in the guise of a bitch
A pretty bitch disguised as a flower
Who flaunts her beauty and who hooks you
Then who can lead you on by your heartstrings


She did not have much sense, she did not have
A mind that was much bigger than a thimble
But for making love you don’t require
Girls to have shown themselves as top-notch thinkers .


A pretty flower in the guise of a bitch
A pretty bitch disguised as a flower
Who flaunts her beauty and who hooks you
Then who can lead you on by your heartstrings


Then one day she made off without warning Leaving in my soul agonising pain
And all the herbs of St-John that I took
Could not cure me of that ill which plagued me.


A pretty flower in the guise of a bitch
A pretty bitch disguised as a flower
Who flaunts her beauty and who hooks you
Then who can lead you on by your heartstrings


I’ve been so angry with her, but right now
Feel no rancour more. My heart forgives her
For shattering and plundering my heart
So it’s of use to no-one anymore.


A pretty flower in the guise of a bitch
A pretty bitch disguised as a flower
Who flaunts her beauty and who hooks you
Then who can lead you on by your heartstrings.






TRANSLATION NOTES
1)      je m'étais crevé les yeux  - Brassens was an avid reader of La Fontaine and had a book of his fables that Jeanne had given him as a bedside book.  La Fontaine followed Aesop in his ideas on the blindness of love.  A quotation from him is reminiscent of this line in Brassens’ song:
si l'Amour est aveugle, c'est parce qu'au cours d'une échauffourée, la Folie lui a crevé les yeux. Le conseil des Dieux a alors condamné la Folie à servir de guide à l'Amour.

2)      “une peau d'vache » - Larousse tells us that : « Peau de vache » means « Personne méchante, très sévère, sans pitié. ».  In my original translation, I tried to keep the cow reference, while trying to convey this idea of the bad tempered, vindictive personality of the girl .  However “cow” in English is not the right image and I have abandoned it, using “bitch” as advised by a blogger below.

3)      « mener par le bout du cœur » - Brassens is making a play on the expression : « mener quelqu’un par le bout du nez » - which means having a total and humiliating control over someone. An American blogger, called Marissa, sent me the idea of controlling by tugs on the heartstrings. Thanks for that!

4)      Appas - Charmes physiques d'une femme et plus spécialement sa poitrine [Larousse

5)      “Il n’a pas inventé la poudre” means “he is not gifted iintellectually”

6)      “Prendre la clef des champs” is used for a criminal for example – to make his getaway –to clear off

7)      « les herbes de la Saint-Jean ». St-John’s-wort ( le millepertuis) which is taken for depression
.
8)      “peste” – plague- a strong word. But it could refer to the woman as well as “peste” is used for a person who is a nuisance as in English
.
9)      « Mettre une ville à feu et à sang » This term is used when an army “sacks” a town, and so we have an image of violent devastation




BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE

This song, written in 1955 describes an ex-girl-friend about whom Brassens had written an even more bitter song in 1953, with the uncompromising title of “Putain de toi” – whore that you are.

Other people suggest a different identity to the “jolie fleur” of this poem, but most of the evidence points to a girl called Josette, whom Brassens referred to as “Jo”. He had got to know her before he became famous. She came to live with him for a time. She was stunningly beautiful but was impossible to live with - see “Putain de toi” for more detail. When they split up she stole everything he had- which wasn’t much! Later in life, she became a prostitute – hence the title of the other poem may be something more than an insult. Like a lot of men, Brassens seemed to have kept an enduring love for the woman who most messed up his heart and caused him the greatest pain.

There is also a lot of similarity between this pretty flower and the beautiful young wife of Brassens' neighbour who sold lightning conductors in his song L'Orage.

With both these women lovemaking was a totally unique experience and both deserted him without a goodbye.


Pleaseclick here to return to the alphabetical list of my Brassens selection


Postscript

Who was not the Jolie Fleur de Brassens?    -  Nadine de Rothschild

In her later memoirs Nadine de Rothschild claimed that she was the girl about whom Brassens wrote  his song:  “Une  Jolie fleur.”  Most people think she was mistaken.

Who was Nadine de Rothschild?  

From Wikipedia , I discover:  Nadine de Rothschild was not born into the rich elite of Europe.  She was born Nadine Nelly Jeannette Lhopitalier in 1932 in Saint-Quentin but went to live in Switzerland near Geneva. 



At the age of twenty in 1952 she began her career as a film actress with the professional name of Nadine Tallier. Most often she played a young woman of easy morals.  She also worked as an artist’s model and posed on numerous occasions for the painter, Jean-Gabriel Domergue.   It was in this period that she got to know Georges Brassens

In 1962, she very suddenly shot high in society, when she married the banker, Edmond de Rothschild(1926-1997).  They had a son Benjamin in 1962.  She retired from the cinema in 1964 and later became a television personality.

Her claim to be the subject of “Une jolie fleur is based on her own unequivocal statement and perhaps a physical similarity with the girl in the song.  Brassens tells us that the girl had remarkable breasts and we know that Nadine Tallier doubled for Martine Carol in nude scenes of the film Caroline Chérie (1952).  When I was a teaching assistant in France in 1955, one of my colleagues confided in me that Martine Carol had the most beautiful breasts in the world. 

However, most people believe that the only girl who caused Brassens the intense anguish that he describes in this song was his beautiful teenage lover, Jo.   Brassens’ friend and colleague, Le Forestier, confirmed her identity in an interview after Brassens’ death.

Nevertheless it is believed that Nadine Tallier did inspire two other songs of Brassens:  “Le Père Noël” and “La petite fille”.   It is partly to keep these facts in my mind when I translate these poems in the future that I have included this postscript.



6 comments:

Marissa said...

Nice site you have here. A suggestion for translating the last line of this song in a slightly less awkward way: "Who leads you along by tugging your heartstrings."

David-Barfield said...

Thanks Marissa,

That's a really good suggestion. I shall use it! Why couldn't I think of that?

Rosinha said...

Thanks for lyrics, translation and video! Have been humming this song for 20 years without remembering more than "jolie fleur" and "vache".
- Love his naughty smile at "poudre" :-)

Margaux said...

For "peau de vache" I think you say cheeky cow in english....
I love that song he was a great writer, he wrote so many good texts,he was a real artist and a beautiful writer and "singer"

Chris said...

Great idea this website, very useful. I've attempted a slightly looser translation than yours, with more idiom and more of GB's wordplays. I've suggested bitch as better reflecting the intended venom than the literal translation of cow.

The world has never known a lover
Blinder than me, not in all eternity
But I must admit my eyes made it obvious
By always straying to her blouse

A pretty flower in a bitch’s skin
A pretty bitch disguised as a flower
Who slips away and ties you to her
Then strings you along by nose and heart

Nature had endowed her with a thousand charms
Which set you aflame as soon as you touched them
She had so many that I no longer knew
Where to kiss her or which way to turn

She hadn’t much sense
A mind like a thimble
But for love-making you don’t ask
Girls to be rocket scientists

Then one day she did a bunk
Leaving me with a broken heart
And no amount of St John’s Wort
Could free me from that cursed girl

I bore her a bitter grudge but now
My rancour has passed and I forgive her
For having put my heart to the sword
So that it’s no longer of use to anyone

jerpou said...

great to be able to introduce Brassens to foreigners ,thanks
i'm not sure skin of cow means the same in English ( a mean wicked person )