Sunday, 23 March 2008

Fernande Brassens Lyrics Translation

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Carla Bruni chooses to sing a Brassens song and the song that she chooses is banned on French radio. She is not only beautiful; she has a sense of humour. I like the naughty twinkle in her eye when she tells us that she has been advised against singing this song but that she is going to sing it all the same.



This is Georges Brassens performing his song.  This is a song in which the audience often likes to participate:



This song deals with the inconsistent sexual consolations available to men when they are in situations deprived of women. That Brassens includes himself in this company links with the sexual frustration of his mature years (after years of plenty) described in “Auprès de mon arbre”. He was then in his final, longlasting but (he often complains) sexless, relationship with Joha Heiman, his “Pupchen” - see also Brassens' “Je me suis fait tout petit”.


The song is the kind of rugby, barrack room song, which Englishmen and some not very lady-like Englishwomen like to sing with gusto on appropriate occasion.



Fernande
Une manie de vieux garçon,
Moi, j'ai pris l'habitude
D'agrémenter ma solitude
Aux accents de cette chanson :

Quand je pense à Fernande
Je bande, je bande,(1)
Quand j' pense à Félicie
Je bande aussi,
Quand j' pense à Léonore,
Mon Dieu, je bande encore
Mais quand j' pense à Lulu,
Là, je ne bande plus.
La bandaison, papa,
Ça n' se commande pas.

C'est cette mâle ritournelle, (2)
Cette antienne virile,
Qui retentit dans la guérite
De la vaillante sentinelle :

Quand je pense à Fernande
Je bande, je bande,(1)
Quand j' pense à Félicie
Je bande aussi,
Quand j' pense à Léonore,
Mon Dieu, je bande encore
Mais quand j' pense à Lulu,
Là, je ne bande plus.
La bandaison, papa,
Ça n' se commande pas


Afin de tromper son cafard,
De voir la vie moins terne,
Tout en veillant sur sa lanterne,
Chante ainsi le gardien de phare :

Quand je pense à Fernande
Je bande, je bande,(1)
Quand j' pense à Félicie
Je bande aussi,
Quand j' pense à Léonore,
Mon Dieu, je bande encore
Mais quand j' pense à Lulu,
Là, je ne bande plus.
La bandaison, papa,
Ça n' se commande pas


Après la prière du soir,
Comme il est un peu triste,
Chante ainsi le séminariste
À genoux sur son reposoir :


Quand je pense à Fernande
Je bande, je bande,(1)
Quand j' pense à Félicie
Je bande aussi,
 Quand j' pense à Léonore,
Mon Dieu, je bande encore
Mais quand j' pense à Lulu,
Là, je ne bande plus.
La bandaison, papa,
Ça n' se commande pas.


À l'Étoile où j'étais venu
Pour ranimer la flamme,
J'entendis ému jusqu'aux larmes
La voix du Soldat Inconnu :
Quand je pense à Fernande
Je bande, je bande,(1)
Quand j' pense à Félicie
Je bande aussi,
Quand j' pense à Léonore,
Mon Dieu, je bande encore
Mais quand j' pense à Lulu,
Là, je ne bande plus.
La bandaison, papa,
Ça n' se commande pas.


Et je vais mettre un point final 
À ce chant salutaire,
En suggérant aux solitaires
D'en faire un hymne national.


Quand je pense à Fernande
Je bande, je bande,(1)
Quand j' pense à Félicie
Je bande aussi,
Quand j' pense à Léonore,
Mon Dieu, je bande encore
Mais quand j' pense à Lulu,
Là, je ne bande plus.
La bandaison, papa,
Ça n' se commande pas
Strange habit of an old bachelor
I have got into the way
Of spicing up my loneliness
With the accents of this song
  
When I think of Fernande
It's so hard, It's so hard,
When I think of Félicie
It's hard as well,
When I think of Léonora
Good Lord, it's hard once more
But when I think of Lulu
There, it is hard no more
Getting erect papa,
That just can't be controlled. 

It is this popular male refrain
This ancient chant for men
Which rings out from the sentry box
Of the valiant duty guard

When I think of Fernande
It's so hard, It's so hard,
When I think of Félicie
It's hard as well,
When I think of Léonora
Good Lord, it's hard once more
But when I think of Lulu
There, it is hard no more
Getting erect papa,
That just can't be controlled


To get over his homesickness
To see life 'bit less bleak
Even while tending to his lamp
The lighthouse keeper sings out thus.

When I think of Fernande
It's so hard, It's so hard,
When I think of Félicie
It's hard as well,
When I think of Léonora
Good Lord, it's hard once more
But when I think of Lulu
There, it is hard no more
Getting erect papa,
That just can't be controlled


After evening prayers
As he is a little sad
The priest in training sings like this 
As he's kneeling at his altar 


When I think of Fernande
It's so hard, It's so hard,
When I think of Félicie
It's hard as well,
 When I think of Léonora
Good Lord, it's hard once more
But when I think of Lulu
There, it is hard no more
Getting erect papa,
That just can't be controlled

On the Place de l’Étoile where I'd come
For revival of the flame
I heard, reduced to tears,
The voice of the unknown soldier
When I think of Fernande
It's so hard, It's so hard,
When I think of Félicie
It's hard as well,
When I think of Léonora
Good Lord, it's hard once more
But when I think of Lulu
There, it is hard no more
Getting erect papa,
That just can't be controlled.


And I am going to finish
This salutary song
By suggesting for lonely people
To make it a national anthem. 


When I think of Fernande
It's so hard, It's so hard,
When I think of Félicie
It's hard as well,
When I think of Léonora
Good Lord, it's hard once more
But when I think of Lulu
There, it is hard no more
Getting erect papa,
That just can't be controlled


(Georges Brassens 1972)



TRANSLATION NOTES


1)Collins Robert advise that the word “bander” is an indecent word that you are advised not to use if you are not a native French speaker. It means "to have or to get an erection". Until now- the 31st of Match 2010 - I have translated the line more delicately, saying "I get turned on". However, I have come in for a lot of criticism from bloggers who say that if Brassens in his characteristically blunt fashion says: “I have an erection ..... , an honest translator must say the same.


At the start, I had put the direct translation of "Je bande" right at the bottom of this page, so as not to offend. There I explained:" Je bande means "I get an erection"Anonymous reproached me ...


"There is something I don't understand", he wrote. "This is a very delicate and formal translation. Can anybody be offended by that ??? (19 September 2008 06:37


After a couple of weeks, my weblog told me that a number of readers agreed with him and I decided to give the direct translation.  However “I get an erection” is an awkward phrase of seven syllables that does not fit well into the line and so I chose: “it is hard”. (See my final footnote)

2) C'est toujours la même ritournelle means « It’s always the same old tune» -Collins Robert.

 FINAL FOOTNOTE: "It is hard when I think of you....."

 These words bring to mind a close friend, now advancing in years, who was a soldier in the Second World War and spent years as a P.O.W.  He told me that the standard first line of a soldier's letter home was: “It is hard when I think of you my darling"- Thus combining the emotional and the physical.


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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

There is something I don't understand ... David writes:

> After a couple of weeks my weblog
> tells me that a number of readers
> are trying to find the exact
> translation. I will put it far at
> the bottom of this page but if it
> offends tell me and I will remove
> it

At the bottom of the page, we have:

Je bande means "I get an erection"

This is a very delicate and formal translation. Can anybody be offended by that ???

Anonymous said...

I really laughed very hard when I was reading this page of your. Thank you for such interesting info. The song should definitely become a national anthem!

teedee said...

I got a giggle out of this page as well. Was wondering what sort of debauchery lay at the bottom of the page... :)

Anonymous said...

Brassens is a genius. Thanks to Carla Bruni for choosing this song and to you for the excellent translation.

annabelle lecture said...

is it true carla was originally a man then ?

Gaspard Winckler said...

Well, if the author of the song, Georges Brassens in this case, chooses "Je bande", then don't change it. Even though I was aware of the meaning of the expression prior to reading your translation, it really annoyed me that you changed it. Let the Author maintain his Authority. It's just a small gesture of courtesy, I know, but principles matter.

Anonymous said...

First thanks for your work to make Brassens understandable for non French speakers.

As a french, about "je bande" - I see that English speakers propose the litterral "I have an erection". Alright - who could say it's no exact. But it's not exactly exact.

"Je bande" is slang, and if Brassens uses it in a song, he knows what he is doing. So an honnest translation should use the same slang word in English - so that the English listener can be: either be shocked like all French listener can be at first.

This provocation as a meaning : to say you are shocked with a word, but not shocked by millions of death and by religions who approuved theses wars.

So, with many thanks for your work, on this sentence I must say that as long as your translation will stay like that, it looses the main part.

Anonymous said...

(I apologize for my bad english : I'm french)
First of all, I want to congratulate you for your work : I know how hard is the art of translation, especialy in matter of poetry.
"Je bande" is a french slang saying. Brassens used to write his lyrics with all levels of french, from the highest forms of poetry down to the crudest slang, sometime in the same song. These lyrics can be deemed as offensive or shocking : however, Brassens did want them to be so.Do not hesitate to use slang in your translation, because Brassens did not, so a good tranlation cannot neither.