Monday, 17 March 2008

Les amoureux des bancs publics - Public passion needs to be encouraged as its lifespan is brief

Brassens is made very angry when he sees an intensely religious family abuse a couple for their public display of passion. To Brassens, moments of happiness are very precious as they fade so quickly.





Les gens qui voient de travers
Pensent que les bancs verts
Qu'on voit sur les trottoirs
Sont faits pour les impotents ou les ventripotents
Mais c'est une absurdité
Car à la vérité
Ils sont là c'est notoir'(2)
Pour accueillir quelque temps les amours débutants(3)


Les amoureux qui s' bécott'nt sur les bancs publics,
Bancs publics, bancs publics,
En s' fouttant pas mal du regard oblique
Des passants honnêtes
Les amoureux qui s' bécott'nt sur les bancs publics,
Bancs publics, bancs publics,
En s' disant des " Je t'aim' " pathétiqu's(5)
Ont des p'tit's gueul'(6) bien sympatiqu's.


Ils se tiennent par la main
Parlent du lendemain
Du papier bleu d'azur
Que revêtiront les murs de leur chambre à coucher.
Ils se voient déjà doucement
Ell' cousant, lui fumant,
Dans un bien-être sur
Et choisissant les prénoms de leur premier bébé



Les amoureux qui s' bécott'nt sur les bancs publics,
Bancs publics, bancs publics,
En s' fouttant pas mal du regard oblique
Des passants honnêtes
Les amoureux qui s' bécott'nt sur les bancs publics,
Bancs publics, bancs publics,
En s' disant des " Je t'aim' " pathétiqu's
Ont des p'tit's gueul' bien sympatiqu's.

Quand la saint' famill' Machin(7)
Croise sur son chemin
Deux de ces malappris
Ell' leur décoche hardiment en passant des propos venimeux
N'empêche' que tout' la famille
Le pér' la mér' la fille
Le fils le saint esprit(8)
Voudrait bien de temps en temps pouvoir s' conduir' comme eux


Les amoureux qui s' bécott'nt sur les bancs publics,
Bancs publics, bancs publics,
En s' fouttant pas mal du regard oblique
Des passants honnêtes
Les amoureux qui s' bécott'nt sur les bancs publics,
Bancs publics, bancs publics,
En s' disant des " Je t'aim' " pathétiqu's
Ont des p'tit's gueul' bien sympatiqu's.


Quand les mois auront passé
Quand seront apaisés
Leurs beaux rêves flambants
Quand leur ciel se couvrira de gros nuages lourds
Ils s'apercevront émus
Qu' c'est au hasard des rues
Sur un d' ces fameux bancs
Qu'ils ont vécu le meilleur morceau de leur amour.


Les amoureux qui s' bécott'nt sur les bancs publics,
Bancs publics, bancs publics,
En s' fouttant pas mal du regard oblique
Des passants honnêtes
Les amoureux qui s' bécott'nt sur les bancs publics,
Bancs publics, bancs publics,
En s' disant des " Je t'aim' " pathétiqu's
Ont des p'tit's gueul' bien sympatiqu's.

Georges Brassens 1954
People who give dirty looks
Think that the green benches
You see on the sidewalks
Are made for people with bad legs or with pot-bellies
But that’s an absurdity
For if the truth be known
They’re there, as is well-known
To host, for a while, couples whose love has just begun.


The lovers who smooch on benches in public
In public, In public(4)
Caring not much about critical looks from
Decent passers-by
The lovers who smooch on benches in public
In public, In public
While saying « I love you’s », deeply felt
Have very nice, appealing little faces.


They hold each other by the hand
They speak of the morrow
Of the sky blue wallpaper
With which the walls of their bedroom will be decorated
Sweetly, they already see each other
She sewing, he smoking
Comfortable and secure
And selecting the Christian names of their first baby


The lovers who smooch on benches in public
In public, In public(4)
Caring not much about critical looks from
Decent passers-by
The lovers who smooch on benches in public
In public, In public
While saying « I love you’s », deeply felt
Have very nice, appealing little faces.


When the holy family what’s-their-names
Walk by on their way
Two of these improper guys
They hurl at them, full blast, vicious remarks as they pass
Even though all of them
Father, mother, daughter
Son, Holy Spirit
Would very much like to act the same from time to time.


The lovers who smooch on benches in public
In public, In public(4)
Caring not much about critical looks from
Decent passers-by
The lovers who smooch on benches in public
In public, In public
While saying « I love you’s », deeply felt
Have very nice, appealing little faces.


When the months have flown by
When there will have cooled down
Their fine dreams, once aflame
When their sky will become covered with great heavy clouds
They will perceive fondly
It was by off chance of streets
On one such ill-famed bench
That they lived through the best little piece of their love.


The lovers who smooch on benches in public
In public, In public(4)
Caring not much about critical looks from
Decent passers-by
The lovers who smooch on benches in public
In public, In public
While saying « I love you’s », deeply felt
Have very nice, appealing little faces.









TRANSLATION NOTES
1)     les bancs publics – I considered translating this with “park benches” as this is how  we readily refer to this style of seating even when not placed in a park.   In 2009 there was French film directed by Bruno Podalydès, whose title in France was “Bancs Publics.”  I note that its title in the English speaking world is “Park Benches”.  In this poem, however, the word “public “ is essential to the message and has to be retained.

2)     c'est notoir' – The adjective notoire means notorious but the phrase “Il est notoire que” means : it is public/common knowledge that- it’s an acknowledged fact that. (Robert).

3)     les amours débutants –Strictly speaking Brassens is making a grammatical mistake here as the rule is that “amour” in the singular is masculine, but “amours” in the plural is feminine.  Brassens is a purist however and deliberately makes this change.

4)     In public -  In public -  The French says of course “Public Benches”  but I think that I need to have a similar three syllable chorus with a similar rhythm and have taken the liberty to make this change.

5)     pathétiqu's – the most common usage of « pathetic » in English is as an insult.  “You are pathetic!” means “You are pitiably inadequate”.  However in both languages, it also means arousing pity, especially through vulnerability or sadness and this is the meaning here.

6)     Ont des p'tit's gueul' – La gueule an impolite word has two main meanings: firstly “Mouth” and so “Ta gueule!” Means “Shut up”.  Secondly “Face” and so “Il a fait une sale gueule quand il a appris la nouvelle » means « He pulled a face when he heard the news ».  The slang word for “face” in English is “mug” e.g.  “I never want to see your ugly mug again!”  When Brassens is in danger of being sentimental, he uses a disrespectful word.

7)     famill' Machin – *If you can’t think of a man’s name you say: le père Machin = Mr. What’s-his-name. 
Similarly “Mrs what’s her name” = la mère Machin.

8)     Le pér' …. Le fils le saint esprit to describe this family, Brassens ironically uses expressions from Christian liturgy.  He would blame the spirit of the Christian Church for making the natural reproductive processes shameful.

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




6 comments:

Ian said...

A wonderful song to be sure.

Christopher said...

This is great. I'm using your translate to help with my own translation of the song - sure speeds the process up!

Anonymous said...

These translations are wonderful. Thanks.

August said...

I don't think that Brassens was necessarily upset with "des passants honnetes" as much as he was the lack of self-realization of "les amoureux des bancs publics", hence, the repetition of the phrase "bancs publics". If you define yourself in front of other peoples eyes--the public--you get to know your private self too late. If you get to know your private self too late, you may have nothing but a public expression of religious hatred for an outlet in later years. In other words, "les passants honnetes" were once like the young "amoureux" and the young "amoureux are being intimidated by their own destiny. Does any one have any comments on this? Regardless, the translation is superb--one of the best I've come across on line.

Egmond Petzoldt said...

I love the analysis of August, very much on the mark I think, the human tragedy... thanks

Russ Chapman said...

Thanks for this thoughtful translation, it helps me get my tongue round the french.