Friday, 11 April 2008

Les amours d'antan Brassens Translation

Brassens had earlier composed a song, “Ballade des dames du temps jadis”*, based on a famous poem by François Villon, (c. 1431-c. 1463), which spoke of great figures of ancient legend and myth and also of more recent French history who had come to personify a romantic vision of grandeur now forever lost. In this song, Brassens describes his personal down to earth experiences of love and beauty, ironically enjoying the absence any sense of glory and social status in the exuberant promiscuity of his life without pretension.

* To see my translation of Brassens' song based on Villon's poem, please click on this following link:
"Ballade des dames du temps jadis"

 




Moi, mes amours d'antan c'était de la grisette(1)
My own loves of yesteryear were easy girls of humble birth
Margot, la blanchecaille(2), et Fanchon, la cousette...
Margot, the laundress and Fanchon the trainee dressmaker

Pas la moindre noblesse, excusez-moi du peu,
Not the least nobility, excuse me for the omission
C'étaient, me direz-vous, des grâces roturières,
They were you will tell me Graces from the common people
Des nymphes de ruisseau, des Vénus de barrière(3)...
Nymphs from out the gutter’s stream, Venuses from by the city gates
Mon Prince, on a les dam's du temps jadis qu'on peut...
My Prince one has the ladies of yesteryear that one can

Car le coeur à vingt ans se pose où l'oeil se pose,
For the heart at twenty years tarries where the eye tarries
Le premier cotillon venu vous en impose,
The first underskirt that comes along wins you over
La plus humble bergère est un morceau de roi.
The most humble shepherdess is a piece of royalty
Ça manquait de marquise, on connut la soubrette,
Short of a marchioness, one got to know the chambermaid
Faute de fleur de lys on eut la pâquerette,
For lack of the fleur de lys one had the daisy
Au printemps Cupidon fait flèche de tout bois...
In Spring Cupid turns all wood into arrows

On rencontrait la belle aux Puces(4), le dimanche :
One met the fair lady at the flea market on Sundays
"Je te plais, tu me plais..." et c'était dans la manche,
« You like me, I like you… » and we were well away
Et les grands sentiments n'étaient pas de rigueur.
And grand sentiments were not insisted on
"Je te plais, tu me plais... viens donc beau militaire..."
« You like me, I like you… » come along then handsome military gentleman
Dans un train de banlieue on partait pour Cythère(5),
On a suburban train, we set off for Kythera- the island of Aphrodite
On n'était pas tenu mêm' d'apporter son coeur...
One was not obliged even to take along your heart.

Mimi, de prime abord, payait guère de mine,
Mimi, at first glance, was not much to look at,
Chez son fourreur sans doute on ignorait l'hermine,
At her furriers no doubt they knew nothing about ermine
Son habit sortait point de l'atelier d'un dieu...
Her garb in no way came from the workshop of a God
Mais quand, par-dessus le Moulin de la Galette(6),
But when, over the windmill de la Galette
Elle jetait pour vous sa parure simplette,
She threw away for you her simple undergarment
C'est Psyché tout entièr' qui vous sautait aux yeux.
It was Psyché in full splendour who leapt forth to your gaze
Au second rendez-vous y' avait parfois personne,
At the second rendez-vous, sometimes there was no-one there
Elle avait fait faux bond, la petite amazone(3),
She had jumped in the wrong direction the little Amazon
Mais l'on ne courait pas se pendre pour autant...
But you did not go away and hang yourself for all that.
La marguerite commencée avec Suzette,
The daisy petals you began to pluck with Suzette
On finissait de l'effeuiller(7) avec Lisette
You finished counting off with Lisette
Et l'amour y trouvait quand même son content.
And love found there its satisfaction just the same.

C'étaient, me direz-vous, des grâces roturières,
They were you will tell me Graces from the common people
Des nymphes de ruisseau, des Vénus de barrière(3)...
Nymphs from out the gutter’s stream, Venuses from by the city gates
Mais c'étaient mes amours, excusez-moi du peu,
But they were my loves, excuse me for the omission
Des Manon, des Mimi, des Suzon, des Musette,
Manons, Mimis, Suzons, Musettes
Margot, la blanchecaille(2), et Fanchon, la cousette...
Margot, the laundress and Fanchon the trainee dressmaker.....
Mon Prince, on a les dam's du temps jadis qu'on peut...
My Prince one has the ladies of yesteryear that one can.....


(1)La grisette means flighty working class girls
(2) la blanchecaille is slang for blanchisseuse
(3)Vénus de barrière had the meaning of a woman who sold herself
Amazone, in common parlance meant the same, especially used for a woman who drove around in a carriage
(4)Les Puces - The most famous flea market in Paris is the one at Porte de Clignancourt, officially called Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, but known to everyone as Les Puces
(5)Cythère –the Greek island of Kythera. The island of Aphrodite, the goddess of love. A famous painting by the famous French artist Watteau is called “Embarquement de Cythère
(6)Jeter par-dessus le Moulin de la Galette. This image contains 2 elements :
(a) The image of a place to find pleasure in Paris, which recalls Renoir’s painting of “Le Bal Du Moulin De La Galette”
(b) An image of sexual abandon because « jeter son bonnet par-dessus le moulin » means to do a flamboyant action in defiance of convention, particularly on the part of a woman
(7)“Effeuiller la marguerite” is to play “She loves me- she loves me not”.


Please clickhere to return to the full alphabetical list of my Georges Brassens selection

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Renoir’s picture of Parisians enjoying themselves



Embarquement de Cythère by Watteau


I like this Russian version of the song by Alexandre Avanessov  He sings so closely to Brassens' style and illustrates his video with nostalgic pictures representing mistresses of times now long past.-



Georges Brassens 1961

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Notes on the classics of French literature. During my years of teaching, I wrote thousands of pages for my students. Preferring not to discard all these years of work, I am posting them on the Internet as a resource for teachers and students and I am using my blogsite as the portal in order to give access to the individual books. During my university course, I was an Assistant for one year in Arras and my nostalgia for Georges Brassens stems from these happy days- now long gone- when his songs were first being recorded and he was all the rage among the student surveillants. When I opened this Blogsite many years ago, I used David Barfield, my maternal family name, as my Internet alias. My actual name is David Yendley and if any of my past students come across this site, I send them my best wishes. They were great company to be with.