Wednesday, 19 November 2008

La non-demande en mariage

The title of this song: “The Non proposal of Marriage” suggests a cynical view of the relationship of a man with a woman. In fact, the song is a sincere love song, in which Brassens expresses to his lifelong fiancée, Joha Heiman, his deep appreciation for her role in their very successful and very individual partnership.



Ma mie, de grâce, ne mettons
Beloved, for mercy’s sake, let us
Pas sous la gorge à Cupidon
Not load, beneath Cupid’s throat
Sa propre flèche,
His own arrow, (1)
Tant d'amoureux l'ont essayé
So many lovers have tried
Qui, de leur bonheur, ont payé
Who have paid with their lost joys for
Ce sacrilège...
This sacrilege…

J'ai l'honneur de
I have the honour
Ne pas te demander ta main,
Not to ask your hand in marriage
Ne gravons pas
Let’s not inscribe
Nos noms au bas
Our names at the end
D'un parchemin.
Of some parchment

Laissons le champ libre à l’oiseau, (Cupid)
Let’s leave a free hand to the fellow
Nous serons tous les deux priso-
We will both of us be two pris
nniers sur parole,
..oners on parole
Au diable, les maîtresses queux
Devil take the mistress chefs
Qui attachent les coeurs aux queues
Who pin their hearts to handles
Des casseroles!
Of pots and pans

J'ai l'honneur de
I have the honour
Ne pas te demander ta main,
Not to ask your hand in marriage
Ne gravons pas
Let’s not inscribe
Nos noms au bas
Our names at the end
D'un parchemin.
Of some parchment

Vénus se fait vieille souvent
Venus herself often grows old
Elle perd son latin devant
She loses her latin (2) faced by
La lèchefrite
The dripping pan.
A aucun prix, moi je ne veux
At no price would I ever wish
Effeuiller dans le pot-au-feu
To pluck petals for the stew from
La marguerite.
The marguerite. (3)

J'ai l'honneur de
I have the honour
Ne pas te demander ta main,
Not to ask your hand in marriage
Ne gravons pas
Let’s not inscribe
Nos noms au bas
Our names at the end
D'un parchemin.
Of some parchment

Il peut sembler de tout repos
It might well seem the easy way
De mettre à l'ombre, au fond d'un pot
To put, well out of view, at the bottom
De confiture,
Of a jam jar
La jolie pomme défendue,
The pretty forbidden fruit
Mais elle est cuite, elle a perdu
But it is cooked, it has quite lost
Son goût "nature".
Its fresh picked taste.

J'ai l'honneur de
I have the honour
Ne pas te demander ta main,
Not to ask your hand in marriage
Ne gravons pas
Let’s not inscribe
Nos noms au bas
Our names at the end
D'un parchemin.
Of some parchment

On leur ôte bien des attraits,
You remove so many of their charms
En dévoilant trop les secrets
By revealing too much the secrets
De Mélusine. (4)
Of Melusine.
L'encre des billets doux pâlit
The ink of billets doux fades
Vite entre les feuillets des li-
Fast between the pages of books
vres de cuisine.
About cooking

J'ai l'honneur de
I have the honour
Ne pas te demander ta main,
Not to ask your hand in marriage
Ne gravons pas
Let’s not inscribe
Nos noms au bas
Our names at the end
D'un parchemin.Of some parchment


De servante n'ai pas besoin,
O f servant I have no need
Et du ménage et de ses soins
And from housekeeping and its tasks
Je te dispense...
I make you free
Qu'en éternelle fiancée,
So that, eternal fiancee,
A la dame de mes pensées
Of you, lady of my choice,
Toujours je pense...
I think always.

J'ai l'honneur de
I have the honour
Ne pas te demander ta main,
Not to ask your hand in marriage
Ne gravons pas
Let’s not inscribe
Nos noms au bas
Our names at the end
D'un parchemin.
Of some parchment

NOTES
1) It was for Cupid, the God of love, to aim his arrows himself. Love should be spontaneous and it is a sacrilege for people to think to arrange things for themselves.
2) perd son latin – The phrase « J’y perds mon latin » means « I am completely baffled by it ». Brassens uses this image to conjure up the mental decline caused by domestic chores and it is humorous as the Goddess of Love was a Roman Goddess..
3) Effeuiller la marguerite. Plucking the petals of the oxeye daisy is a game that lovers play, while saying “She loves me – she loves me not.”. Another image to suggest the adulteration of love by domesticity.
4) In Breton folk-lore, Mélusine was a fairy upon whom a wicked spell had been cast which turned her into a siren on one day each week. A local nobleman, Raimond de Lusignan, came across her with other fairies in the woods and was captivated by her beauty and gentle manners. She agreed to marry him on condition that he did not seek to find out her life story or try to see her on Saturdays. They had a happy and most prosperous relationship until one Saturday…. As this is a folk tale, which are invariably very miserable you can guess the rest. Brassens is saying that both parties in a relationship are entitled to their own private space, where they retain things secret from the other.
5) The French also talk of “le fruit défendu”. I substituted “fruit” because I did not like the sound of the English word “apple” in this line.
6) la dame de mes pensées….Toujours je pense. There is a play on words here that I find impossible to translate. In the tradition of chivalry, a knight before entering the lists would choose one lady, of whom he would be the champion and to whom he would dedicate his endeavours. She became “la dame de ses pensées”. It was a relationship of the mind, a platonic love, because the lady chosen by the knight would, more often, be married to someone else. In “Je me suis fait tout petit” Brassens suggests that their relationship was of the same kind. However the mention of the forbidden apple suggests that not only was sex an element of their relationship, but that it always retained the tangy flavour of seduction.



BIOGRAPHICAL NOTES
Georges Brassens and Joha Heiman shared each others’ lives, doing a lot of things together, but they lived apart in their separate homes. They had regular telephone conversations and called around to see each other frequently. She went on tour with him and stood in the wings during his performances, keeping an eye on everything. Their’s was a personal and a professional relationship but certainly not a domestic one. They each had their own space, which could be described perhaps as their Saturday of Mélusine.

Georges Brassens is reported as saying of his "Puppchen" that she was not his wife, she was his goddess. On her death in 1999, she was buried in the grave of Georges Brassens.

Further Information about Joha Heiman
There are a number of songs that Brassens wrote about Joha on this site. One of these is "Je me suis fait petit" and my posting of this song got me in discussion with other bloggers.As a result there is now much more detail about Joha and about her relationship with Brassens there, which I and other bloggers have written after the song. If you wish to look at it, the following title is the link: Je me suis fait petit

http://brassenswithenglish.blogspot.com/2008/02/je-me-suis-fait-tout-petit_08.html

The day after I posted this song, I read in the Times of the rise in the number middle-class, middle-aged couples, who choose to "live apart together".

Click here to return to the full index of Brassens songs on this site

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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.