Saturday, 8 November 2008

LES TROMPETTES DE LA RENOMMÉE

This is Brassens at his most shocking and offensive and he is deliberately so. Apparently he had been advised (in 1960) to liven up his image in keeping with an age that was beginning to swing. One suggestion was that he should revive public attention by leaking spicy details of his private life. Brassens thinks that this would be nasty not only for him but for those who have shared his life. In each verse he mercilessly piles on the detail of the squalid, destructive role others would have him play. He refuses to change and says he will just stand still on stage and play his guitar as always. He calls this scratching his stomach to show his disregard for presentation. If the public do not want this, he will pack it all in and rest peacefully on his laurels, which in his case is not a laurel wreath but the solitary laurel sprig he believes he has earned.
Brassens chooses the winged goddess “La Renomée” for his theme, because of the aspect of fame that she represents. From his reading of Virgil, Brassens knew the goddess, Fama, was conceived by her mother, the Earth, out of revenge against the gods. She is a gigantic, grotesque monster, possessing countless tongues, ears and also mouths from which she sounds forth her trumpets.






Je vivais à l'écart de la place publique,
I lived apart from the public eye
Serein, contemplatif, ténébreux, bucolique... (1)
Serene, contemplative, sombre,
bucolic
Refusant d'acquitter la rançon de la gloir',
Refusing to hand over the ransom asked for fame
Sur mon brin de laurier je dormais comme un loir. (2)
On my sprig of laurel I would sleep dormouse like
Les gens de bon conseil ont su me fair' comprendre
People of good counsel were able to make me see
Qu'à l'homme de la ru' j'avais des compt's à rendre
That to the man in the street, I had some debts to pay
Et que, sous peine de choir dans un oubli complet,
And that, on pain of falling in complete oblivion,
J' devais mettre au grand jour tous mes petits secrets.
I must bring into the open all my little secrets

{Refrain:}
Trompettes
Trumpets
De la Renommée,
Of Goddess Fame,
Vous êtes
You make
Bien mal embouchées ! (3)
A most discordant din !

Manquant à la pudeur la plus élémentaire,
Flouting the most elementary modesty
Dois-je, pour les besoins d' la caus' publicitaire,
Must I, for the needs of the publicist’s cause,
Divulguer avec qui, et dans quell' position
Divulge with whom and in what position
Je plonge dans le stupre et la fornication?
I plunge into debauchery and fornication?
Si je publi' des noms, combien de Pénélopes(4)
If I publish names, how many Penelopes
Passeront illico pour de fieffé's salopes,
Will be seen straightaway as the most arrant whores
Combien de bons amis me r'gard'ront de travers,
How many good friends will give me funny looks?
Combien je recevrai de coups de revolver!
How many revolver shots will hit their mark on me!
{Refrain:}
Trompettes
Trumpets
De la Renommée,
Of Goddess Fame,
Vous êtes
You make
Bien mal embouchées ! (3)
A most discordant din !

Brassens omits this next verse.

A toute exhibition, ma nature est rétive,
Public display makes my nature ill at ease,
Souffrant d'un' modesti' quasiment maladive,
Suffering from modesty that’s almost unhealthy.
Je ne fais voir mes organes procréateurs
I do not show my reproductive organs
A personne, excepté mes femm's et mes docteurs.
To anyone, except my women and my doctors.
Dois-je, pour défrayer la chroniqu' (5) des scandales,
Must I, to be headline news in gossip columns,
Battre l' tambour (6) avec mes parti's génitales,
Drum up attention with my genitals as sticks.
Dois-je les arborer plus ostensiblement,
Must I raise them on high more ostensibly
As a choir boy carries the holy sacrament.
Comme un enfant de chœur porte un saint sacrement ?

Refrain
Trompettes
Trumpets
De la Renommée,
Of Goddess Fame,
Vous êtes
You make
Bien mal embouchées ! (3)
A most discordant din !


Une femme du monde, et qui souvent me laisse
A woman of society, who often gives me
Fair' mes quat' voluptés (7) dans ses quartiers d' noblesse,
Free rein to voluptuous joys in her noble quarters
M'a sournois'ment passé, sur son divan de soi',
On the quiet passed on, upon her silken couch,
Des parasit's du plus bas étage qui soit...
Parasites of the basest kind that be.
Sous prétexte de bruit, sous couleur de réclame,
Under the pretext of sensation, under the heading of publicity
Ai-j' le droit de ternir l'honneur de cette dame
Have I the right to tarnish the honour of this lady?
En criant sur les toits, et sur l'air des lampions (8) :
By shouting from the rooftops and chanting the catchphrase
" Madame la marquis' m'a foutu des morpions ! " ? (9)
“Madame la Marquise has given me her crabs!”?

Refrain
Trompettes
Trumpets
De la Renommée,
Of Goddess Fame,
Vous êtes
You make
Bien mal embouchées ! (3)
A most discordant din !


Le ciel en soit loué, je vis en bonne entente
Heaven indeed be praised, I live on the best of terms,
Avec le Pèr' Duval, (10) la calotte chantante,
With le père Duval, the singing skullcap,
Lui, le catéchumène,(11) et moi, l'énergumèn',
He the catechumen, I the non-conforming man,
Il me laisse dire « merd', je lui laiss' dire amen,
He lets me say “Shit!”, I let him say “Amen”,
En accord avec lui, dois-je écrir' dans la presse
With his approval, must I write then in the press
Qu'un soir je l'ai surpris aux genoux d' ma maîtresse,
That one evening I surprised him at the knees of my mistress,
Chantant la mélopé' d'une voix qui susurre, (12)
Singing a murmured chant in a slushing voice,
Tandis qu'ell' lui cherchait des poux dans la tonsure ? (13)
The while she searched for him the fleas in his bald patch

Refrain
Trompettes
Trumpets
De la Renommée,
Of Goddess Fame,
Vous êtes
You make
Bien mal embouchées ! (3)
A most discordant din !


Avec qui, ventrebleu ! faut-il que je couche
So with whom, ventrebleu !, must I go to bed
Pour fair' parler un peu la déesse aux cent bouches ?
To provoke a bit the goddess with hundred mouths?
Faut-il qu'un' femme célèbre, une étoile, une star, 14
Must a woman who is a celebrity, a star
Vienn' prendre entre mes bras la plac' de ma guitar' ?
Come to take in my arms the place of my guitar?
Pour exciter le peuple et les folliculaires,
To excite the people and the gutter press.
Qui'est-c' qui veut me prêter sa croupe populaire,
Who is willing to lend me her much fancied butt?
Qui'est-c' qui veut m' laisser faire, in naturalibus,
Who is willing to let me, not wearing a stitch,
Un p'tit peu d'alpinism' sur son mont de Vénus ?
Have a bit of a scramble on her mount of Venus

Refrain
Trompettes
Trumpets
De la Renommée,
Of Goddess Fame,
Vous êtes
You make
Bien mal embouchées ! (3)
A most discordant din !


Sonneraient-ell's plus fort, ces divines trompettes,
Would these trumpets of the Gods ring out more loud
Si, comm' tout un chacun, j'étais un peu tapette, (15)
If, like each and everyone, I was a bit that way,
Si je me déhanchais comme une demoiselle
If I swayed my hips more like a young woman
Et prenais tout à coup des allur's de gazelle?
And suddenly took on a gazelle like grace
Mais je ne sache pas qu'ça profite à ces drôles
But I’m not aware that these jokers gain at all,
De jouer le jeu d' l'amour en inversant les rôles,
From playing the game of love by inverting the roles,
Qu'ça confère à ma gloire un' onc' de plus-valu', (16)
That this would add one ounce more merit to my name.
Le crim' pédérastique, aujourd'hui, ne pai' plus.
The crime of same sex love, today, no longer pays.


Refrain
Trompettes
Trumpets
De la Renommée,
Of Goddess Fame,
Vous êtes
You make
Bien mal embouchées ! (3)
A most discordant din !


Après c'tour d'horizon des mille et un' recettes
After this review of the thousand and one smart tricks
Qui vous val'nt à coup sûr les honneurs des gazettes,
Which are certain to earn the honours of the press
J'aime mieux m'en tenir à ma premièr' façon
I prefer to keep to my first way of doing things
Et me gratter le ventre en chantant des chansons.
And scratch my stomach, as ever, while singing songs
Si le public en veut, je les sors dare-dare,
If the public wants, I bring them out quick time.
S'il n'en veut pas je les remets dans ma guitare,
If not, I put them all back into my guitar,
Refusant d'acquitter la rançon de la gloir',
Refusing to hand over the ransom asked for fame
Sur mon brin de laurier je m'endors comme un loir.
On my laurel sprig, I rest, sleeping like a dormouse

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NOTES From Wikipedia,

PHEME or OSSA was the goddess or spirit (daimon) of rumour, report and gossip. She was also, by extension, the dual spirit of fame and good repute in a positive sense, and infamy and scandal in the bad.
In Greek mythology, Pheme (Greek: Φήμη, Roman equivalent: Fama) was the personification of fame and renown, her favour being fame, her wrath being scandalous rumors.


MY NOTES
1) Bucolic- Brassens saw himself at home in a pastoral setting in his song “Auprès de mon arbre”. (The adjective ‘bucolic’ is derived from the Greek word for herdsmen). By using this adjective, he reminds us that his attitude has a long, honourable tradition dating back to the poets of Greece and Rome

2) Je dormais comme un loir. There are two expressions based on “sleeping” in this line. Dormir comme un loir= to sleep like a dormouse. “S’endormir sur ses lauriers” to rest on one’s laurels.

3) Trompettes… mal embouchées. Brassens is making a play on words. “Emboucher la trompette” is to put the trumpet to your lips to play – in this case wrongly. The idiom “Mal embouché » means speaking coarsely like the English to bad mouth.

4) Pénélope was the faithful wife of Ulysses.

5) défrayer la chronique = to be in the news- to be in the limelight

6) Battre l' tambour. The translation of town crier is tambour de ville because a little drum was used to draw attention, where the English used a bell

7) Mes quat' voluptés : This is a play on words from the phrase « Laisser faire à quelqu’un ses quatre voluptés » = to leave some-one a free hand to do what they like. Alone, the plural noun “voluptés” means sensual pleasures. Ses quartiers refers to the quarters on her noble coat of arms, but has a double meaning.

8) l'air des lampions : This is a chant made by a group of people, which should really be three syllables repeated on the same note. For example, where impatient English people will sing repeatedly the one line: “Why are we waiting?” the French will chant Com-men-cez.., Com-men-cez…. The chant here is shaped by the alliteration of four m sounds.

9) morpions - are pubic lice

10) le Père Duval - Brassens has just said that he should not be expected to reveal secrets of his friends and colleagues. In this verse, he does just that. Le Père Duval (1918- 1984) was a Jesuit priest, who was a gifted songwriter and solo guitarist. He appeared on the same stages as Georges Brassens and was sometimes known as Brassens in a cassock. He was very popular in the 1950s and 1960s and gave more than 3,000 concerts in 44 countries. Under the strain of his professional career he became an alcoholic and had great difficulty in overcoming this addiction. Brassens mischievously tells us he also had another weakness of the flesh.

11) Catéchumène – As this means some-one who is receiving religious instruction it does not apply to a Jesuit priest , but Brassens likes the play on the word with “énergumène” which means a rowdy person.

12) La mélopée means monotonous chant, Susurrer means to whisper. The onomatopoeia of the two French words perfectly conveys the action.

13) This line is intended to give a description of the relative positions of the man and woman rather than give an exact explanation of their activity.

14) une étoile, une star, - as the two words have the same meaning, one noun only is required in the translation.

15) Tapette- Collins Robert tells us that this equates in English to « poof » or « queer ». I am reluctant to use this as the translation would, in contemporary political correctness, make him guilty of a hate crime. As an admirer of Brassens’ character, I am absolutely certain that he did not hate homosexuals. As he says in this same line, homosexuality is all around. A large number of the leading figures in entertainment and the arts were homosexual. At some concerts, the great French songwriter and singer, Charles Trenet was on the same bill as Brassens. What was different in those days was that homosexuality was a criminal offence. Brassens cynically tells those who might have him act as if he had such inclinations to arouse the clamour of the press, that homosexuality does not pay. It is true that Brassens had on some subjects strong feelings that could be represented by the unsympathetic as hatred, but these were directed at people with power who oppressed their fellows. Those vulnerable people he refers to in this verse do not come into that category

16) plus-value is a word used in commerce = increase in value, appreciation.

17) Le crime pédérastique. In the 1950s the word pédéraste was used to describe a homosexual. The homosexual act was not decriminalised in France until the 4th August 1982.

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2 comments:

imnerdalert said...

great blog, love the translations, please keep it up!!

Anonymous said...

Very good job and explanations.

About this sentence : "Pour fair' parler un peu la déesse aux cent bouches ?" - You add an "?", so I suppose you ask for readers opinion about this sentence.

"La déesse aux cent bouches" is an image for what in French we call "la presse, les medias", the newpapers. The global meaning of the sentence is "to make the newspapers talking (about me), must I ...."

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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.