Saturday, 8 November 2008

LES TROMPETTES DE LA RENOMMÉE A strong No to putting publicity above privacy

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,
Serein, contemplatif, ténébreux, bucolique... (1)

Refusant d'acquitter la rançon de la gloir',
Sur mon brin de laurier je dormais comme un loir. (2)
Les gens de bon conseil ont su me fair' comprendre
Qu'à l'homme de la ru' j'avais des compt's à rendre

Et que, sous peine de choir dans un oubli complet,
J' devais mettre au grand jour tous mes petits secrets.


{Refrain:}
Trompettes(3)
De la Renommée,(4)
Vous êtes
Bien mal embouchées ! 

Manquant à la pudeur la plus élémentaire,
Dois-je, pour les besoins d' la caus' publicitaire,
Divulguer avec qui, et dans quell' position
Je plonge dans le stupre et la fornication?
Si je publi' des noms, combien de Pénélopes(5)
Passeront illico pour de fieffé's salopes,

Combien de bons amis me r'gard'ront de travers,
 Combien je recevrai de coups de revolver!


{Refrain:}
Trompettes
De la Renommée,
Vous êtes
Bien mal embouchées !

Brassens omits this next verse in the video I have posted


A toute exhibition, ma nature est rétive,
Souffrant d'un' modesti' quasiment maladive,
Je ne fais voir mes organes procréateurs
A personne, excepté mes femm's et mes docteurs.
Dois-je, pour défrayer la chroniqu' (6) des scandales,
Battre l' tambour (7) avec mes parti's génitales,
Dois-je les arborer plus ostensiblement,
Comme un enfant de chœur porte un saint sacrement ?


{Refrain:}
Trompettes
De la Renommée,
Vous êtes
Bien mal embouchées !


Une femme du monde, et qui souvent me laisse
Fair' mes quat' voluptés (8) dans ses quartiers d' noblesse,
M'a sournois'ment passé, sur son divan de soi',
Des parasit's du plus bas étage qui soit...
Sous prétexte de bruit, sous couleur de réclame,

Ai-j' le droit de ternir l'honneur de cette dame
En criant sur les toits, et sur l'air des lampions (9) :
" Madame la marquis' m'a foutu des morpions ! " ? (10)

{Refrain:}
Trompettes
De la Renommée,
Vous êtes
Bien mal embouchées !


Le ciel en soit loué, je vis en bonne entente

Avec le Pèr' Duval, (11) la calotte chantante,
Lui, le catéchumène,(12) et moi, l'énergumèn',
Il me laisse dire « merd', je lui laiss' dire amen,
En accord avec lui, dois-je écrir' dans la presse
Qu'un soir je l'ai surpris aux genoux d' ma maîtresse,
Chantant la mélopé' d'une voix qui susurre, (13)
Tandis qu'ell' lui cherchait des poux dans la tonsure ? (14)

{Refrain:}
Trompettes
De la Renommée,
Vous êtes
Bien mal embouchées !


Avec qui, ventrebleu ! faut-il que je couche
Pour fair' parler un peu la déesse aux cent bouches ?
Faut-il qu'un' femme célèbre, une étoile, une star, (15)
Vienn' prendre entre mes bras la plac' de ma guitar' ?
Pour exciter le peuple et les folliculaires,
Qui'est-c' qui veut me prêter sa croupe populaire,

Qui'est-c' qui veut m' laisser faire, in naturalibus,
Un p'tit peu d'alpinism' sur son mont de Vénus ?

{Refrain:}
Trompettes
De la Renommée,
Vous êtes
Bien mal embouchées !


Sonneraient-ell's plus fort, ces divines trompettes,
Si, comm' tout un chacun, j'étais un peu tapette, (16)
Si je me déhanchais comme une demoiselle

Et prenais tout à coup des allur's de gazelle?
Mais je ne sache pas qu'ça profite à ces drôles
De jouer le jeu d' l'amour en inversant les rôles,

Qu'ça confère à ma gloire un' onc' de plus-valu', (17)
Le crim' pédérastique,(18)   aujourd'hui, ne pai' plus.


{Refrain:}
Trompettes
De la Renommée,
Vous êtes
Bien mal embouchées !


Après c'tour d'horizon des mille et un' recettes
Qui vous val'nt à coup sûr les honneurs des gazettes,
J'aime mieux m'en tenir à ma premièr' façon
Et me gratter le ventre en chantant des chansons.
Si le public en veut, je les sors dare-dare,
S'il n'en veut pas je les remets dans ma guitare,
Refusant d'acquitter la rançon de la gloir',
Sur mon brin de laurier je m'endors comme un loir.

{Refrain:}
Trompettes
De la Renommée,
Vous êtes
Bien mal embouchées !



I used to live well away from the public eye
Serene, contemplative, sombre and
bucolic
Refusing to hand over the ransom for fame
Upon my laurel sprig, I slept like a dormouse.

People of good counsel managed to make me see

That to the man in the street, I’d some debts to pay
And, for fear of falling in complete oblivion,

I must freely reveal all my little secrets


{Refrain:}
Trumpets of
The Goddess “Fame”,
You are
So badly out of tune!

Flouting the most elementary modesty
Must I, for the needs of agents of publicity,
Divulge with whom and in what exact position
I plunge in debauchery and fornication?
If I publish names, how many Penelopes
Will be seen straightaway as the most arrant whores
How many valued friends will look at me askance
How many revolver shots will I be hit by!

{Refrain:}
Trumpets of
The Goddess “Fame”,
You are
So badly out of tune!






At all public display my heart feels uneasy,
Suff’ring from modesty that’s almost unhealthy.
I do not reveal my reproductive organs
To anyone, except my women and my doctors.

Must I, to be headline news in gossip columns,

Drum up attention with my genital parts.
Must I raise them on high more ostensibly
As a choir boy carries the holy sacrament.


{Refrain:}
Trumpets of
The Goddess “Fame”,
You are
So badly out of tune!


A society woman of, who often gives me
Free rein to hot delights in her noble quarters

Slyly passed on to me, on her divan of silk,
Some parasites of the basest kind possible.
Under the pretext of sensation, under the heading of publicity
Have I the right to tarnish the honour of this lady?
By shouting from the rooftops and chanting the catchphrase
“The Marchioness has infected me with crabs”.


{Refrain:}
Trumpets of
The Goddess “Fame”,
You are
So badly out of tune!


Heaven indeed be praised, I live on the best of terms,
With le père Duval, the singing skullcap,
He the strict conformist, I the non-conformist
He lets me say “Oh Shit!”, I let him say “Amen”,
In agreement with him, must I write in the press
That one night I surprised him at my girl friend’s knees,
Singing a flat, unvaried chant in slushing tones,
The while she was searching for fleas in his bald patch

{Refrain:}
Trumpets of
The Goddess “Fame”,
You are
So badly out of tune!


So with whom, good heavens!  must I go to bed
To make the goddess with hundred mouths talk of me?
Must a female celebrity, a famous star

Come and take my guitar’s place to lie in my arms?
To get the people and the gutter press excited
Who really wants to lend me her popular butt?

Who’s going to want to let me, au naturel,
Climb around for a bit on her mount of Venus?

{Refrain:}
Trumpets of
The Goddess “Fame”,
You are
So badly out of tune!


Would they sound out more strong, these trumpets of the Gods ,
If, like each and everyone, I was a bit gay,

If I swayed with my hips more like a young woman
And suddenly took on the walk of a gazelle
But I’m not aware that these jokers gain from it Playing the game of love while inverting the roles,
That this would add one single ounce more to my fame.
The crime of same sex love, today, no longer pays.

{Refrain:}
Trumpets of
The Goddess “Fame”,
You are
So badly out of tune!


After this review of the thousand and one tricks
Which are sure to earn the honours of the papers
I prefer to keep to my first way of doing things
And scratch my stomach, as ever, while singing songs
If the public wishes, I get them out quick time.
If not, I put them all back into my guitar,
Refusing to pay over the ransom of fame
Upon my laurel sprig, I sleep like a dormouse


{Refrain:}
Trompettes
De la Renommée,
Vous êtes
Bien mal embouchées !








TRANSLATION NOTES

1) Bucolic= Pastoral .   (The adjective ‘bucolic’ is derived from the Greek word for herdsmen). Brassens felt at home in a country setting, as we see in other songs of his- e.g. “Auprès demon arbre”. By using this adjective “bucolic”, he reminds us that his attitude has a long, honourable literary 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) la Renommée,= the Goddess of Fame.  Wikipedia tells us 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.

5) Pénélope was the wife of Ulysses, faithful to him in his long absence. Brassens has a song with this name as its title.  Brassens is not afraid to admit that he had consoled a few lonely Penelopes.

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

7) 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

8) 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.

9) 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.

10) morpions - are pubic lice

11) 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.

12) 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.

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

14) 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.

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

16) 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

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

18) 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.