Saturday 24 April 2010

La Marguerite- A wild daisy that falls from the priest's prayer book sets evil tongues wagging

In this simple poem, Brassens describes the hysteria and malice, which is aroused in a parish of traditional believers, when they suspect that their priest, at Easter, has accepted a tiny token of sexual affection from a person unknown, but who, they readily believe, could be a young nun from the local convent, in love with him. Brassens tells the tale, largely suppressing his personal reaction until his last line of inarticulate disbelief .


La petite
Est tombée,
Du bréviaire
De l'abbé

Trois pétales
De scandale
Sur l'autel,
D'où vient-elle ?

Dans l'enceinte
Quel émoi
Quelle affaire,
Oui, ma chère,
Croyez-moi !

La frivole
Fleur qui vole,
Arrive en
Des plat's-bandes
Du couvent.

Notre Père
Qui, j'espère,
Êt's aux cieux,
N'ayez cure
Des murmures

La légère
Fleur, peuchère !
Ne vient pas
De nonnettes,(1)
De cornettes
En sabbat.

Sachez, diantre !
Qu'un jour, entre
Deux Ave,
Sur la Pierre
D'un calvaire
Il l'a trouvée,

Et l'a mise,
Chose admise
Par le ciel,
Sans ambages,
Dans les pages
Du missel.

Que ces messes
Basses cessent,
Je vous prie.
Non, le prêtre
N'est pas traître
À Marie.

Que personne
Ne soupçonne,
Plus jamais,
La petite
Ah ! ça mais !*

Georges Brassens
1961 - Les trompettes de la renommé

The so tiny
Daisy flower
Fell down
Strange to say
From The breviary
Of the priest.

Three petals
Of scandal
On the altar
An indiscreet
Easter flower
Whence comes it ?

In the confines
What a fuss !
What an outrage,
Yes my dear
Believe me.

The frivolous
Flower in flight
Arrives as
From the flower beds
Of the convent.

Our father
Who I hope
Art in heaven
Pay no regard
To the whispers
Of mischief.

The slight
Flower, God's truth !
Does not come
From little nuns
In cornets
At a Black Sabbath.

Know – devil take me!
That, one day between
Hail Marys
On the footstone
Of a wayside cross
He found it.

And he put it
A thing allowed
By heaven
Without ado
In the pages
Of the missal.

Let these masses,
All low, cease now
I pray you.
No the priest
Is not a traitor
To Mary.

Let nobody
Ever suspect
Ever more
The so tiny
Daisy flower.
Words fail me!


(1) De nonnettes – I had never met this word and thought that Brassens had invented this diminutive. In fact, Larousse tells me that nonnette means a young nun.


1) The music of this poem comes from the rhythm of two lines of four feet followed by one line of three feet. I have tried to keep to this, but have not always managed it.

2) There is a story that Brassens offered this song to Brigitte Bardot, who, it is believed, was an intimate friend. The story goes on to say that she refused because of one line. The line to which she is supposed to have objected is: Fleur, peuchère ! The word "peuchère" is an oath of southern French origin, which Collins Robert translates as "streuth!"- which makes it quite mild. Only a native speaker knows the power of an expletive and,no doubt, Brigitte Bardot found this very unladylike.

This is a relatively unimportant line and Brassens could have easily rephrased it. I would have thought that what she would have found difficult to deliver, would be the last line, where he finally expresses his despair and disbelief at the behaviour of the respectable devout in the supposedly enlightened 20th century.

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