Saturday, 24 April 2010

La première fille- The first girl that you loved is the last girl that you will forget

La première fille

Once again Brassens sings about the excitement of first love and its eternal charm. When older people reminisce about their youth, so many of them, sometimes unconsciously, reveal that the first boy/ girl with whom one falls in love somehow gets into a compartment of memory that is indestructible.

The videos of this song that  I have posted in the past have constantly failed.  I hope the select language subtitles on this one will protect me this time!






J'ai tout oublié des campagnes
D'Austerlitz et de Waterloo
D'Italie, de Prusse et d'Espagne,
De Pontoise et de Landerneau

Jamais de la vie
On ne l'oubliera,
La première fill'
Qu'on a pris' dans ses bras,

La première étrangère
À qui l'on a dit "tu" (2)
Mon coeur, t'en souviens-tu ?)
Comme ell' nous était chère...
Qu'ell' soit fille honnête(3)
Ou fille de rien,(4)
Qu'elle soit pucelle (5)
Ou qu'elle soit putain, (5)
On se souvient d'elle,
On s'en souviendra,
D'la première fill'
Qu'on a pris' dans ses bras

Ils sont partis à tire-d'aile
Mes souvenirs de la Suzon,
Et ma mémoire est infidèle
À Julie, Rosette ou Lison

Jamais de la vie
On ne l'oubliera,
La première fill'
Qu'on a pris' dans ses bras,

C'était un' bonne affaire
 (Mon coeur, t'en souviens-tu ?)
J'ai changé ma vertu
Contre une primevère...
Qu' ce soit en grand' pompe
Comme les gens "bien",
Ou bien dans la ru',
Comm' les pauvre' et les chiens,
On se souvient d'elle,
On s'en souviendra,
D'la première fill'
Qu'on a pris' dans ses bras

Toi, qui m'as donné le baptême
D'amour et de septième ciel,
Moi, je te garde et, moi, je t'aime,
Dernier cadeau du Pèr' Noël !

Jamais de la vie
On ne l'oubliera,
La première fill'
Qu'on a pris' dans ses bras

On a beau fair' le brave,
Quand ell' s'est mise nue
 (Mon coeur, t'en souviens-tu ?)
On n'en menait pas large(8)...
Bien d'autres, sans doute,
Depuis, sont venues,
Oui, mais, entre toutes
Celles qu'on a connues,
Elle est la dernière
Que l'on oubliera,
La première fill'
Qu'on a pris' dans ses bras,

 Georges Brassens
(1954 - Les amoureux des bancs publics.)
I’ve forgot’ all about campaigns
Of Austerlitz and Waterloo
Of Italy, Prussia and Spain
Of Pontoise and of Landerneau.(1)

Never all life long
Will there be forgotten
The very first girl
Whom you took in your arms

The first, new acquaintance,
Whom you addressed as “tu”
My heart do you remember?
How dear she was to us
Whether she be a nice girl
Or not up to much
Whether you’re her first
Or she’s had a lot
You still remember her
You will still remember
The very first girl
Whom you took in your arms

They have flown off at great speed
My recollections of Susan
And my memory’s been unfaithful
To Julie, Rosetta or Liza.

Never all life long
Will there be forgotten
The very first girl
Whom you took in your arms

It was a very good deal
My heart do you remember?
I traded my virtue
For a primrose flower (6)
Whether it be with great show
As the « proper » folk do
Or down in the back street
Like the poor people and the dogs
You still remember her
You will still remember
The very first girl
Whom you took in your arms

You who gave me the baptism
Of love and of the seventh heaven
I keep you still, I love you still
Last gift from Father Christmas (7)

Never all life long
Will there be forgotten
The very first girl
Whom you took in your arms

So much for my brave front
When she stripped off her clothes
(My heart do you remember?)
You fell right down in my boots
Many others, no doubt
Have come along since
Yes, but, among all of
Those that you have known-
She is the very last one
Who will be forgotten
The very first girl
Whom you took in your arms






NOTES


(1) Brassens says that he has forgotten all the military history he learnt at school and to illustrate the point (perhaps unconsciously) he includes in the last line two places that do not seem to have any record of an important battle.
(2) The change from using the “vous” form of you to the « tu » form is made when you assume you have reached a certain stage of familiarity. It can be a sensitive moment. In English, the first tense moment of asking a girl to go out with you luckily does not also involve a question of speech etiquette.
(3) fille honnête – As well as the most usual meaning of honest, “honnête” also has the sense of decent. When speaking of a woman it means virtuous. It seemed an old fashioned adjective, but, in the end, I stuck with it. In the royal court of the 17th century, there was the concept of the “honnête homme” which was the equivalent of acting like a gentleman.
(4) De rien means “worth nothing”. This seemed too harsh in English.
(5) pucelle means virgin and putain means whore, but I wanted to soften these lines, as the harsh moral standards of the 50s, which Brassens deplored, no longer apply.
(6) Brassens uses elsewhere, the primrose, flower of early spring, as a symbol of the young love that replaces lost virginity
(7) The experience of lovemaking marked the end of childhood.


(8) On n'en menait pas large- is an idiom that means "your heart was in your boots".  Other translations given in the dictionary are: to be frightened, to be uneasy, to be in a terrible situation





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3 comments:

Boebis said...

Great blog! je partage aussi mon amour pour brassens et la musique française en général mais Brassens est mon chansonnier préféré, pour un public anglophonesur un blog : http://french-kisses.blogspot.com

bravo pour ces traductions!

Marc Henning said...

Thank you so much for taking the trouble to do this. I struggle at times with Brassens idiomatic use of language and it is lovely to have a place where I can check my understanding, Consider yourself a public benefactor!

Anonymous said...

It just hit me! Brassens is comparing the forgetfulness of the Brain to the long standing memory of the Heart. Everything you 'learn' your brain will forget the old as it learns new things.
But the heart will never forget the old with the new. 20, 30 years on you will remember your love affairs. Long after you've forgotten the names of the girls.
Brassens remembers the names of places and battles but he forgets what was important about them.
He never mentions a name for a 'fille' so I'm assuming he has forgotten her name, but remembered what was important about her.