Thursday 11 November 2010

Misogynie à part - For him to mention his partner's quirks in their sex life is not misogyny

Explicit lines in this poem make it suitable only for adult readers. After long hesitation, I include it because I see in the song true Brassens qualities and genuine Brassens fun –as can be seen from the audience reaction in the video.
This poem describes a dysfunctional relationship where the girl while enjoying passionate and adventurous lovemaking, spoils her lover’s experience by insisting on elements of middle class gentility and by merging her sexual ecstasy with the religious ecstasy it aroused in her.

Misogynie à part

Misogynie à part, le sage avait raison :
Il y a les emmerdantes,(1) on en trouve à foison,
En foule elles se pressent,
Il y a les emmerdeuses(1), un peu plus raffinées,
Et puis, très nettement au-dessus du panier,
Y a les emmerderesses(1).

La mienne, à elle seule, sur tout's surenchérit,
Ell' relève à la fois des trois catégories,
Véritable prodige,
Emmerdante, emmerdeuse, emmerderesse itou,
Elle passe, ell' dépasse, elle surpasse tout,
Ell' m'emmerde, vous dis-je.

Mon dieu, pardonnez-moi ces propos bien amers,
Ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmer-
De, elle abuse, elle attige.
Ell' m'emmerde et j' regrett' mes bell's amours avec
La p'tite Enfant d' Marie (3) que m'a soufflée l'évêque,
Ell' m'emmerde, vous dis-je.

Ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmerde, et m'oblige à me cu-
Rer les ongles avant de confirmer son cul,
Or, c'est pas Callipyge(4).
Et la charité seul' pouss' ma main résignée
Vers ce cul rabat-joie, conique, renfrogné,
Ell' m'emmerde, vous dis-je.

Ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmerde, je le répète et quand
Ell' me tape sur le ventre, elle garde ses gants,
Et ça me désoblige.
Outre que ça dénote un grand manque de tact,
Ça n' favorise pas tellement le contact,
Ell' m'emmerde, vous dis-je.

Ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmerd' , quand je tombe à genoux
Pour certain's dévotions qui sont bien de chez nous
Et qui donn'nt le vertige,
Croyant l'heure venue de chanter le Credo,
Elle m'ouvre tout grand son missel sur le dos,
Ell' m'emmerde, vous dis-je.

Ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmerde, à la fornication
Ell' s'emmerde, ell' s'emmerde avec ostentation, (5)
Ell' s'emmerde, vous dis-je
Au lieu de s'écrier : "Encore ! hardi ! hardi !"
Ell' déclam' du Claudel (6) ! du Claudel, j'ai bien dit,
Alors ça, ça me fige.

Ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmerd', j'admets que ce Claudel
Soit un homm' de génie, un poète immortel,
J' reconnais son prestige,
Mais qu'on aille chercher dedans son œuvre pie,
Un aphrodisiaque, non, ça, c'est d' l'utopie!(8)
Ell' m'emmerde, vous dis-je.

Georges Brassens

In the album: 1969 - La religieuse

Misogyny apart, the wise man was quite right
There are enmerdant girls, you find them in plenty
In great hordes, they come at you,
There are enmerdous girls, a little more refined

And then very clearly, at the top of the heap
There are the enmerderesses.

Mine stands out alone, outclasses the whole lot
She ticks at the same time all three boxes
Veritable prodigy
Enmerdant, enmerdous, enmerderesse the lot.
She goes further, outstrips, she surpasses them all,
She enmerds me, I tell you.

Oh god, pray pardon me these very bitter words
She enmerds me, she enmerds me, she enmerds me
Takes advantage, goes too far.

She enmerds me and I regret my fine amours spent with
The Sunday School girl whom, the bishop pinched from me.
She enmerds me, I tell you.

She enmerds, she enmerds, and forces me to clean
Up my nails before I confirm her bum.
Now she is no Callipyge
And charity alone drives my resign-ed hand
To this joyless bottom, cone-shaped, sad looking
She enmerds me I tell you.

She enmerds me, she enmerds me, I repeat it and when
She’s pumping on my stomach, she keeps on her gloves
And this causes me offence.
Besides this displaying a great lack of tact,

It doesn't much help the physical contact
She enmerds me I tell you.

She enmerds, she enmerds, when I fall to my knees
For certain devotions that are OK with the French
And which bring on dizzy spells
Believing the time's come for chanting the creed
She flings open out wide her missel on my back
She enmerds me, I tell you.

She enmerds me, she enmerds me during fornication
She enmerds me, enmerds me with her ostentation.
She enmerds me, I tell you.
Instead of crying out : « Once more ! Go on! Go on!
She declaims from Claudel ! From Claudel you heard right.
Well that turns me right off..

She enmerds me, she enmerds me, I admit that this Claudel
Is a man of genius, a poet immortal
I acknowledge his prestige
But that one goes seeking within his wordy tomes(7)
An aphrodisiac, no that’s just fantasy!
She enmerds me, I tell you.


(1) emmerdantes, emmerdeuses, emmerderesses - These words and the idea behind them come from Paul Valéry (1871-1945) the famous poet, critic and essayist. Like Brassens, Valéry was born in Sètes and like Brassens is buried there – but not in the same cemetery. Brassens talks about him in another poem on this website – see Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète - .
Valéry is quoted as saying: « Il y a trois sortes de femmes: les emmerdeuses, les emmerdantes... et les emmerderesses ».
Emmerder.  -My Collins dictionary lists the verb « emmerder » to badly annoy/ to bug someone.
 emmerdant Collins lists “emmerdant”, the participle used as an adjective, to translate the word “annoying” with pejorative force suggesting various English oaths.  Thus says Collins, emmerdant could describe someone who is: damned annoying / a damned nuisance/  a pain in the neck.  Other dictionaries say a pain in the ass/  a real drag/ a lousy bore.
L’emmerdant – The noun form would use the above expressions e.g.  “quel emmerdant!” = what a bloody nuisance. C’est une emmerdante could translate- She is real trouble
 Un emmerdeur”/ une emmerdeuse  Collins translates as the same as “Emmerdant”, thus :a damned nuisance/ a pain in the neck. You could also say He/ She is real trouble/ He/ she is a right pain in the ass and variations on all the expressions above.
Emmerderesse - Collins and the French dictionaries do not give the word “emmerderesse », which Valéry seems to have invented himself by analogy with other words made feminine with the suffix “esse” e.g. “pécheur”/ “pécheresse” = sinner.

A lot of looking up in dictionaries has merely shown me that all Valery’s three words mean the same and if there is a gradation, it is only in Valéry’s mind.
All these words are based on the word “merde” which means “s**t”. Although this word is used more freely in French and lacks the shock of the English translation, its basic meaning still applies.
On translating this poem, I tried to use the words “annoy” “irritate” “exasperate”, but found them very deficient in meaning. In desperation, I have imitated my colleagues in sociology and invented my own code word:
To enmerd = to drive people to desperation by imposing on them a load of pointless, demeaning rubbish (merde)

2) Misogynie à part – Who is the misogynist? Paul Valéry seems to be saying that all women are guilty of emmerdement, which is a very sweeping condemnation of the female sex. This is obviously a misogynistic remark. I feel that Brassens shows by his choice of title that he recognised the misogyny of Valéry’s sentiments, but, all the same, he was glad to use Valéry’s terminology as a springboard for this provocative song.

3) La p'tite Enfant d' Marie – The 1930s saw the growth of political youth movements. In the Soviet Union, there were the pioneers. In Germany, there was the Hitler Youth. The Catholic Church formed a youth movement for boys, called « Les Croisés » and for girls called “Les Enfants de Marie” aimed particularly against Communist atheism which had growing support among the left-wing in France. This membership gives an expectation of strict sexual morals.

4) Vénus callipyge - The statue of the Venus Kallipygos is now in the Royal Museum in Naples. The worship of this Venus had been widespread in Ancient Greece and then had spread to Italy. The word Kallipygos is formed by an adjective, Κάλλος, which means beautiful and a noun πυγὴ, which means bum.

5) Ell' m'emmerde, ell' m'emmerde - This word, emphatic in itself, is made even more emphatic by its repetition, six times in three lines. However, some of the humour comes from the sense that this is a pretend indignation, while describing their mutual pleasure. Also the style of their lovemaking seems to be an established routine to which each returned willingly. No doubt, Brassens was fascinated and amused by his quirky young partner. The vehemence of his overstatement is comic as we see from the reaction of singer and audience.

6) Ell' déclam' du Claudel - Paul Claudel (1868 -1955) was a very prominent man of letters, who produced an incredible output of poems, plays, travel books, literary criticism and more. His plays were extremely long- one lasting eleven hours. In his writings, he expressed his very strong faith in Roman Catholicism. Like many influential French Catholics, he had been a strong supporter of the ideals of the collaborationist Vichy government of General Pétain, to whom he addressed a eulogical poem. This background served to limit Claudel’s appeal to those on the political left, such as Brassens.
The article about Claudel in Wikipedia, has a sentence which seems relevant to this poem. We read there that Claudel used “scenes of passionate, obsessive human love to convey with great power God's infinite love for humanity”. Above the physical detail of lovemaking, which Brassens has described in his poem, most people are probably aware of a spiritual dimension- although not necessarily with religious connotations. In the play Les Miserables, Jean Valjean says "to love another person is to see the face of God.". There is another quotation- also from Victor Hugo I think- that when two people make love, God is always present at that altar.

Perhaps the unconventional, strong-minded young girl gets the better in this poem! At the start we had expectations that she would have conformist, life-denying inhibitions but instead she emerges as an individualist, seeking her own answers. Despite his over-loud protestations against his partner, Brassens has given us another example of one of life’s eccentrics, so dear to him.

Please click here toreturn to the alphabetical list of my Brassens selection


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your translation and the comments! Brassen's songs are great, aren't they?

Good job :)

Amir ben Amram said...

In the next-to-last stanza, "Ell' m'emmerde" changes into "Ell' s'emmerde", which I find quite funny - now she's annyoing herself (perhaps meaning: she's bored), which naturally annoys him even more!

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for translation and comments!
I have listen at Brassens for over 20 years and been to Sete and transladed and recorded three of his songs in to swedish!
He is a part of my family!
- Ola from Sweden

Arnold Veeman said...

Absolute brilliant analysis of his lyrics. I hope you have more like these on your blog.



Anonymous said...

Elle s'emmerde avec ostentations - I have a different reading. She ostentavily shows that she is completely uninterested in sex, reads a missal and recites Claudel to show it. Accepts sex as an ordeal.

Live Love Books Blog said...

Great readinng this