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French songs in English translation

DigiTrad:
ALOUETTE
AUPRES DE MA BLONDE
CHEVALIERS DE LA TABLE RONDE
FRERE JACQUES
LE TEMPS DES CERISES


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Will Fly 15 Aug 13 - 05:34 AM
Will Fly 15 Aug 13 - 06:26 AM
Nigel Parsons 15 Aug 13 - 07:55 AM
bubblyrat 15 Aug 13 - 08:05 AM
alex s 15 Aug 13 - 09:31 AM
Monique 15 Aug 13 - 09:38 AM
Anglo 15 Aug 13 - 10:27 AM
Anglo 15 Aug 13 - 10:38 AM
Will Fly 15 Aug 13 - 10:51 AM
Monique 15 Aug 13 - 11:18 AM
alex s 15 Aug 13 - 11:32 AM
GUEST,Don Wise 15 Aug 13 - 02:31 PM
alex s 15 Aug 13 - 02:37 PM
GUEST 15 Aug 13 - 05:38 PM
GUEST,Don Wise 16 Aug 13 - 03:54 AM
GUEST,Mikaël 16 Aug 13 - 04:08 AM
Will Fly 16 Aug 13 - 04:18 AM
Nigel Parsons 16 Aug 13 - 04:59 AM
Nigel Parsons 16 Aug 13 - 08:13 AM
alex s 16 Aug 13 - 09:57 AM
Monique 16 Aug 13 - 12:00 PM
GUEST,Grishka 16 Aug 13 - 02:45 PM
Steve Parkes 16 Aug 13 - 04:43 PM
Gurney 16 Aug 13 - 06:02 PM
GUEST,BobL 17 Aug 13 - 03:15 AM
Gaffer 25 Aug 13 - 07:25 PM
GUEST 25 Aug 13 - 10:51 PM
GUEST 25 Aug 13 - 11:04 PM
GUEST 25 Aug 13 - 11:10 PM
Monique 26 Aug 13 - 03:29 AM
GUEST,Ian Burdon (without cookie) 26 Aug 13 - 08:35 AM
GUEST,Grishka 27 Aug 13 - 09:13 AM
GUEST,Jim Dixon (17 Feb 2015) 21 Feb 15 - 07:26 PM
GUEST,Monique (17 Feb 2015) 21 Feb 15 - 07:27 PM
GUEST,Ged Fox (18 Feb 2015) 21 Feb 15 - 07:27 PM
Mrrzy 21 Feb 15 - 10:40 PM
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Subject: French songs in English translation
From: Will Fly
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 05:34 AM

Being a bit of a sucker for French songs, it's been an interesting experience doing the ongoing trawl through my recently-acquired 3,000+ sheet music archive - in which a number of French songs in English translation have popped up.

I've been struck by the way in which many of the translations have lost much of their bite when turned into English. It's understandable, of course, given the US/UK markets for which the translations were done, but the translated versions usually give a totally different spin to the originals.

As an example, I've been looking at "Under The Bridges Of Paris" with English lyrics by Dorcas Cochran from 1952. The original French lyrics for "Sous Les Ponts De Paris" were written by Jean Rodor in 1914. To illustrate the point, I give below (a) the English words by Cochran (b) the original French by Rodor (c) my rough translation of the French...

(a)
My darling, why I sing this song is easy to explain.
It tells what happens all along the bridges of the Seine.
The vagabonds go there at night to sleep their troubles away,
But when the moon is shining bright, my heart wants to sing it this way...

How would you like to be down by the Seine with me?
Oh what I'd give for a moment or two under the bridges of Paris with you.
Darling, I'd hold you tight, far from the eyes of night,
Under the bridges of Paris with you, I'd make your dreams come true.

(b)
Pour aller à Suresnes ou bien à Charenton
Tout le long de la Seine on passe sous les ponts
Pendants le jour, suivant son cours, tout Paris en bateau défile,
L' cœur plein d'entrain, ça va, ça vient, mais l' soir lorsque tout dort tranquille…

Sous les ponts de Paris, lorsque descend la nuit,
Tout's sort's de gueux se faufil'nt en cachette, et sont heureux de trouver une couchette,
Hôtel du courant d'air, où l'on ne paie pas cher,
L'parfum et l'eau c'est pour rien mon marquis, sous les ponts de Paris.


(c)
To go to Suresnes or even to Charenton,
All along the Seine one passes under the bridges.
During the day, following its course, all Paris parades by in boats,
With light hearts, that's okay, that's always okay, but in the evening when they all sleep peacefully…

Under the bridges of Paris, when night falls,
Every kind of beggar slips secretly out of hiding, and is happy to find a sleeping place,
At the Hotel "Fresh Air," where payment is cheap,
The perfume and water is free, my 'marquis', under the bridges of Paris.

The next two verses of the original are even darker - poor workers meeting at the factory gates on a holiday and going down to the bridges to make love - with a final verse about a poverty-stricken mother and her three little children sleeping under a bridge.

What struck me is how the 1914 song - probably sung in the caf'concs and cabarets of the time - is so much darker, more robust and socially conscious than the sickly 1950s version. And this contrast crops up again and again. It's odd, because American lyricists like E.Y. Harburg were equally capable of writing songs with "bite" - " Brother, Can You Spare A Dime" springs immediately to mind - but translated songs seem to be melted into sickly romantic offerings.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: Will Fly
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 06:26 AM

A kindly correction (from Mudcatter Monique) on the phrase "ça va, ça vient" - should read, "they come, they go".

Zut alors!


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 07:55 AM

Puts a whole new view on the 1950s singer doesn't it?
He wants to take his loved one for the night down among the outcasts of society.
Maybe he should leave her at home a go alone for a 'bit of rough'


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: bubblyrat
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 08:05 AM

Brother Jack ! Brother Jack !

Sleep well ,

Ring the bell ,

   And have a ding-dong !

Seriously though , I don't think that any foreign song sounds quite the same when translated ; for example , I accompanied a Breton lady at Bampton a few years ago when she sang that song about knights lying on the floor under the wine-barrels and opening their mouths to drink .It just wouldn't sound the same without the "Non!Non!Non! Oui! Oui !Oui ! " chorus , now would it Mike ? I translated "Knees Up Mother Brown" into Dutch and it is dreadful . So there !


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: alex s
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 09:31 AM

That's a pretty faithful and sympathetic translation , Will.

What I really dislike is a total departure from the original, eg La Mer/Beyond the Sea, Que reste-t-il de nos amours?/I wish you love (where did "bluebirds in the spring" come from?.) Les Feuilles Mortes/Falling Leaves isn't much better....

As an old lady once said to me "Tout en Anglais est moche"


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: Monique
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 09:38 AM

About total departure, cf. also "My way" vs "Comme d'habitude"


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: Anglo
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 10:27 AM

It goes the other way too. I always loved the French version of Hedy West's "500 miles," written with a very simple lyric. I think the Peter, Paul & Mary version already expanded the original:

If you miss the train I'm on, you will know that I am gone
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles,
A hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles, a hundred miles,
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.

Lord I'm one, Lord I'm two, Lord I'm three, Lord I'm four,
Lord I'm 500 miles from my home.
500 miles, 500 miles, 500 miles, 500 miles
Lord I'm five hundred miles from my home.

Not a shirt on my back, not a penny to my name
Lord I can't go a-home this a-way
This a-away, this a-way, this a-way, this a-way,
Lord I can't go a-home this a-way.

If you miss the train I'm on you will know that I am gone
You can hear the whistle blow a hundred miles.''


Jacques Plante wrote the French version for Richard Anthony:

J'ai pensé qu'il valait mieux
Nous quitter sans un adieu.
Je n'aurais pas eu le cœur de te revoir...
Mais j'entends siffler le train, {2x}
Que c'est triste un train qui siffle dans le soir...

Je pouvais t'imaginer, toute seule, abandonnée
Sur le quai, dans la cohue des "au revoir".
Et j'entends siffler le train, {2x}
Que c'est triste un train qui siffle dans le soir...

J'ai failli courir vers toi, j'ai failli crier vers toi.
C'est à peine si j'ai pu me retenir !
Que c'est loin où tu t'en vas, {2x}
Auras-tu jamais le temps de revenir ?

J'ai pensé qu'il valait mieux
Nous quitter sans un adieu,
Mais je sens que maintenant tout est fini !
Et j'entends siffler ce train, {2x}
J'entendrai siffler ce train toute ma vie...


Hedy wrote a beautiful, simple song, and I wouldn't put her down for it at all, but the French adds so much more for me.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: Anglo
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 10:38 AM

And on the other hand, you've got Alisdair Clayre's translation of Jacques Brel's "La Colombe," which seems to me to be as good as it gets.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: Will Fly
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 10:51 AM

Alex - there's a similarity in part to the original, I'll grant you, but the rest of the song - which hasn't been translated or covered in the 1950s sheet music - is far darker and more bitter. Here are the last two verses in the original French:

A la sortie d' l'usine, Julot rencontre Nini
Ça va t'y la rouquine, c'est la fête aujourd'hui.
Prends ce bouquet, quelqu's brins d' muguet
C'est peu mais c'est tout' ma fortune,
Viens avec moi; j' connais l'endroit
Où l'on n' craint même pas l'clair de lune.

Rongée par la misère, chassée de son logis,
L'on voit un' pauvre mère avec ses trois petits.
Sur leur chemin, sans feu ni pain
Ils subiront leur sort atroce.
Bientôt la nuit la maman dit
Enfin ils vont dormir mes gosses.


Fairly downbeat, I think - and the last verse is quite heartbreaking.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: Monique
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 11:18 AM

"J'entends siffler le train"... we were kids in the early 60's and would sing "Et j'entends pisser le chien / sur la porte du jardin / que c'est triste un chien qui pisse dans le soir" (it wasn't supposed to have literary qualities...)
There's a thread here about French songs translated/adapted into other languages but there're only the titles.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: alex s
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 11:32 AM

You're right, Will. That last verse makes Leonard Cohen seem positively jolly.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 02:31 PM

(@ alex s: are you refering to "The Partisan"? If so, where's the relevant posting?)

"La complainte du partisan"......not only did the american translator apparently leave out a verse, he changed an old man to an old woman and removed the patriotic bits. The printed versions I've seen have 6 french and 5 english verses, even if Joan Baez found an english translation of the sixth verse somewhere. Substituting 'les soldats' for 'les Allemands' and 'la nation' for 'La France' brings the french version, to my mind, up-to-date and gives it a degree of universality. WWII has been over for a long time now but there are plenty of other conflicts rageing in the world.

My translation:-

"No-one ever asked me
Where I've come from, where I'm going
Those of you who know
Erase all traces of me"


I interpret the french last verse as being a return to 'normality'-

"On nous oubliera,
Nous rentrerons dans l'ombre"-

we'll be forgotten- nobody will have any interest in our deeds, they, and we, will be too busy rebuilding our lives and so we'll fade away and become just memories........
Although the english version is apparently up-beat/jolly I look at it the same sense as I look at the original:- at last we'll be able to leave this clandestine life and pick up the pieces of our lives..........

The american, tin-pan-alley, composer("The twelth of never"?) who came up with the english version presumably followed standard tin-pan-alley practice and supplied an obligatory apparently up-beat ending. Quite why he turned an old man into an old women escapes me but it's not important.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: alex s
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 02:37 PM

Guest Don Wise - no, I'm not.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Aug 13 - 05:38 PM

Try the reverse direction:

Mon Amour de la Lagan


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: GUEST,Don Wise
Date: 16 Aug 13 - 03:54 AM

@ alex: aha, I think I see what you're getting at regarding LC....

Of course there is the 'classic', according to legend spontaneous, Fairport translation of Dylan's "If you gotta go, go now" - "Si tu dois a partir".........My french is a bit too rusty to be able to judge the translation.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: GUEST,Mikaël
Date: 16 Aug 13 - 04:08 AM

I don't know many french songs translated in english, except the Brel songs sung by Scott Walker. But a lot of english and american songs were translated in french throughout the 60's & 70's. i'm aware that translation, especially versified translation, is a hard work but "If I Had a Hammer" by Claude François ("Si j'avais un marteau") or "Santy Anna" by Hugues Aufray ("Santiano") lost almost everything what make the originals tremendous songs.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: Will Fly
Date: 16 Aug 13 - 04:18 AM

Song translation is a difficult art. Not only does the translator have to cope with rhyme patter, alliteration, metre, etc., but he/she also has to convey the meaning of the song and the allusions within it. Unless, of course, the song tune is just a vehicle for something completely different. All that's understood.

But my caveat is with the different directions that the translations often take, losing the point of the original. Johnny Mercer's words for "Autumn Leaves" are no match for "Les Feuilles Mortes" of Jacques Prévert - and Dorcas Cochran completely glosses over the point of Jean Rodor's "Sous Les Ponts De Paris" to turn it into a sickly romantic offering.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 16 Aug 13 - 04:59 AM

Seriously though , I don't think that any foreign song sounds quite the same when translated ; for example , I accompanied a Breton lady at Bampton a few years ago when she sang that song about knights lying on the floor under the wine-barrels and opening their mouths to drink .It just wouldn't sound the same without the "Non!Non!Non! Oui! Oui !Oui ! " chorus , now would it Mike ? I translated "Knees Up Mother Brown" into Dutch and it is dreadful . So there !
Chevaliers de la table ronde?

And Here a translation.
Presumably the Oui oui oui & non non non could also be replaced with yes yes yes,no no no, (or yeah yeah yeah (c) Beatles)


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: Nigel Parsons
Date: 16 Aug 13 - 08:13 AM

Song translation is a difficult art. Not only does the translator have to cope with rhyme patter, alliteration, metre, etc., but he/she also has to convey the meaning of the song and the allusions within it. Unless, of course, the song tune is just a vehicle for something completely different. All that's understood.

It can be done sympathetically, but is not necessarily a quick process.
Here's one done by the Mudcat collective over a period of 3 months!


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: alex s
Date: 16 Aug 13 - 09:57 AM

Terry Jacks!!

To add to what Will points out, there is also the fact that French words are (in general) longer than English - a French songwriter said that it's much easier for English writers to "fill the gaps", as it were. Also our English vocabulary is considerably larger than the French vocab, so we have more choice.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: Monique
Date: 16 Aug 13 - 12:00 PM

Also our English vocabulary is considerably larger than the French vocab, so we have more choice.

SNIP (from here, the bold is mine).
"The vocabulary of English is undoubtedly very large, but assigning a specific number to its size is more a matter of definition than of calculation – and there is no official source to define accepted English words and spellings in the way that the French Académie française and similar bodies do for other languages.

Archaic, dialectal, and regional words might or might not be widely considered as "English", and neologisms are continually coined in medicine, science, technology and other fields, along with new slang and adopted foreign words. Some of these new words enter wide usage while others remain restricted to small circles...

...The current FAQ for the OED further states:

How many words are there in the English language? There is no single sensible answer to this question. It's impossible to count the number of words in a language, because it's so hard to decide what actually counts as a word.

The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition (OED2) includes over 600,000 definitions, following a rather inclusive policy:
It embraces not only the standard language of literature and conversation, whether current at the moment, or obsolete, or archaic, but also the main technical vocabulary, and a large measure of dialectal usage and slang (Supplement to the OED, 1933).[92]

The editors of Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged include 475,000 main headwords, but in their preface they estimate the true number to be much higher. Comparisons of the vocabulary size of English to that of other languages are generally not taken very seriously by linguists and lexicographers. Besides the fact that dictionaries will vary in their policies for including and counting entries, what is meant by a given language and what counts as a word do not have simple definitions."
SNIP


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 16 Aug 13 - 02:45 PM

English has many short words, and often longer alternatives exist in reasonably common usage. Also, normally several grammatical constructions can be chosen from, some of which are very brief. On the other hand, suitable rhymes and rhythms are harder to find than in French.

As an example of rhythm problems, it is not a good idea to sing "Let us drink, knights of the round table" for "Chevaliers de la table ronde", because of the stressed "the". Moreover, the word "knights" demands the longest note. "All ye knights of King Arthur's table, let us taste if the wine is good!" might be a better solution, if a singable translation is desired at all.

Some songs would fail to work in a different cultural context even if translated in perfect craftsmanship. The song in the OP may be such a case. Commercial lyricists often prefer to write entirely new lyrics when they smell a hit melody. Some such products have become classics in their own right - many others have become objects of ridicule or at least deprecation. —

Those of us who consider performing translated songs publicly should be very cautions indeed. If authenticity is the main point, insist on a close and meaningful translation; for entertainment purposes, insist on entertaining lyrics.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: Steve Parkes
Date: 16 Aug 13 - 04:43 PM

As has been discussed above, we have to distinguish between an English translation and an English version.

Somewhere on the 'Cat I believe there's a thread about Lili Marlene, with an excellent translation which is closer than the well-known version.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: Gurney
Date: 16 Aug 13 - 06:02 PM

YouTube has both Brassons' 'Le Gorille' and Thackray's translation 'Brother Gorilla.'
Not being a Francophone, I'll leave it to one of you scholars to say which is the funniest.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: GUEST,BobL
Date: 17 Aug 13 - 03:15 AM

Presumably there are songs with versions in different languages written by the same bilingual poet - can anyone give examples?


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: Gaffer
Date: 25 Aug 13 - 07:25 PM

Gurney,

Francophone or not, you have hit on one of the very best song translations out there. Jake was a real admirer of Georges, and he did impossibly well when he translated "Le Gorille". He did a pretty good job with "Marinette" -> "Isabella" as well.
Although I'm no scholar, I'd declare the result a draw, and a draw is the result to which every song translator should aspire.

Gaffer


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Aug 13 - 10:51 PM

Jake Thqckrqy did some prettygood trqnslqtions of Brassens songs


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Aug 13 - 11:04 PM

Hugues Aufray changed the words to house of the Rising Sun and the theme about prostitution to being about a prisoner. it was a big hit for johnny Halliday and most French people think this is the original song written by Aufray, although he hs released a faithful translation of Le soleil Levant last year.


    Les portes du pénitencier
    Bientôt vont se fermer
    Et c'est là que je finirai ma vie
    Comm'd'autres gars l'ont finie
    Pour moi ma mère a donné
    Sa robe de mariée
    Peux-tu jamais me pardonner
    Je t'ai trop fait pleurer
    Le soleil n'est pas fait pour nous
    C'est la nuit qu'on peut tricher
    Toi qui ce soir a tout perdu
    Demain tu peux gagner.
    O mères, écoutez-moi
    Ne laissez jamais vos garçons
    Seuls la nuit traîner dans les rues
    Ils iront tout droit en prison
    Toi la fille qui m'a aimé
    Je t'ai trop fait pleurer
    Les larmes de honte que tu as versées
    Il faut les oublier
    Les portes du pénitencier
    Bientôt vont se fermer
    Et c'est là que je finirai ma vie
    Comm'd'autres gars l'ont finie


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: GUEST
Date: 25 Aug 13 - 11:10 PM

....and this is Aufrays translation of the traditional House of the Rising Sun on his new album. i dont know how it works for copyright on foreign translations of songs.

L'hotel Du Soleil Levant:

Y'avait jadis à New Orléans
Un lieu de filles perdues
Une maison de femmes aux yeux brûlant
L'hôtel du soleil levant

Des filles venues d'un peu partout
Poussées par un vent de misère
S'en venaient sombrer pour quelques sous
Dans les rêves des cœurs solitaires

Vous tous qui m'écoutez ce soir
Ne jetez pas la pierre
Car ces filles se vendent au prix du désespoir
Et elles portent leur croix sur la terre

Elle n'avait pas encore quinze ans
Quand elle est allée
Vendre son âme son cœur d'enfant
Vendre sa vie aux passants

Entre ses bras je me suis couché
Le temps d'une triste chanson
Mais je garde encore de ses baisers
Le goût et l'odeur de sueur sur son front

As-tu jamais imaginé
Qu'à l'ombre des volets clos
C'est le bagne c'est l'enfer des amours sans repos
La prison des cœurs naufragés

Que Dieu accueille dans son grand pardon
Ces enfants aux ventres meurtris
Et qu'il ouvre pour elles sa maison
Les portes de son paradis

Un train s'en va dans le brouillard
Je chante au soleil couchant
Pour ces filles sans joie
Qui partent un soir vers l'hôtel du soleil levant


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: Monique
Date: 26 Aug 13 - 03:29 AM

"Le pénitencier" lyrics were co-written by Hugues Aufray and Vline Buggy (alias for Evelyne et Liliane Koger).
@ Guest: re.copyright, if you mean how it works to translate lyrics (or anything): if the original work has a copyright you first need to get permission from the author and usually pay fees then the usual copyright laws apply to your translation; if the work is public domain, then you need neither permission nor pay fees but then the current copyright laws apply to your translation (= author's life +70 years in most countries, author's life + 90 years in the US).


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: GUEST,Ian Burdon (without cookie)
Date: 26 Aug 13 - 08:35 AM

I have dabbled in translating Brassens to English and was chatting about this with a French friend of mine who translates Jake Thackray into French. There are a number of problems, some perhaps specific to Brassens.

Firstly, he often deliberately uses archaic French. Secondly his lyrics are frequently strung out from start to last in the subjunctive which is not without its difficulties in English. Thirdly he frequently rhymes on the closing "...re". Fourthly some of the songs either have specific French references which don't resonate in English and fifthly some just fall flat in English.

Some are pleasingly filthy, though, including the excellent "Melanie" about a parishioner who pleasures herself with church candles - but only the best beeswax "because she was a good catholic".


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 27 Aug 13 - 09:13 AM

Brassens is an icon, very hard to reproduce at all, even in French.

Take the Beatles songs: their semantic meaning is at most half of the message. Anybody else doing them, in the original language or translated, has the choice between close mimicry (being a "Beatles Revival Band" still can earn you a decent living, but no artistic reputation) and reinterpretation.

Many lyrics acclaimed for their suggestive quality look mediocre when examined with a magnifying glass, like the splendid colours of some tropical butterflies. No chance of extracting the pigment. (Recently we discussed "Me and Bobby McGee" to that effect.)

What do you mean by 'rhymes on the closing "...re"'? GB chooses between classical and colloquial metric rules as suits him, which you may regard as an unfair advantage, but not making your task any more difficult.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: GUEST,Jim Dixon (17 Feb 2015)
Date: 21 Feb 15 - 07:26 PM

The French version of this song was recorded by Charles Aznavour, Edith Piaf, Martha Wainwright, Les Compagnons del la Chanson, and Karen Akers.

The English version was recorded by Oscar Brown, Jr., Peter and Gordon, Noel Harrison, Cher, and Howard Kaylan. I like Brown's best.

I verified the English lyrics against a recording by Brown. I downloaded the French text from the internet, and I'm afraid I'm not quite fluent enough to vouch for their accuracy.

On the whole, the translation seems pretty good to me.


A YOUNG GIRL (UNE ENFANT)
English lyric by Oscar Brown, Jr., original French lyric by Charles Aznavour,
Music by Charles Aznavour and Robert Chauvigny.
As sung by Oscar Brown, Jr. on "Tells It Like It Is" (1963)

She left her neighborhood in which
Everyone was filthy rich.
She left her parents' home and strayed
With a vagabond who made
Vows of love she'd never heard
And she believed his every word.
She left no forwarding address,
Just took her youth and happiness,
As with the boy she vanished in
The secret sweetness of their sin.

A young girl, a young girl of sixteen,
Child of springtime still green,
Lying here by the road.

He told her love demanded space,
So they roamed from place to place.
Although she realized she sinned,
She threw caution to the wind
As she followed him around,
While he just slowly dragged her down.
So overpowering was her love,
That it had made a captive of
The young girl's heart and soul and mind.
In other words, love drove her blind.

A young girl, a young girl of sixteen,
Child of springtime still green,
Lying here by the road.

Too much emotion for a girl,
She let her heart become her world,
But worlds that God has never wrought
Fall asunder, we are taught.
Had she been wiser, she'd have known
She couldn't feed him love alone.
She should have known the day would come
When he would quit her just for crumbs.
He wanted fresh new meat to carve,
And left her heart, soul and mind to starve.

A young girl, a young girl of sixteen,
Child of springtime still green,
Lying here by the road,
Dead!

[Here are Aznavour's original lyrics:]

Une enfant, une enfant de seize ans
Une enfant du printemps
Couchée sur le chemin.

Elle vivait dans un de ces quartiers
Où tout le monde est riche à crever
Elle avait quitté ses parents
Pour suivre un garçon, un bohème
Qui savait si bien dire "je t'aime"
Ça en devenait bouleversant
Et leurs deux coeurs ensoleillés
Partirent sans laisser d'adresse
Emportant juste leur jeunesse
Et la douceur de leur péché

Une enfant, une enfant de seize ans
Une enfant du printemps
Couchée sur le chemin.

Leurs coeurs n'avaient pas de saisons
Et ne voulaient pas de prison
Tous deux vivaient au jour le jour
Ne restant jamais à la même place
Leurs coeurs avaient besoin d'espace
Pour contenir un tel amour
Son présent comme son futur
C'était cet amour magnifique
Qui la berçait comme d'un cantique
Et perdait ses yeux dans l'azur

Une enfant, une enfant de seize ans
Une enfant du printemps
Couchée sur le chemin.

Mais son amour était trop grand
Trop grand pour l'âme d'une enfant
Elle ne vivait que par son coeur
Et son coeur se faisait un monde
Mais Dieu n'accepte pas les mondes
Dont il n'est pas le Créateur
L'amour étant leur seul festin
Il la quitta pour quelques miettes
Alors sa vie battit en retraite
Et puis l'enfant connut la faim

Une enfant, une enfant de seize ans
Une enfant du printemps
Couchée sur le chemin
Morte!


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: GUEST,Monique (17 Feb 2015)
Date: 21 Feb 15 - 07:27 PM

Aznavour's rendition. The lyrics above are accurate.


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: GUEST,Ged Fox (18 Feb 2015)
Date: 21 Feb 15 - 07:27 PM

"Song translation is a difficult art etc." but it is a good game.

My attempt at "Le Forban," a traditional French song - close enough in sense to the original, but well...
"A moi, forbans" in English

And here a translation from the Occitan of Nadau, with a bit of help from a crib in French..
"Lo dia Maria" in English


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Subject: RE: French songs in English translation
From: Mrrzy
Date: 21 Feb 15 - 10:40 PM

We had twin albums, one in English and one in French, of Alan Mills singing the same childrens' songs... I think he was Canadian. I'd have loved to have heard his Sea Chanteys album in French!


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