Friday, September 3, 2010

Poetry, Writ and Sung

I received an email this morning from a local discussion group that meets twice a month at a downtown bistro to talk about science, art and literature, in an effort to address what they term "the need for lively thought."   

Discussion at the next meeting will center around reflections on a single line in one of Louis Aragon's poems entitled ll n'y a pas d'amour heureux, a melancholic poem about the nature of love.  (trans. "There is no happy love.")

The line they'll be discussing is  "Le temps d'apprendre à vivre il est déjà trop tard" ("The time to learn to live is already too late"), focusing on Aragon's development of a reflection on the aims of human existence.

Not only philosophical discussions have resulted from the reading of this poem but it's been made into a song recorded by French singer Georges Brassens (1921-1981).

Brassens sang not just the verses of Aragon, but  lyrics based on poems of Lamartine, Richepin, Villon, Apollinaire, and Victor Hugo (the latter in which he "protests the indoctrination of vulnerable minds with Medieval religious terrors")

His songs have been translated into 20 languages, and 50 doctoral dissertations have been written about him.   He's made 200 recordings, singing about first love, unrequited love, middle-aged love; nostalgia for his childhood town, cheating death, dying for one's ideas, reasons not to propose marriage, the malignant effects of publicity, capital punishment, the intolerance of respectable people.

He wrote songs remembering his days in poverty and hiding, and of being a total outsider (with titles such as "The Bum You Are" and "Useless Weed That I Am"). Called an outcast and an anarchist, forced into hiding--then choosing to stay there--he wrote and sang his and others' poetry.

[This information thanks to David Barfield, who has devoted his blog entirely to the songs of Georges Brassens, including lyrics in both French and English, as well as videos of Brassens and others' performing them  (e.g., the naughty Carla Bruni, wife of French president Nicholas Sarkozy, despite being strongly advised not to do so, here singing one of Brassens' bawdy songs that was banned on French radio.]

Georges Brassens, singing "Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux".

Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux

Rien n'est jamais acquis à l'homme Ni sa force
Ni sa faiblesse ni son coeur Et quand il croit
Ouvrir ses bras son ombre est celle d'une croix
Et quand il croit serrer son bonheur il le broie
Sa vie est un étrange et douloureux divorce
          Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux
Sa vie Elle ressemble à ces soldats sans armes
Qu'on avait habillés pour un autre destin
A quoi peut leur servir de se lever matin
Eux qu'on retrouve au soir désoeuvrés incertains
Dites ces mots Ma vie Et retenez vos larmes
          Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux
Mon bel amour mon cher amour ma déchirure
Je te porte dans moi comme un oiseau blessé
Et ceux-là sans savoir nous regardent passer
Répétant après moi les mots que j'ai tressés
Et qui pour tes grands yeux tout aussitôt moururent
          Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux
Le temps d'apprendre à vivre il est déjà trop tard
Que pleurent dans la nuit nos coeurs à l'unisson
Ce qu'il faut de malheur pour la moindre chanson
Ce qu'il faut de regrets pour payer un frisson
Ce qu'il faut de sanglots pour un air de guitare
          Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux
Il n'y a pas d'amour qui ne soit à douleur
Il n'y a pas d'amour dont on ne soit meurtri
Il n'y a pas d'amour dont on ne soit flétri
Et pas plus que de toi l'amour de la patrie
Il n'y a pas d'amour qui ne vive de pleurs
          Il n'y a pas d'amour heureux
          Mais c'est notre amour à tous les deux

Louis Aragon (La Diane Francaise, Seghers 1946)

[Source:  Feelingsurfer's blog.]

There Is No Happy Love

Man never truly possesses anything
Neither his strength, nor his weakness, nor his heart
And when he opens his arms
His shadow is that of a cross
And when he tries to embrace happiness
He crushes it
His life is a strange and painful divorce
       There is no happy love
His life resembles those soulless soldiers
Who have been groomed for a different fate
Why should they rise in the morning
When nighttime finds them disarmed, uncertain
Say these words and hold back your tears
       There is no happy love
My beautiful love, my dear love, my torn heart
I carry you in me like a wounded bird
Those who unknowingly watch us walk by
Repeat after me my words and sigh
They have already died in your bright eyes
       There is no happy love
By the time we learn to live
It's already too late
Our hearts cry in unison at night
It takes many a misfortune for the simplest song
Many regrets to pay for a thrill
Many a tear for a guitar's melody
       There is no happy love
There is no love which is not pain
There is no love which does not bruise
There is no love which does not fade
And none that is greater than your love for your country
There is no love which does not live from tears
       There is no happy love
       But it is our own love

[Source: Verbal Collage]

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