Jacques Brel - Chacun sa Dulcinéa (English translation)

English translation

To each his Dulcinea

To each his Dulcinea,
whom only he will know,
whom he dreamt up on a crying night
to preserve a bit of hope
inside the barbed fence of his heart.
Through her, through his Dulcinea,
or the idea thereof1,
the rebellious man turns into a God.
All of a sudden he can fly, and better yet,
he plucks up moons2 with his fingertips.
However, if you are among those
who live in cloud castles3,
keep in mind that the moon
melts4 into dust between your fingers.
There is no Dulcinea,
it is a withered hope.
Woe betide the one who dares prefer
the verb "to be" over "to have"5,
I know his despair.
There is no Dulcinea,
it is a withered hope.
 
  • 1. "icelle" is an ancient word, superseded by "celle-ci" in modern French
  • 2. "lune" can mean "pipe dream" or "illusion", though it is mostly used in the fixed expression "des vieilles lunes" (outmoded ideas)
  • 3. lit. "who live off pipe dreams"
  • 4. French dust doesn't "melt" either, it's just a slightly odd choice of word
  • 5. "être" and "avoir" are the two auxiliaries French uses to form compound tenses
This translation does not claim to be of any particular value.
Glad if you liked it, sorry if you didn't.
You can reuse it as you please.
Glad if it's for knowledge or understanding, sorry if it's just for money or fame.
Submitted by petit élève on Fri, 13/10/2017 - 01:54
Added in reply to request by EddieA
Last edited by petit élève on Wed, 18/10/2017 - 06:41
Author's comments:

Plenty of helpful second opinions managed to put this ill-fated translation back on the right track. Many thanks, guys.
For a more poetic variant, be sure to check out Nadia's version.

French

Chacun sa Dulcinéa

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Comments
nefelibata    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 07:12

"To each his Dulcinea, whom he is the only one to know." Chacun sa Dulcinéa
Qu'il est seul à savoir.

My understanding of the French here is "Only he knows of/ about" her, the person
he created.
Therefore, a less wooden way to phrase it would be "To each his Dulcinea,
of whom only he will know." How does that sound as a first redraft?

Second point, dust does not usually melt...it usually disperses.

*Starts thinking more*

petit élève    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 07:16

of whom only he will know -> yep, that's good ! I'll take that

French dust does not melt either.It sounds just as odd in the original, but I'll add a note.

nefelibata    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 07:36

I'm glad you think that's good.
whom he made up on a crying night --> dreamed up if you prefer a split verb, and if not you can use invented, too. It would keep more in line with the rest of the text, and make a more coherent whole (in my opinion) . It would help smooth those rough edges.
All of a sudden he can fly, and even better, --> better yet is more "flighty" in tone.
Instead of picking moons Here I'd use pluck + preposition. I'd need a native to tell me
if I can say "pluck at." Not quite sure.
Pipe dreams --->is also ... (well in my opinion) off tone (what with the operatic
sound). How about fantasies?

petit élève    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 07:45

dream up -> yep, definetly better

better yet -> better indeed

about "pluck", I was afraid a native would picture the moons being plucked like mere chickens Regular smile
but I suppose "pluck up" is not that ambiguous, or is it?

yep, "pipe dreams" seemed a bit casual but I could not think of a better equivalent.
Maybe something based on "cloud castles" : "living in cloud castles" or something?

nefelibata    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 07:50

If he using cueillir as in "gathering" softly, then it's better to use to gather or to pick. But if it's a less serene motion, then
to pluck would be okay.
I understand what you mean by cloud castles (in Spanish we say that, too), but in English I think they use
the phrase "to build castles in the air"

petit élève    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 08:01

Pluck seems to go well with the fingertips. If the idea of chicken and feathers is out of the picture, I think that would be the best choice there.

Actually we say "des châteaux en Espagne" Teeth smile
I suppose it originates in the incessant wars between Spain and France in the 16th/17th century, when our kings consistently failed to conquer Spanish territory!.
I've seen "cloud castles" a few times but I couldn't say if that would work here.

nefelibata    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 08:03

Teeth smile "des châteaux en Espagne" - Well, that's funny! I didn't know that.
Yes, pluck sounds like it's for the chickens, but it's not exclusively for feathers and chickens.
It can also mean to root out. Either choice is good. I am trying to think of a verb for the fingertips, as they can hardly
get a hold of anything. And picking at then would not be a complete action. Is that what is meant?

nefelibata    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 08:05

I mean, one's fingertips,I got lost there. Reading for meaning he may be pulling them towards him using the
fingertips?

petit élève    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 08:10

As I understand it, the French rather implies it's easy, effortless, like plucking berries from a bush or something. It's so easy you just have to pinch your fingers to grab it.

nefelibata    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 08:36

Ah, okay! It makes me understand the French better. It's a nice poetic image. Yes, every time I think of the verb cueillir, I think of daisies. ( Ils cueillent des marguerites from "Caroline" by MC Solaar, the last acceptable rapper by your own admission--- isn't it interesting when you know how a verb got stuck in your memory? But I digress!) To me it is a verb that makes me think of implicitly "soft" actions or motions. For some odd reason, to pluck and to pick just do not sound to my non-native English ears like soft little verbs. They sound kind of brief, very neutral, but that's just by my own "feeling" about them, not anything real or substantive. A lot of my English really is quite intuitive, but it never has matched native intuition, because it isn't my mother tongue after all.
Either way you present it-- pluck, pick, snap off, etc., it will be not be far from a good choice.
I hope that the translation is looking more like you wanted it to now. Regular smile

petit élève    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 08:56

It sure does look a lot better. A final polish from the UK by my accomplice Gavin and it should be decent enough Regular smile

nefelibata    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 09:10

I look forward to that! Regular smile

Brat    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 10:11

AFAIK, "to pluck" is "to pick, to pull out something that has a significant resistance". Since that it is applicable to feathers, some "diehard" berries, and so on. Wink smile If it is meant that the moons are pulled out of their places with a significant effort - that will be OK. Regular smile Otherwise it will be a bit queer, I'm afraid.

Gavier    Tue, 17/10/2017 - 13:13

It looks to have been buffed to a high luster already!

All I can suggest is maybe lose the "Of" at the beginning of line 2. It's not necessary and feels a little clunky.
I would prefer "dreamt" to "dreamed" - they're both correct but "dreamt" is a little more classical and that seems to fit the mood here.

Are you working through L'homme de la Mancha in preparation for the much delayed Terry Gilliam movie? Regular smile

Gavier    Tue, 17/10/2017 - 13:24

That's not to dispute the suggestion by Nefelibata which is otherwise spot on. Just that "whom" already makes it clear that this is the object. To 'know of" is only usually used to add distance - "I know of him but I don't actually know him."
Regular smile

Brat    Tue, 17/10/2017 - 16:01
Gavier wrote:

I would prefer "dreamt" to "dreamed" - they're both correct but "dreamt" is a little more classical and that seems to fit the mood here.

That's it! This variant is much better, 'cause it is usually used in case of "gloomy dreams", while "dreamed" is associated with "sweet dreams".

petit élève    Tue, 17/10/2017 - 18:33

Unfortunately Jean Rochefort is no longer available. What a wonderful Don Quixote he would have made. I shall miss this great actor very much.

Gavier    Tue, 17/10/2017 - 22:02

I agree - he would have been perfect in the role. Great loss.

nefelibata    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 07:39

Either way, it's pluck up, the formal verb Regular smile

sandring    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 09:49

Hello, guys, I thought of coming up with my suggestions but realized I had it totally different. I mean the wording. If I made a new translation, wouldn't it be totally selfish of me? Regular smile

nefelibata    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 09:51

*I* wouldn't think it was!! Regular smile And I'm vouching for P.E. that he is not petty like that.

petit élève    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 14:28

That would knock my ego flat on its metaphorical bottom and throw me in the throes of the most abject self-pity, but for the sake of poetry, I grant you permission to proceed...

sandring    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 09:54

OK, I'm sure mine will be no way better than Pierre's, it will be just my outlook, my feel about it.

nefelibata    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 09:56

I'd be happy to read it, just to see your own vision of it.

Green_Sattva    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 10:30

Nadia, and I would be glad to see Russian translation Regular smile

sandring    Fri, 13/10/2017 - 10:58

No problem, Sophia, give me one minute Regular smile

roster 31    Tue, 17/10/2017 - 18:22

You may continue building "castillos en el aire", but you are ignoring an important point: DULCINEA, the dreamed girl by Don Quijote!.

petit élève    Tue, 17/10/2017 - 18:39

Sorry, I'm not sure I get what you mean. The French talks about "pipe dream" (chimère) at large, I just adapted it. Or is it about something else?

Gavier    Tue, 17/10/2017 - 22:17

I think she is pointing out that Dulcinea is an actual person in the book Don Quixote. But I don't know that you had missed it per se. It's not detailed in the original text so no reason for it to be so in the translation. Regular smile

Perhaps a footnote for the less well informed is all that's needed?
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dulcinea_del_Toboso

Brat    Tue, 17/10/2017 - 18:49

Oh, I suppose, it's about "dulcificar"... Wink smile To sweeten...

petit élève    Tue, 17/10/2017 - 19:35

Well yes, "dulcinée" has even become a common noun for "sweetheart" in French, and I can see the common root with "douce" (sweet), but still I fail to see the point.

nefelibata    Tue, 17/10/2017 - 21:58

I don't understand your comment, either.

Dulcinea is mentioned four times .....in a song this short, as well as in the title. Hard to ignore.

This discussion was about the tone of the translation

roster 31    Tue, 17/10/2017 - 22:09

Yes, I know but, if Dulcinea is mentioned four times, she must have some significance.

petit élève    Tue, 17/10/2017 - 23:03

The song is part of an opera about Don Quixote, and Dulcinea is so central to the plot I did not deem necessary to explain who she was. I just assumed people would make the connection.

As for the significance, well, that's the very symbol of the idealized woman.
The actual character Don Quixote is projecting his fantasies on is the lowliest prostitute, but in his mind she becomes Dulcinea, the epitome of grace and feminity, just like he mistakes windmills for giants.

roster 31    Wed, 18/10/2017 - 13:20
petit élève wrote:

The song is part of an opera about Don Quixote, and Dulcinea is so central to the plot I did not deem necessary to explain who she was. I just assumed people would make the connection.

As for the significance, well, that's the very symbol of the idealized woman.
The actual character Don Quixote is projecting his fantasies on is the lowliest prostitute, but in his mind she becomes Dulcinea, the epitome of grace and feminity, just like he mistakes windmills for giants.

Thank you, Petit,
I just thought that a foot note about the signifficance of Dulcinra was necessary.

petit élève    Wed, 18/10/2017 - 13:22

I added the wikipedia link provided by Gavin directly into the song. That should cover all angles Regular smile

Brat    Wed, 18/10/2017 - 06:18

Well, I think, we need a dull cineast who will enlighten us...

petit élève    Wed, 18/10/2017 - 10:08

King Quixote and Aldonza the Whore against the Giant Windmills from Hell....

nefelibata    Tue, 17/10/2017 - 22:15

The significance to me is about the broken illusions in the hearts of men. But I do not think his translation ignores that; if you do, maybe you would read Sandring's translation instead, as an alternative point of view. I still do not see what your suggestion is...?