Georges Brassens - Brave Margot (English translation)

English translation

Good Margot

Versions: #1#2
Maggie, the young shepherdess,
Finding a little cat in the grass
Who had just lost its mother,
Adopted it.
She opened her collar
And laid it against her breast.
It was all the poor girl had
For a pillow.
The cat, taking her for her mother,
Began to nurse right away.
Moved, Margot let it continue.
Good Margot.
A hick passing by,
Finding this an unusual sight,
Went off to tell the town.
And the next day...
When Margot undid her blouse
To suckle her kitten,
All the men, all the men of the village
Were there, la la la la la la,
Were there, la la la la la.
And Margot, who was simple and wise,
Assumed it was to see her cat
That all the men, all the men of the village
Were there, la la la la la la,
Were there, la la la la la.
The schoolmaster and his boys,
The mayor, the beadle, the coalman
Completely neglected their work
To see it.
The postman, normally so swift,
To see it, stopped delivering
The letters that no one
Would have read anyway.
To see it, God forgive them,
The "Children of Heart", in the middle
Of the Holy Sacrifice abandoned
The holy place.
The gendarmes, even the gendarmes,
Who are by their nature such twits,
Were touched by the charms
Of the lovely scene.
When Margot undid her blouse
To suckle her kitten,
All the men, all the men of the village
Were there, la la la la la la,
Were there, la la la la la.
And Margot, who was simple and wise,
Assumed it was to see her cat
That all the men, all the men of the village
Were there, la la la la la la,
Were there, la la la la la.
But the other women of the town,
Deprived of their husbands and lovers,
Patiently held grudges.
Then one day, drunk with anger,
They armed themselves with clubs
And savagely sacrificed
The kitten.
The shepherdess, after many tears,
Consoled herself by taking a husband
And no longer unveiled her charms
For anyone but him.
Time passed by the memories,
The event was forgotten.
Only the elderly still tell
Their grandchildren.
When Margot undid her blouse
To suckle her kitten,
All the men, all the men of the village
Were there, la la la la la la,
Were there, la la la la la.
And Margot, who was simple and wise,
Assumed it was to see her cat
That all the men, all the men of the village
Were there, la la la la la la,
Were there, la la la la la.
Submitted by dinomartini on Thu, 07/02/2013 - 08:32
Added in reply to request by Vika.
Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Brave Margot

gregoire.tricoire    Sat, 10/08/2013 - 09:12

Very good translation.
I only have an issue with the use of the word "wise" here, I think it clashes with the description of the innocent Margot, I assume Brassens meant "sage" in the sense of quiet, sensible, demure, not wise, because the whole point of the song is about a young girl too innocent to realise men are ogling her breasts !

allan.friswell    Mon, 21/04/2014 - 13:02

I'm afraid that you've put "coeur" instead of "choeur" which latter means choir. Hence choirboys. I agree with the previous comment about "wise". Demure is fine.

michealt    Sun, 07/02/2016 - 18:40

Although choeur means choir, enfant de choeur means altar boy more often than it means choir boy. But I think that here Brassens perhaps did intend "choir boys" simply because he would have wanted to give he idea of a lot of children deserting the church, and at most services there are more choir boys than altar boys - although of course that doesn't work in a village church with a very small choir.

michealt    Sun, 11/02/2018 - 00:40

I guess the person who added the song to this site didn't look at Brassens' text (he has "chœur" not "coeur" in his book "Poèmes et Chansons") but just transcribed from the sound - and as the two words sound exacly the same he picked the most common spelling for the sound. I don't have any control over that, and can't even call it a transcription error (since it is phonetically correct).

batay    Fri, 09/02/2018 - 08:15

I am surprised to see that some basic corrections here were not taken into consideration in 5 years ! Is there really no way to change 'wise' to demure and 'coeur' for choeur, and 'boys of heart' to altar boys (Brassens meant 'altar boys' because it is the only meaning of 'enfant de choeur')

SiHo_92    Fri, 09/02/2018 - 08:29

It seems that @dinomartini hasn't been online since 2014, and as editors cannot edit translations, these changes cannot be done.
I personally suggest to @lt, that there should be a way for editors to change translations without deleting them entirely, because there are many of those translations on this website that have just a few mistakes but cannot be edited as they were submitted by guests or now inactive users…

lt    Fri, 09/02/2018 - 14:46

Thanks for the suggestion, but we believe that all translations belong to their authors and thus can't be edited. Moderators are allowed to fix incorrect languages and links only. Corrections should be left as comments.

batay    Fri, 09/02/2018 - 15:23

Including rewriting the whole translation, which is sometimes necessary (and less time-consuming than explaining in detail each mistake), and leaving it as comment ?

Sciera    Fri, 09/02/2018 - 15:27

If there are enough differences, you should then add it as a new translation (but additionally leaving a comment is fine as well).

batay    Fri, 09/02/2018 - 15:33

Ok, thanks a lot, that sounds fine to me

michealt    Sat, 10/02/2018 - 03:48

I think Brassens would have been amused y the suggestion that when he uses a phrase in a context where it had to mean something other than the "standard" meaning it would still have the standard meaning.

batay    Sat, 10/02/2018 - 04:00

Are you implying that for Brassens 'enfants de choeur' might mean anything else than 'altar boys ??

michealt    Sun, 11/02/2018 - 00:43

Although he might normally use the phrase to mean "altar boys" I think he intended a different meaning here. Certainly it is well attested as being used figuratively by various authors to mean a person who is excessively naive (I don't remember whether I've come across it in that sense in anything by Brassens, but enough other authors have used it that way to get that meaning described in TLF, which quotes Vialar for an example of this), and although in a cathedral enfant de choeur usually mens an altar boy it is also the phrase most commonly used to describe child choristes in small churches. A bit more than fifty years ago I got it wrong at church in south east France and referred to a choir boy as "un jeune choriste" only to be told that they were properly called "enfants de choeur" and this was the norm in churches with small congregations and no very senior clerics (such as members of the chapter of a cathedral or holders of high status in a clerical collegiate body). Of course south east France is quite distant from where Brassens was brought up and further still from where he lived later in life, so it's possible that he wasn't aware of that usage but since in this song he is singing specifically about a a church in a small village it seems likely that he used the phrase in that sense (particularly as he used the plural - a service at a village church with a small congregation would often have only one altar boy assisting the priest. So since then I have used enfant de choeur instead of jeune choriste and until your comment no-one had suggested that calling a choir boy an enfant de choeur is incorrect.

Brat    Sun, 11/02/2018 - 14:28

Well, gentlemen... Another decade of the feminist movement will pass - and we'll be talking about altar girls here... And maybe about those who're completely non-altar...

batay    Sun, 11/02/2018 - 02:35

Merci pour cette imposante réponse à ma question !
Mais la taille de la congrégation, celle de l'église, celle du curé ne font rien à l'affaire, qui reste valable du nord au sud et d'ouest en est. Le mot choeur, comme vous le savez, a deux significations en français : d'une part la partie centrale d'une église (ou cathédrale, ou basilique, etc..), d'autre part un ensemble de personnes qui chantent, quelque soit la nature du chant, d'ailleurs.
Un enfant qui sert la messe dans une église, même très grande ou toute petite, une cathédrale, une basilique, etc est un enfant de choeur. Un enfant qui chante dans un groupe musical n'est jamais appelé enfant de choeur, mais choriste, comme vous l'indiquez fort justement.
Il faut maintenant évoquer le sens figuré du terme "enfant de choeur", normalement utilisé avec un sens péjoratif et euphémisant dans une phrase négative, par exemple 'ce gaillard n'est pas un enfant de choeur' pour signifier "ce gaillard est un vrai voyou". Ce n'est absolument pas le sens de la chanson de Brassens. Ne soyez pas choqué par l'attitude des enfants de choeur de la chanson, Brassens fut dans beaucoup de ses textes un grand pourfendeur de gendarmes, de curés de toute espèce, et de religion en général. 'Gare au gorille' en est un excellent exemple;
Il semble donc que vous ayez été induit en erreur sur la nature des enfants de choeur par vos contacts dans le sud-est de la France.

michealt    Sun, 11/02/2018 - 04:56

C'est vrai que le mot "chœur" a plus qu'une seule signification, mais il ne faut pas oublier qu'il en avait deux dans l'église: le chœur majeur (reservé aux chanoines) et le bas chœur dans lequel se trouvaient les chantres, les clercs, et les laics, et maintenant (et depuis assez longtemps) le mot "chœur" signifie le chœur combiné unique. Qu'il peut aussi signifiier une chorale quelconque ne dit rien de ce qu'il signifie pour l'église; mais selon le TLF, dans l'église ce mot a aquis le signification "ensemble des chantres qui répondent à la messe".

But perhaps the problem is not with the meaning of the French phrase, but with the meaning of the English phrase. What do you think a "choir boy" is when the term is used in connection with a church, as opposed to in connection with a school or an amateur musical society or a professional singing team? Would you expect him to wear a surplice? Would you expect him to be used by the clergy to assist with such things as carrying a censer or a thurible? Or with holding up the bible in front of the priest as the priest reads the gospel to the congregation? Or with many other tasks which English choirboys typically undertake during Mass and other services? If you think he is just a singer, a choriste, you have absolutely no idea what a choir boy is. My three sons were all choir boys when they were young enough, and my wife is very religious (and very well educated on the core writings of Christianity - she is qualified to teach theology in England and and Wales and in Scotland [but not in Northern Ireland], although she retired long ago and doesn't do it any more; and she can run rings around me on new testament Greek - which admittedly isn't much of an achievement, given how appallingly bad I am at it) so I have found it necccessary to know both what choir boys in Britain are expected to do and quite a lot about how English and Scottish and Spanish churches operate (and French churches, way back when I was planning to go live and work near Menton - sadly the outfit I was going to work for went bust before anything was contracted, and the clergy who according to you misled me were very sympathetic).

petit élève    Sun, 11/02/2018 - 05:34

What's that? A tempête dans un bénitier of sorts?

Though the question can be interesting, I don't think what an "enfant de chœur" is supposed to do in a church is the main issue there.
The term is used to depict clueless kids, so the idea is rather to pick the best equivalent based on that meaning.
For all I know, both can be used, like in "act like an altar boy" or "he's no choirboy".
If natives reckon both terms are equivalent for the "innocent" meaning, then I'd rather pick "altar boy" since, at the time Brassens wrote the song, every village church would have at least one, while children choirs were far less common.

batay    Sun, 11/02/2018 - 07:46

I said everything I had to say about that question. Thanks.

batay    Sun, 11/02/2018 - 15:48

Teeth smile Damned ! Je m'étais pourtant juré de ne plus écrire un mot sur cette malencontreuse histoire d'enfants de choeur. Mais voilà...Dans votre dernier commentaire, vous arrivez à la conclusion qu'il s'agit bien d'altar boys, petits servants du religieux disant la messe, conclusion à laquelle arrivera inévitablement tout lecteur de Brassens de bonne foi.

Mais c'est comme à regret, en évoquant le sens figuré du terme ('clueless boy'), enfant simple, sans complication. Ah cette tentation de mettre à jour un sens caché, profond, forcément profond, sous les mots simples du poète ! Je ne résiste pas plus longtemps au plaisir de vous expliquer pourquoi en l'occurence vous vous trompez.

1 - Le contexte : il s'agit bien, et j'espère que nous sommes d'accord là-dessus désormais, d'enfants en train de servir la messe et qui quittent leur occupation du moment pour aller voir Margot. Aucun double sens dans le texte de Brassens. Vous me direz que Brassens aurait pu mettre en scène des joueurs de foot, ou de fléchettes... Certes, mais voyez le point 2 pour savoir pourquoi il ne l'a pas fait.

2 - L'anticléricalisme de Brassens : foin des footballeurs ou des joueurs de fléchettes, il fallait que l'église se vide de tout son personnel, bedeau, curé, enfants de choeur ! Et rejoigne le troublant tabeau de Margot avec son chat. CQFD.

3 - La langue de l'auteur : là c'est plus subjectif, mais il me semble que l'utilisation du terme 'enfant de choeur' en mode affirmatif dans le sens figuré n'est pas du niveau de Brassens. Par contre en mode négatif et euphémisant, là oui, il aurait très bien pu  l'utiliser.

Ravi d'avoir pu couper les cheveux en quatre avec vous, et surtout, surtout, par pitié, plus de choristes à la place des enfants de choeur. Cette fois, c'est promis, j'ai tout dit, et je n'attends aucune réponse, soyez tranquilles.

petit élève    Sun, 11/02/2018 - 18:30

Mais pourquoi s'énerver comme ça ? J'ai l'impression qu'on dit la même chose. Je n'ai pas de regrets à évoquer le côté symbolique des enfants de chœur, c'est juste ce qui rend l'image amusante à mon avis. Margot qui sans le vouloir pervertit même les petits enfants de chœur innocents. Et ça permet à Brassens de se moquer un peu des curés au passage. Il n'y a pas de quoi en faire un plat, non ?

Brat    Sun, 11/02/2018 - 18:17

On dirait que tu as une preuve en béton. Wink smile

petit élève    Sun, 11/02/2018 - 18:28

Juste un avis, un peu lourd apparemment...

michealt    Sun, 11/02/2018 - 13:21

Since it's now 4 years since the translator last logged in he isn't going to alter his translation; and the site's software does not permit editors (like me or petit élève) to alter other people's translations so we can't do anything about it. And the site rules forbid a moderator ffrom amaking nontrivial alterations to another person's translation (specifically "Moderators are not allowed to edit others' translations unless it is for something minor (change to right language, capitalizing properly the title etc) ").