Les Amants Tristes (English translation)

  • Artist: Léo Ferré
  • Song: Les Amants Tristes 2 translations
  • Translations: Chinese, English
English translationEnglish

Sad lovers

In your neighbourhood they say your eyes are cold1
and you put comic strips scarves in them
and people read you more or less the way you want them to.
You feed them your mounds and vales2,
you walk the crossings with your red on.
People expect the green of your green pastures
while I reaped this morning in your bed
enough to feed winter and my melancholy.
Melancholy, melancholy, the sea comes back.
Waiting for you on the wharf with your bleak boats,
your blue silver fishes, your baskets, your fate
and my seagulls in your screams like a dragnet3.
I know a lecherous woman in Paris
who eats my syllables and gives them back to me unscathed,
wrapped in a music that smiles at me.
Tomorrow I'll tell her of soaring owls.
I know some in my night that have no fur,
and slowly die of cold in Antarctica,
die of that negation of love at the end of shadow.
My birds cast shadows in the dead of a neon midnight
under the green plebiscites.
You know a lecherous woman in Moscow
who eats your syllables and puts them in her borscht4
He knows a lecherous woman in Beijing
who eats her China Wall and gives it to the party.
Tomorrow we'll tell them of soaring owls.
I know some in their night that no longer have morning coats
and slowly die of cold under their cap,
their beautiful golden eyes interspersed with the Palomar over there,
toward the nocturnal voices of lost stars.
I hear faraway sounds that seek caresses,
and in the minor news over there people get exasperated,
and kill sorrow as one would kill the cops,
at the corner of an old sun exhausted by icecaps.
Melancholy, melancholy, the sea settles.
I see girls and palms rising everywhere,
with oiled fruits in the languishing slut5.
The sailors wave makeshift gestures6 at me,
they drown in the blood of the sun setting
West, always West, phoney Western.
The toothpaste in the night holds on to pink7
A wretched neon borrowed to your eyes.
Come with me, I'll take you there, toward the great stars,
in the morning disaster or in a Renault factory,
to see how bosses and cars are manufactured8,
to see pity grow on crosses that lock themselves in religion9.
I'll love you on the road and its sticky tights10,
your tarmac whence I'll take the essence of my escapes.
I'll look like an African king11, you'll become mellow12
where I'll be full with your sentiment and gurgle.
Your sentiment tastes like gazelle.
Your belly is nothing but a lavender field at noon,
and my knife squealing as it reaps my sweetheart13
belongs to a carefree reaper who stretches under your wing.
Your sentiment is in a feminine mood.
It is like these damsels who have bags of it
and sell it well.
Your sentiment makes me inflate my angel sails,
Your sentiment does my sentiment good
and the pavement flowers14 utter strange cries,
as I come from the pavement toward you and stand,
and I am one to take from you only what I owe you.
If I had only sentiment to give you,
you'd have banished me long ago
from your fief, your ass, your law, your diapers.
You would have hit the road long ago,
but you woke me up.
And then you pulled us out of our daily death,
and then you go on dying in the street at noon
under piles of squishy suns
and that kind of guys who trap you in their eyes
and eye you to the bone,
just in case their laboratory could reflect pronto
the full extent of your allure15
matching their pages in size.
Sometimes, they would do you and get away with it,
wrapping themselves with you
and your duty as a whore
as in newspaper sheets.
In the end, you are a newspaper.
I read you, fold you, crumple you and you scream
when people crumple the silk, and her forest friend
utters sisterly screams, utters sublime screams.
The twilight silk has velvet screams
in parade beds
in these autumn leaves
freckles on the face of the woods16
I read you, fold you, crumple you and you scream.
In the end, you are a newspaper.
You'd rather take five columns of it.
For you, a minor news sounds like an outrage.
You feel at home everywhere, even in the crosswords section,
where you let the weapons of your voice be guessed.
I love you, and vertically it's fine.
You roam my waters when I am your pirate.
I read you, fold you, crumple you and you scream.
Once I've read you thoroughly, including the classified ads,
I'll go to the fish market
and wrap you in green mussels.
In the end you're a wet newspaper,
with your dress printed in black and white
and your words nobody will be able to read anymore.
You'll be the last piece of news wiped off the sand.
You'll be mine for death, I love you,
and even with the end of the world,
the abstract end of the world where everything is but given a price
with these steel hearts with cheating beats
with these golden lungs in cage-lifts
where people stand straight, where people stand elsewhere
you will go down there to hear yourself dream.
Even the dream screams hard enough to end up powerless.
Silence is filled with a too filled silence.
When it overflows it seems the end of times has come,
these times measured on obscene devices,
where minutes have strolling idiots
mistaking themselves for eternity.
And even with the end of the world,
I'll manage to make you oblivious.
oblivion17 is not bad, it's fleeting,
this nothingness that gets comfortable in the week ends of death
where imbeciles accelerate their victims.
Enshrined, entrapped, englued18 to my trousers
you'll go over there toward amazing shops,
toward the supermarket where laziness is sold,
and death is sold too, when you let yourself be19
and smoke and wind in bundles,
and you pay at the exit with magic spells.
The moment.
It will pounce on you like lightning,
three hundred thousands klicks per second.
It won't have time to linger at the traffic lights.
We'll run through alarm lights
and my thoughts that get ahead of you.
Look, you'd rather take five columns of it.
Listen carefully to the song of this doomed child,
that you will mistake for your boyfriend but was just an illusion
misplaced by my mother at the bottom of a dustbin
this eternal night.
So properly washing your ass is what disorder is about!
Look me right there, in my eyes, look, here comes the moment,
just like in autumn, the yellow bandits
who put trees through golden brown heists,
and you'll invade yourself,
and you'll immerse yourself
and colonize yourself.
You're alone all over me20
like a saxophone screaming its desperate songs.
Your screams are street violins,
plastic oboes,
pewter flutes
and you don't care.
It's there, he's there.
Hear the sea flowing back up straight into your face,
and this double tide deep inside your fire-eyes.
In the fire of your eyes my gaze went out.
Scream scream scream
You are me
I is you
What's your name?
Your name is "the night" in the girls' bellies,
these girls driving on the rim of slow death.
Your name is love
You are all women
You are YOU, you are THEM.
Varnished Niagaras fall straight into my face
Scream scream scream
You are gone because you are me
and I am your elsewhere.
I and YOU
it's all the same
and we set about to die in the broken nights club.
Who could fix the soul of sad lovers?
Who could fix the soul of sad lovers?
Who could fix the soul of sad lovers?
Who could?
  • 1. can mean the opposite of "tu n'as pas froid aux yeux" -> you are faint-hearted
  • 2. allusion to the shapes of a woman's body
  • 3. can also mean "train" as a piece of clothing
  • 4. a Russian beetroot-based soup
  • 5. definitely an explicit sexual image
  • 6. lit. "signs of fortune"
  • 7. the colour is named after the rose flower
  • 8. this is actually very funny, especially if you ever worked for Renault and experienced their little Hitlers first hand
  • 9. "enchrister" is slang for "going to jail" but the word can be real literally as "being contaminated by the Christ" or something like that
  • 10. "collant" can mean both "sticky" as an adjective and "tights" as a noun
  • 11. "nègre" alone is racist slur, "roi nègre" is a fixed expression a bit less derogatory
  • 12. I can only guess what he means here. "mettre à" can have 3 or 4 meanings, "moelle" can have 3, no combination really makes much sense to me
  • 13. can also mean "bread crumb"
  • 14. "street kids"
  • 15. "grandeur nature" means "the genuine stuff", and "nature" is replaced by pseudo-German "Natürlich", a sequel of German occupation during WWII
  • 16. "gueule des bois" sounds like "gueule de bois (wooden face -> hangover)
  • 17. lit. "nothing at all"
  • 18. the word exists with a different meaning, but here "collée" is meant, the "en" is just there for symmetry
  • 19. "...caught" is probably meant here
  • 20. lit. "in my legs/hands" depending on the casual/slangy meaning
thanked 11 times
Do whatever you want with my translations.
They no more belong to me than the air I breathe.
Submitted by silencedsilenced on Thu, 02/07/2020 - 02:27
Added in reply to request by BerreolaBerreola
Author's comments:

I am no Léo Ferré expert and people have been studying and debating his poetry for decades.
This is surrealistic automatic writing with countless free associations. Some might work in English, I added a few notes for some others. Some are allusions to his personal life I have no clue about. Sometimes I had difficulties even to find English equivalents to his strange images ("a toothpaste in the night clinging to rose colour" ?!?)
Still there is a music to these words. Listening to them takes you on a trip. I have no idea if this translation lets some of that magic through. I can only hope so.


Les Amants Tristes

Translations of "Les Amants Tristes"
English silenced
líadanlíadan    Thu, 02/07/2020 - 03:32

who eats her China Wall and gives it to the party

"Le dentifrice dans la nuit se tient au rose" this line makes me think "the white (the moon) in the night holds on to pink (the reddish color the moon takes on during a lunar eclipse".

Toothpaste is white, the only big white object in the night sky is the moon. The only time the moon is pink (or reddish) in color is during a lunar eclipse.

silencedsilenced    Thu, 02/07/2020 - 03:56

Good, his words send you on a trip Regular smile
It could be that, or maybe a toothpaste ad tied to the phoney western just before. Free associations.
You could write books of possible interpretations for that kind of poetry. That's the idea.
Trouble when trying to translate it is,you're likely to render only what images come to your mind, restricting the possibilities of the original. I tried to remain as vague as possible, but some associations come from vocabulary and idioms. Only a poet could carry that through the language barrier.

líadanlíadan    Thu, 02/07/2020 - 03:54

I think he had a gift for that, to see things that could be interpreted as many things to his readers.

silencedsilenced    Thu, 02/07/2020 - 03:57

Certainly. Most people trying to imitate him produced just gibberish. He had a real talent for conjuring images.

JadisJadis    Thu, 02/07/2020 - 13:23

Ouf ! Tu parles d'un boulot, et d'une logorrhée !
J'apprécie moyennement Léo Ferré (et notamment l'accompagnement m'énerve), mais faut dire qu'il y a de quoi boire et manger... et le reste. A noter que pour l'essentiel, il est calé sur le rythme de l'alexandrin, avec des fantaisies par ci, par là.
Félicitations pour ce travail monstrueux...

silencedsilenced    Thu, 02/07/2020 - 15:13

A part Supervielle, les surréalistes m'ennuient et me laissent froid,pour rester poli. Mais lui je l'aime bien. Quand je l'écoute, parfois, je voyage.

silencedsilenced    Thu, 02/07/2020 - 16:05

Tiens au fait, tu aurais une idée pour "mettre à la moelle" (note 12) ?
Sûrement du vieil argot, mais ça ne me dit rien du tout.

JadisJadis    Thu, 02/07/2020 - 16:33

Non, pas mieux. J'ai pensé à "mettre à la voile", mais en écoutant le passage il dit bien "à la moelle". Peut-être une private joke, comme il parle de roi nègre, peut-être un sous-entendu cannibalesque ? Confused smile

silencedsilenced    Thu, 02/07/2020 - 16:35

Hahaha oui, c'est une association possible.

BerreolaBerreola    Sat, 04/07/2020 - 03:08

The live version (from the album "Seul en scene Leo Ferre 73 (Live)") is much better than the studio version. He sings! Give it a listen!

BerreolaBerreola    Sat, 04/07/2020 - 03:19

Merci infiment! If you haven't heard him sing this live on the "Seul en scene Leo Ferre 73" album, you should! It's incredibly beautiful. You may want to replace the so-so studio version with it.

silencedsilenced    Sat, 04/07/2020 - 03:59

Thank you.
Good idea, I've changed the video.

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