Mark Lanegan - Elégie funèbre (English translation)

English translation

Funeral elegy

Cover me with flowers if it has to be done.
Let the man with the scythe come.
And if my eyelids are sewn,
at least don't laugh behind
[my back].
Let [him] whisper in my hear
and turn me, the bee, into honey,
and let [him] live in my shadow,
even though the drunken boat1
Believe me, in this world,
never has anyone thanked me.
Wherever it had been, whenever2it was,
whoever it was, wherever3 it was,
[everything] went away.
It is for [the sake of] my frail and dead flesh
that I pray you to do so:
4I shall not be admitted into earth
unless you lower there too...
Let remain here of my past,
in this freshly ironed vault,
the wedding suit and the [cardboard] box,
the bone
of my tongue and my chin.
The fingernail can hardly be pointed,
making the hand [look] like a spider,
the eyes go quiet and the cornea
is weighing
from under the cemented eyebrow arch.
Crown me with mauve flowers
if you see my life fleeing,
and prevail upon darkness,
you shall read the lights of the funeral
Take care of me if you can,
form an ave [Maria] with your mouths,
let God place it or bring it,
be Him [the only one to stand] on the step of my closed
Cover me with flowers if it has to be done.
Cover me with flowers if it has to be done...
  • 1. allusion to Rimbaud's famous poem "Le Bateau ivre"
  • 2. Manset's versions reads "oncques ce soit", "oncques" being an archaic word used in negative time complements like "never more" or "nothing ever". This version might have tried to replace it with something more understandable, changing the meaning (wherever instead of whenever)
  • 3. again the original reads "où que ce soit" (wherever it might be), but this version just repeats "whoever" (in present tense instead of past)
  • 4. line breaks and ellipsis are misleading here. These two lines are linked with the next stanza.
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 Thu, 14/09/2017 - 17:40
Added in reply to request by Leo Maddy
Author's comments:

The song is a Gérard Manset cover, from "La mort d'Orion", an early concept album (1970) that has reached considerable fame for its inventiveness.
Though written in modern French, the lyrics use ancient words and turns of phrases (reminescent of 15th century poets like François ViIllon) and a free syntax, which makes them a bit hard to follow at times.
Copying the unusual syntax would likely have sounded like gibberish, so I added a few hints to make the English (hopefully) more readable.


Elégie funèbre