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Est-ce ainsi que les hommes vivent ? (English translation)

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English translation

Is This How Men Live?

Everything is a question of decor.
Changing beds, changing bodies,
What's the point, since once again, it's
Me who betrays myself,
Me drags and scatters myself
And my shadow undresses itself
In the girlish arms
Where I believed I'd find a country.
 
A light heart becomes a heavy heart.
The time for dreaming is very short.
What am I supposed to do with my days?
What am I supposed to do with my nights?
I didn't have love, and no place
Where I live or die remains.
I passed like a rumour,
I slept like the noise.
 
It was an unreasonable time,
We put the dead at the table
We made sandcastles
We took wolves for dogs.
Everything changed, from center to shoulder
The play, whether it was funny or not.
Me, if I managed to badly hold on to my role
It was from not understanding anything.
 
Is this how men live?
And their kisses which follow them from afar?
 
In the Hohenzollern district,
Between the Saar and the barracks,
Like the flowers of the alfalfa
Flowered Lola's breasts.
She had the heart of a swallow.
On the brothel-couch,
I had just lain down beside her
Among the hiccups of the piano.
 
The sky was grey with clouds
There were wild geese flying in it
Who cried of death, in passing
Above the houses of the docks.
I saw them through the window.
Their sad song entered into my being,
And I thought I recognised in it
Rainer Maria Rilker.
 
Is this how men live?
And their kisses, which follow them from afar?
 
She was dark, she was pale,
Her hair fell to her hips.
And during the week, and on Sunday,
She opened her naked arms to everyone.
She had eyes like furnaces.
She worked valiantly
For a worker from Mayence
Who never came back to her.
 
There are other soldiers in the city,
And at night, the civilians come up.
Reapply mascara to your eyelashes,
Lola, who will be with you soon.
Another glass of liquor.
It was in April, at five o' clock,
At dawn, when into your soft heart
A dragon plunged his knife.
 
Is this how men live?
And their kisses, which follow them from afar?
 
i hope this translation was useful to you. use it wherever, i don't mind.
i write evocative translations rather than precise ones so this might not be "word for word" but at least it will be pretty
Submitted by mayasurya on Thu, 21/05/2015 - 14:52
Added in reply to request by naz.ucar.90
French

Est-ce ainsi que les hommes vivent ?

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Comments
petit élève    Mon, 17/09/2018 - 15:50

Wonderful song, the best among Aragon's famous poems, and a classy translation, as always.

Me drags and scatters -> who...

les bras semblables -> "semblables" means "all alike" here

Coeur léger, coeur changeant, coeur lourd -> more like the summary of a love affair : "light heart[feeling happy and carefree], fickle heart, heavy heart"

Nulle part où je vive ou meure -> more like "no place I would live or die in" ("demeure" belongs to the previous line, it plays no role here)

changeait de pôle et d'épaule -> "pôle" as the focus of power (in Europe). "épaule" hints at "changer son fusil d'épaule" (turn coat).
It evokes the turmoil that followed WWI, both in term of geopolitics and political struggles.

On avait mis les morts à table -> That line is hard to get. I could not find a definite explanation.
"se mettre à table" is used when a prisoner finally accepts to talk during an interrogation.
Given the context (the occupation of Germany by French troops after WWI), I would say it alludes to people using the voice of WWI victims to give more weight to their own opinions.
Maybe "we made the dead speak" or something?

Elle était brune et pourtant blanche -> dark-haired and yet pale-skinned

Et la semaine et le dimanche -> "et xxx et yyy" rather means "xxx and yyy as well"

des yeux de faïence -> "faïence" evokes earthenware marbles, a solid pale blue color.

Pour un artilleur de Mayence
Qui n'en est jamais revenu. -> "artilleur" is a kind of soldier (artilleryman? gunner?), and "never came back from there" clearly refers to WWI. Her pimp was drafted in the artillery and died in the war.

Lola qui t'en iras bientôt -> ??? "Lola who will soon leave"
(leave the brothel or depart this life, the French can mean both)