Léo Ferré - La Mémoire et la Mer (traduction en anglais)

Relecture demandée par l’auteur(e)
traduction en anglais

The Memory and the Sea

The tide, I hold it in my heart
which surfaces like a nod,
I'm sick of missing my little sister,
of missing my child and my swan,
a boat, that depends on
precisely what it is docked to.
From my heavens it is raining
light-years and more,
I am the Jersey phantom1,
he who comes on grandstanding nights
to throw mist at you like a kiss
and gather you into his rhymes
like the three-layered net of July
where the seabass was shining alone,
the one I saw shining
on the land's fingers of sand.
Remember that sea dog
that we used to release on parole
and which, in the desert, mouths
necropolis sea wracks.
I'm sure that life is there
with it's lungs beome like flannel
when it cries about those times,
the grey-blotched cold which calls us.
I remember the nights back there
and the sprints won on the foam,
[against] those incompetent pursuers
who destroy themselves on the rocks.
Oh the angel of lost pleasures,
oh rumours of a different lifestyle,
my desires since then are nothing
but a heart-break of my loneliness.
And the devil of the conquered evenings
with his pallidnesses of recovery
and the shark of the heavens
amongst the wet mossy rocks.
Come back, green girl of the fjords,
come back, violin of the massed violins,
the horns are sounding in the harbour
to celebrate the return of their friends.
Oh the rare scent of salt flats
in the peppery heat of the fissures
when I was going, geometrizing,
my spirit in the pit of your hurt,
in the mess of your stern,
sticky in a fine dawn's sheets,
I saw an extra stained glass window,
and you green girl, my depression.
The shells set out
under the broken fluid high power projectors
play the castanet so much
that it makes Spain seem pallid.
God of granites, take pity
on their decorative purpose
when the knife comes to get
into their castanet-like appearance.
I saw what we approach,
when we sense the meeting
between the blood's shutters,
and that the corpuscles displayed
a mathematical blue
in this always restless sea
from which comes to me bit by bit
that memory of the stars.
That rumour which comes from there
under the friendly arch where I avoid the truth
these hands that fuss about me,
these cud-chewing hands that moo,
that tale follows me for a long time
like an anathematised beggar,
like the shadow that wastes its time
drawing my theorem
and under my red-haired makeup
it comes crashing like an ever-swinging door,
this noise that wakes up
in the street of dead musics.
I'm finished with the sea, finished,
on the beach the sand bleats
like sheep of eternity...
when the shepherdess sea calls me.
  • 1. There are several possible interpretations of "the Jersey phantom"; but I think Nadia (Sandring) has made a good case for it to be the ghost of William Kidd haunting the shores of New Jersey
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Publié par michealt le Lun, 23/10/2017 - 17:40
Ajouté en réponse à la demande de gamgin
Modifié pour la dernière fois par michealt le Sam, 28/10/2017 - 17:45
L’auteur(e) de cette traduction a demandé une relecture. Cela signifie qu’il ou elle sera ravi(e) de recevoir des remarques, corrections, suggestions, etc. Si vous avez des notions dans ces deux langues, n’hésitez pas à ajouter un commentaire.

La Mémoire et la Mer

Plus de traductions de « La Mémoire et la Mer »
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petit élève    Lun, 23/10/2017 - 20:34

Very impressive. Very little to change, my remarks are mostly details or possible alternative interpretations

Qui me remonte comme un signe -> "me remonte" evokes a random thought or memory surfacing inside his mind

Je meurs de -> the French sounds like these memories were diseases (mourir de la peste)

et j'en laisse -> rather "light years and more" ("et j'en laisse" as in "and I leave some more unsaid")

xyx -> no idea what this ghost of Jersey might be either Regular smile

teh -> typo (twice, far apart from each other)

Le froid tout gris -> "tout" adds a derogative nuance, like "shabby grey" or something

des chevaux ras -> typical surrealistic slide, that could hardly be translated (close-cropped horses ?), but a footnote could be in order

qui se consument -> that rather evokes slow burning, like incense for instance

Et le diable des soirs conquis -> I would keep "the devil" here, like the shark two lines below. It might evoke "endiablé" rather than "au diable", so the interpretation is better left to the reader, I think.
"ses pâleurs" would then refer to the devil too (instead of the days)

amonnst -> typo

Pour le retour des camarades -> more like celebrating the return, I think

besdlothes -> typo
depresion -> typo

Qu'on dirait l'Espagne livide -> "that it looks like Spain (made) livid" or something like that

Dans leur castagnette figure -> I rather understand "figure" as "face" or maybe "appearance"

Sur cette mer jamais étale -> "étale" refers to the sea ("on this never quiet sea" or something)

D'où me remonte peu à peu cette mémoire -> same use of "remonter" for a memory surfacing in the mind

red makeup -> maybe "red-haired"' could better evoke the actual color ?

battre comme une porte -> that's rather the image of a door that slams continuously, for instance under the effect of the wind, evoking the sound of the backwash

va debout -> more like "walks upright"

if dead musics -> typo

C'est fini la mer -> more like "it's over with the sea" (I won't think of / see the sea anymore)

michealt    Mar, 24/10/2017 - 01:56

Thanks, Pierre.

The xyz was something I meant to fill in after finishing the translation (doing it on the run is a pain as a long footnote messes up the alignment of the translation with the original text while the translation is in edit mode).

"Dans leur casagnette figure
Et je..."
I think is incorrect transcription of
"Dans leur castagnette figurée
and that's why I haven't treated "figure" there as "face" or "appearance".
(see comments on lyrics page - Emilia has also noted some possible transcription errors, some of which I too think are errors but they don't change anything in a way that much matters in something as surreal as these lyrics).

"Sur cette mer jamais étale" is another transcription error, he sings "Dans" not "Sur", but I had mistaken "étale" for a verb (spreads out) instead of an adjective.

petit élève    Mar, 24/10/2017 - 02:11

Sounds good to me.
I suspected you had done your research on this Jersey phantom. I'll be on the lookout for the explanation Regular smile

petit élève    Mar, 24/10/2017 - 13:33

I've updated the lyrics. I retained all suggestions (Emilia's and yours), except the three lines in stanza 4, verses 8 to 10:

Dans leur castagnette figure.
Et je voyais ce qu'on pressent
Quand on pressent l'entrevoyure

michealt    Mer, 25/10/2017 - 14:24

I was reading "pressent" as the 3rd plural of presser, didn't think of 3rd singlular of pressentir - I guess I'm too used to seeing "-ent" at the end of a verb and assuming it's pronounced /ə/ (or not pronounced at all, when it's a notherner who speaks). The map between spelling and pronunciation is almost (but not quite) as insane in French as it is in English.

petit élève    Ven, 27/10/2017 - 05:21

Actually I was a bit tired after doing all these meticulous transcription updates and did the same error, which lead me to accept a completely wrong spelling for "pressent" (présent) from the bloody spell checker :).
The 3rd plural of "presser" and the 3rd singular of "pressentir" being written the same is a rather rare occurence, and the exceptional pronouncing of "ent" is due to the original verb "sentir".
"pré-sentir" would be a much more logical spelling, but instead the 's' was doubled to avoid the phonetic mutation to 'z' (as in "présent"). Only a half-baked solution though, since "ent" following "ss" should not be heard, and the pronunciation is not consistent with usual phonetic rules.

sandring    Mar, 24/10/2017 - 08:34

I think this song was inspired by the legends about Captain Kidd, a notoriously famed pirate. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Kidd
He was born in Scotland and had brothers and an only younger sister. He was brought up near the docks which are mentioned in the song. The Jersey Phantom might be a rendition of Jersey Devil, the ghost of Captain Kidd who is said to visit New Jersey shores at night and stay until dawn to guard the treasure he had presumably buried there. Tourists from New York and Philadelphia may go on excursions to that shore where they can hopefully see the phantoms of Jersey Devil and his Golden-Haired Girlfriend walking hand in hand.

In 1969 Leo Ferre was in New York collaborating with the most outstanding musicians from Mahavishnu to Jimmy Hendrix. He had an idea of making this album with their participation but then opted for a French band. I think he associated with Jersey Devil in this song and the title of the album fits in, I believe. Well, that was just an idea Regular smile

petit élève    Mar, 24/10/2017 - 14:05

Nice bit of research you did there. Makes a lot of sense.

Sarasvati    Ven, 27/10/2017 - 04:31

1853. Victor Hugo est en exil sur l'île de Jersey. Pour établir un contact avec sa fille Léopoldine disparue tragiquement, Victor Hugo se livre à d'innombrables séances spirites. Adepte fervent de cette "science nouvelle" des "tables tournantes" il "parlera" avec sa fille mais aussi avec Shakespeare, Jésus-Christ, Racine, Mahomet, Molière !

Sarasvati    Ven, 27/10/2017 - 05:15

Castagnette figure:
Instrument aussi simple et ancien que l’humanité elle-même, il existe autant de castagnettes que de civilisations au monde. Elle naît du claquement de deux pierres. C’est un idiophone, c’est à dire un instrument dont le son est produit par lui-même. Tout au début, elles étaient formées de deux morceaux de bois, de deux coquilles de Sait Jacques, de deux pierres plates ou galets nommés tarreñas, et dont le son était lié à la naissance de la danse....
Beaucoup sont décorées de dessins, d’inscription ou de figures, géométriques

Sarasvati    Ven, 27/10/2017 - 15:33

2. Signification et symbolisme du Cygne

Amour, Grâce, Union, Pureté, Beauté, Rêves, Solde, Elégance, Association, Transformation Le cygne peut également porter des messages d’amour et de relations. Ils cherchent leur moitié pendant des années, parfois des syndicats hommes-femmes sont maintenus pendant toute une vie. Lorsque le cygne glisse sur les eaux de notre conscience, il pourrait être un symbole de l’amour, et un rappel des bénédictions trouvées dans nos relations.

michealt    Ven, 27/10/2017 - 18:47

Thanks for the comments, all three of you.

sandring    Sam, 28/10/2017 - 15:09

Guys, I've just translated this song into Russian. I've been working with French nautical dictionaries and I'd like to share some interesting things with you.
1. He misses his child, not childhood. (presumably Kidd's only daughter Sarah)
2. mon cygne (=) Un bateau, ça dépend comment On l'arrime au port de justesse My swan, a ship It depends on what definition you dock it to (Kidd's favourite ship "Adventure Galley")
3. Les doigts du sable The brim of a sandy beach
4.Les poumons de flanelle - TB affected lungs
5. Cette bave des chevaux ras - The spite of clumsy jades (horses, not hair) - Slow enemy's ships that ran into rocks following Kidd
6. le squale des paradis a big quiet bay
7. de ton cul = of your stern (poop)
8. mon maquillage roux - I think it's "my bloody image"
9. ce chien de mer https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiens_de_Mer
Thank you, guys, I hope you may find it entertaining Regular smile

michealt    Sam, 28/10/2017 - 18:21

That's good stuff, Nadia. You've obviously done a lot more research on the topic than I have, and pulled up some useful information. I've made changes to me translation to fit most of what you have said.

But I disagree with you on a couple of things: first of all (your number 6), I can't imagine "squale" being used to describe a bay, but in spite of that I checked in TLF to see whether that records any history of its use in that sense and also checked it's sometimes synonym requin. No go, both mean shark, not bay.

Third (your numbers 3 and 4). I agree that these mean what you suggest. But switching from a metaphor to non-metaphor is bad translation when the same metaphor (or something close enough) is workable in the target language (and on 3, it actually means a beach which has patches of sand separated by patches of pebble or rock, not just a sandy beach). On 4 the way I wrote it was stupid, far too literal, so I've changed it (but still don't refer directly to TB) - so your comment has made me improve that part of the translation (as well as the parts I agree with you on).

Third (your number 8) I wish I thought it could mean that, because when I saw that part of teh comment I thought "yes, that fits with the whoe Captain Kidd thing". But checking on the words actually used convinced me it can't mean that - maquillage is face paint, make-up, disguise, not blood; and roux isn't the colour of blood, it's too much twowards orange to be the right sort of red. (I checked in several dictionaries as well as in TLF).

On number 2, I can't see "definition" as a reasonable translation of "port de justesse", but looking at the sentence as a whole in the light of your comment it seems to me that "de justesse" has its usual meaning (by a very small margin, or so close as to be treated as exact) and not the less common meaning (only just) that I used before; so your interpretation has led me to change mine to something between yours and what I had before.

And "sea dog" is a good translation, but neither in English nor in French will it ordinarilly be taken to mean what wikipedia claims it means (this ust be the result of one of teh edit warrs that the good guys lost - I was too busy back in those days sorting out the illiterate and arithhmetically challenged luatics who were destroying the maths articles to pay attention to articles like that one) - a "sea dog" is quite simple an elderly sailor. Yes, in English it had the wikipedia meaning a long time ago, but most people who are not historians of the 16th and early 17th century specialising in non-military naval matters will not know it can mean that. I've never come acroess it before with that meaning in French, and I am sure that, as in English, it is a meaning quite different from what the average person will understand by it.

petit élève    Sam, 28/10/2017 - 18:59

Just my native 2 cents:

"On l'arrime au port de justesse" would evoke a restless character that can hardly stay in one place (you can hardly moor him to the dock)

"Cette bave des chevaux ras" -> for me it's just a surrealistic slide. "chevaux ras" does not mean anything, while "cheveux ras" does. It's like a collision between the images of horses foaming at the mouth and some guy(s) with a navy cut.

le squale des paradis -> it might be a play on the name "la baie des anges", namely the bay of Nice, "angels" being small sharks with wing-like fins that fishermen caught there.

de ton cul -> might be a naval metaphor indeed, but a direct image is also possible

mon maquillage roux -> "roux" is rather the hair color of devious, wicked people (a superstition not limited to French culture)

"chien de mer" is rather a translation from English, so it mostly refers to these specific English pirates of the 16th century. "loup de mer" is much more common for hardboiled sailors. Might also be meant as a derisive term (replacing wolves with dogs)

michealt    Sam, 28/10/2017 - 21:37

I tend to translate "loup de mer" as "sea bass" (the fish). Sometimes when it clearly doesn't mean the fish I mistranslate it as "commerce raider" because "sea wolf" is used in English with that meaning. When someone reminds me I remember that the correct translation of "loup de mer" when it isn't a fish is "sea dog" (and then I'd probably remember that "chien de mer" doesn't have the most common current meaning of English "sea dog". "sea dog" is wonderfully ambiguous in English, with 6 distinct current meanings (and one obsolete one, which is some sort of small carniverous fish).
Can "port de justesse" really mean "dock" as in "the dock of a criminal court"? Or is that not what you meant?

petit élève    Sam, 28/10/2017 - 21:35

yes, the most common expression would be "vieux loup de mer" (picture the capitaine haddock Regular smile )

Sarasvati    Sam, 28/10/2017 - 18:53

I don't know yet,but thanks for all this information.

sandring    Dim, 29/10/2017 - 09:10

Sorry, my bad. "Paradis" was a historic pirate slang for a bay, here its something like "A shark of a bay" = a big quiet bay?

petit élève    Dim, 29/10/2017 - 09:50

I found an interesting collection of thoughts on this poem here (in French, unfortunately).
It seems to indicate that this "loup de mer" would indeed be a fish, evoking the memory of a fishing trip Ferré mentioned in another poem.
the mysterious ghost would be the natural phenomenon that occurs near Jersey island (an optical illusion due to the fog), backed by the fact that another bit of the poem seems to allude to the same place.
Nothing about this mysterious shark though.

Given the context I'd rather think of a this "shark of bliss" swimming in a "moist mossy place" as a sexual metaphor, since there are a few other sexual allusions in the stanza. But then again that's just a wild interpretation.

Sarasvati    Dim, 29/10/2017 - 10:02

Comprendre est souvent secondaire chez Léo. Dans sa biographie, Belleret raconte ceci : un passant reconnait Léo en rue, il va le saluer et lui demande ce que telle chanson (celle-ci, peut-être) signifie. Alors, Léo, gentiment, lui met la main sur l'épaule et lui dit "qu'as-tu compris, toi ?". L'homme lui donne explication, qu'il écoute à peine, Léo lui sourit alors d'un air entendu et répond "c'est ça, c'est exactement ça, tu as tout compris"[/i]."

.... loup solitaire, qui au sens propre est un poisson, mais au sens figuré est peut-être le plus grand ennemi de l'homme, c'est à dire lui-même (l'homme est un loup pour l'homme).

petit élève    Dim, 29/10/2017 - 10:06

Hahaha ça me rappelle Freud que ses disciples avaient fait marcher en lui présentant un rêve complètement bidon sur lequel il avait naturellement élaboré de fines conclusions. Quand ils lui ont révélé qu'ils s'étaient fichu de lui, il a répondu en gros "peu importe, l'important c'est le processus d'élaboration". J'aime bien cette réponse, et j'aime bien Freud aussi Regular smile

halnurvies    Ven, 15/06/2018 - 11:14

Thanks for your try.
My french feelings for the beginning :
Here, i think Ferré was not in mental, but spiritual, oceanic, sentimental flux and reflux, a marvellous eros  .
I can't separe la lettre and this text. But if in the letter, the man, the lover is like god, here we receive a letter from the abyss.
So "hold" in sense of to have (something) in your possession is correct, but maybe the simple have or get, without other mediation is better.
In this case "avoir" is the oceanic substance of the mother of the life, and also the inside sex of the woman. From the beginning, We are inside, possédée. It's a mix beetween avoir and être at the origin of the principal verbs without me (I). But i can't hold.
In that direction, surfaces is not correct. We can think about Socrates and his anamnesis and in french : ressouvenance, réminiscence : un res-souvenir out my begining, a nostalgia. So re-monte is a process : something inconscient - en bas vers la surface -, an original knowledge now goes to the surface in a primitive sign that peotry is the original knowledge in the matrice, et quelque chose qui apparaît à la surface vaguelée. Maybe Cette remontée is eros, love, desire or process of rembering our origin without mental. Finally the way up to the sea, in an island of the big I, US, forgetting the continent, par la poésie mouvementée de l'eau, never fixed. And begin art, art to be inspired by the signs at the surface, ver, vert, vers l'appel (call).
Also in french re-monte is for a watch and done many times.
And living i'm dying, it's a sort of sickness, but ferré is not affraid to sing the death (cf. ne chantez pas la mort, Jean-Roger Caussimon)
Voilà for the moment because it's difficult for me to write in english 
If you like my comments i can continue.

Ps maybe the last version of la mémoire et la mer du regretté Ferré :