09 July 2010

Shadow Of Your Shadow

Jaques Brel


Rod McKuen

While making the rounds of 5 on Friday participants, I started with the submission by Travis which happened to include one of my favorite songs:  Ne me quitte pas (English lyrics "If You Go Away" by Rod McKuen).  Either version in the original French or in the English rendition is a powerful song, but most people don't know the history of the lyrics.  As with most translations, the message changes just by virtue of trying to create a lyric.  In this song, it is more pronounced that others.

Jacques Brel first recorded this song in 1959.  In 1972, Brel recorded another version as the title track of his album Ne Me Quitte Pas.  The lyrics "Moi, je t'offrirai des perles de pluie venues de pays où il ne pleut pas" ("I'll give you pearls of rain that come from lands where it does not rain") are sung to a theme borrowed from the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6 by the composer Franz Liszt.

Ne me quitte pas was written after Brel was thrown out of Zizou's life (Suzanne Gabriello - his mistress at the time). Zizou was pregnant with Brel's child and had an abortion after Brel refused fatherhood.  He would later say in an interview that the song is not a love song, but rather a song about the cowardice of men when confronted by responsibility.  In the original French it is a man begging to be forgiven by forgetting the past, while in English it is a man asking for one more chance to prove his love .... a subtle but powerful difference.

The original French translates as:

Don’t go away
If you can’t forgive
Believe, just to live
You must forget
Forget the times
You misunderstand
Let them slip through your hand
With the sand of time
Forget those hours
When ‘perhaps’ has died
At the hands of ‘why’
And our lack of faith
Don’t go away
Don’t go away
Don’t leave

I’ll offer you pearls
Made out of the rain
That falls in a world
Where rain never falls
I’ll ransack the earth
By day and by night
To cover your body
With gold and with light
I’ll make a domain
Where love will be king
Love will be everything
You’ll be the queen
Don’t go away
Dont’ go away
Don’t leave

Don’t go away
I’ll invent for you
Words just meant for you
And you’ll know what’s meant
And I’ll tell you the truth
About how other lovers
Looked into each other
 And how they were moved
Then I’ll read to you
The story of kings
Who lived without meeting you
Died without knowing you
Don’t go away
Dont’ go away
Don’t leave
And just when you think
The volcano’s expired
The craters turn pink
And the ash turns to fire
 In a charred barren land
You can still be surprised
Wheat suddenly stands
Like a dream of Julys
When the sun sets
In a brilliant sky
 The black and the red
Never touch as they die
Don’t go away
Dont’ go away
Don’t leave

Don’t go away
I won’t cry anymore
I won’t talk anymore
I’ll crawl under the bed
And I’ll watch you from there
As you smile and you dance
And I’ll listen to hear
How you talk, when you laugh it’s enough
In the shadow of your shadow
In the shadow of your hand
The shadow of your man
Don’t go away
Dont’ go away
Don’t leave.

And this is what Rod McKuen did with his version in "If You Go Away"

Jacques Brel is an amazing composer.  You might want to add the soundtrack version of "Jacquest Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in New York" or just pick up Amanda McBroom's wonderful album "Chasson" which features the Brel songs.


Mary Rhoads said...

This was powerful! Thank you. Mary

Travis Cody said...

Powerful in either version. The thing that first drew me to the song was the melody. That's how I'm attracted to most songs initially. But then listening to the lyric firmly attached the song to the soundtrack in my head.

Thanks for sharing the Brel lyric.

Mimi Lenox said...

I am listening.
The poetry was enough to slay me but the song...I'm undone for the day.

Mimi Lenox said...

Liszt was a fascinating volatile human being. He often thought of himself as a pianist first and composer last...struggled with the public's constant fascination with his flamboyant performances vs. his desire to be a "real composer." How strange.
Such brilliance in both gifts.