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Ne Me Quitte Pas: Song for a Melancholy Day

If you’re wanting to really enjoy some melancholia, and you’re a hopeless romantic like myself, it’s hard to beat “Ne Me Quitte Pas” by the Flemish/Belgian/French Jacques Brel. It’s the number one song on my self-pity list.

My friend Hayley reminded me of the song recently on Facebook. I hadn’t realized how awful the English translations and revisionings have been until my other friend Dot pointed it out. My French isn’t that great.

The first time I heard the song was as a child. My mom had a Rod McKuen album, and I loved that song – until I heard Brel’s original. Now I can’t stand to listen McKuen’s song. The bombastic style reminds me too much of Frank Sinatra, and that presentation misses everything. An impressive list of other artists have covered the song in a number of different languages. It might be fun sometime compare them all – in the style of bible concordances – but first I want to listen. I trust my ear and spirit more than I do my thoughts.

Dot directed me to another subtitled video that is closer to the original meaning:
http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x18038_jacques-brel-ne-me-quitte-pas-1959_music

Don’t go way from me
We must forget
All can be forgotten
that’s gone by already
Forget the times
of misunderstandings
The time lost
in figuring out how
Forget those hours that
sometimes killed
– with blows of why –
the heart of happiness
Don’t go way from me (4x)

Don’t go way from me
I will bring you pearls of rain
from countries
where it doesn’t rain
I will dig up the earth
until after my death
to cover your body
with gold and light
I will create for you a realm
where love is king
where love is law
and you will be queen
Don’t go way from me (4x)

Don’t go way from me
I will invent for you
nonsense words
which you’ll understand
I will tell you of these lovers
who saw their hearts
set ablaze twice
I will tell you of a king
who died from not being able
to meet you
Don’t go way from me (4x)

Often you see the flame
of an ancient volcano
thought to be too old
There are, it seems,
burnt out lands that give
better wheat than
the best April
And when night comes
to light up the sky
the red and the black
don’t they marry?
Don’t go way from me (4x)

Don’t go way from me
I won’t cry anymore
I won’t speak anymore
I’ll hide there
To watch you dance and smile
Listen to you sing and laugh
Let me become
the shadow of your shadow
shadow of your hand
shadow of your dog..
Don’t go way from me (4x)

On a board at songmeanings.com, I found another translation that I liked as well.

Do not leave me.
One must forget
that which is bygone.
Everything can be forgotten –
Forget the instances
of misunderstandings
and of the moments lost.
Knowing how to
forget the hours
that sometimes killed
the very heart of happiness
– with all their Why’s.
Do not leave me. (4x)

I will offer you
pearls made of raindrops,
found in countries where it never rains.
I will traverse the Earth,
until after I’m gone,
only to cover your body
with gold and with sunlight.
I will establish a kingdom
where Love will be king,
where Love will rule,
and you will be Queen.
Do not leave me. (4x)

Do not leave me.
I will invent for you
nonsensical words
which only you will understand.
I will tell you stories
about the lovers
whose hearts have been
twice ablaze,
and of that king
who died for not having met you.
Do not leave me.

One has often seen
a fire erupting
out an ancient volcano,
thought to be extinct.
And it seems
that a scorched earth
could give more wheat
than in the best of springs.
And when the evening falls
do the red and the black not unite
in order for sky to be set aflame?
Do not leave me.

Do not leave me.
I will no longer cry.
I will no longer talk.
I will just hide where
I can look at you
dance and smile,
and listen to you
sing and then laugh.
Let me become
the shadow of your shadow
the shadow of your hand
the shadow of your dog.
Do not leave me. (4x)

Still, even with my shaky French, there is nothing that captures the very sound and texture of the original lyrics, especially if you listen rather than watch (Monsieur Brel sweats a lot). Here they are:

Ne Me Quitte Pas

Ne me quitte pas
Il faut oublier
Tout peut s’oublier
Qui s’enfuit deja
Oublier le temps
Des malentendus
Et le temps perdu
A savoir comment
Oublier ces heures
Qui tuaient parfois
A coups de pourquoi
Le coeur du bonheure
Ne me quitte pas (4x)

Moi je t’offrirai
Des perles du pluie
Venues de pays
Ou il ne pleut pas
Je creuserai la terre
Jusqu’apres ma mort
Pour couvrir ton corps
D’or et de lumiere
Je ferai un domaine
Ou l’amour sera roi
Ou l’amour sera loi
Ou tu seras reine
Ne me quitte pas (4x)

Ne me quitte pas
Je t’inventerai
Des mots insensés
Que tu comprendras
Je te parlerai
De ces amants là
Qui ont vu deux fois
Leurs coeurs s’embraser
Je te racont’rai
L’histoire de ce roi
Mort de n’avoir pas
Pu te rencontrer
Ne me quitte pas (4x)

On a vu souvent
Rejaillir le feu
De l’ancien volcan
Qu’on croyait trop vieux
Il est paraît-il
Des terres brûlées
Donnant plus de blé
Qu’un meilleur avril
Et quand vient le soir
Pour qu’un ciel flamboie
Le rouge et le noir
Ne s’épousent-ils pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

Ne me quitte pas
Je ne veux plus pleurer
Je ne veux plus parler
Je me cacherai là
A te regarder
Danser et sourire
Et à t’écouter
Chanter et puis rire
Laisse-moi devenir
L’ombre de ton ombre
L’ombre de ta main
L’ombre de ton chien
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

And – don’t miss Nina Simone…

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