Sunday, 23 February 2014

Les ... de ...bourg

The second proofs of #WVGTbook have been corrected, and I have a spare few hours before a CreateSpace mail arrives in my Inbox and invites me to marvel at what they have done this time. So I can observe that in this week's Film Programme Francine Stock was celebrating the release on DVD of  Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (a snip at 48 smackers if you believe that link[2018 PS now only £12.27]).

The big song in Les Parapluies de Cherbourg is known to the impoverished English as 'I will wait for you' – a sentiment that seems to me to have very little to do with the original. The French original is sung at 17'03" in that clip [2018 PS:an iPlayer clip, now gone, but the song in on YouTube here] as long as it lasts; and I was surprised to hear Catherine Deneuve sing, in what I imagine is the last verse (come to think of it, I may have been a bit hasty dismissing 'I will wait for you', as long as it was in the first verse...though, come to think of it again, maybe the concept of verse doesn't really work in this context..) '... mais mon amour, ne me quitte pas'.

Those words had been set to a very different tune (Very different?... Discuss) about five years earlier by Jacques Brel. It's hard to say exactly how long before, as the gestation period of  a song is presumably much shorter than that of a sung-through film, so 'about five years' will have to do. Brel's Ne me quitte pas was followed a few years later by Dusty Springfield's If you go away to the same tune. But this time, it seems to me that the English version does preserve the sentiment of the original.

The line Ne me quitte pas starts out, uncomfortably for the translator, with two unstressed syllables. So the two obvious options are 'Never go away' (which is pathetic) and 'Don't you go away', which is bathetic (it sounds as though it should be followed by something like ' little minx'). The Parapluies de Cherbourg song avoids the problem by splitting the unstressed words over two lines; even then, I don't think the underlay (as we say in the trade – the way the words fit the tune) would get a very high mark in a Grade V Theory exam. The amour's stress is wrong, and the ne is left out on a limb.
<2018_PS ref="YouTube clip">
The guilty setting is from 1'45" to 1'52", and I missed  – when first writing – another serious deficiency. I gave only two problems: the stress on amour and the isolation of ne at the end of a line. I missed a third: the stress on the e-muet at the end of quitte.
Anyway 'If you go away' works for me in the Jacques Brel song.

But, I hear you ask, what's the title about? (the title of this post, not the song). Well, in my pin-ball memory, the phrase 'Les Parapluies de Cherbourg' fired off a random association with Les Serments de Strassbourg –  or 'The Strassbourg Oaths' as we called them in my Romance Philology days. They were, as that article says, pledges of allegiance [in 842] between Louis the German (876), ruler of East Francia, and his half-brother Charles the Bald (†877), ruler of West Francia. ...
<aha_but... date ="2018 PS, but quoting 2015 blog-post">
This much is true. But the next sentence in that article is not (although I ignored it because my memory of what I had learnt was faulty).
They are written in three different languages: Medieval Latin, Old French and Old High German
No. They were written [2018 PS: in the original manuscript] in only two languages  – the vernaculars of the two testifiers. To quote W D Elcock, in The Romance Languages, who cited  Professor Ewert's The French Language:
Professor Ewert's approach... merits further attention. It may be assumed, he observes, that both versions are translated from an original draft in Latin, Latin being ... the  common language of all notarial documents. He then attempts a hypothetical reconstruction, employing the phraseology of like documents....
This reconstruction makes sense, accounting for my misremembering and for Wikipedia's lapse...
...The Old French passages are generally considered to be the earliest texts in a language that is distinctly French.
So they are a sort of Rosetta_Stone, as the two 'pledgers' could be expected to divvy up the kingdom by baggsying equivalent portions –  and they each had to agree the written wording. Sometimes the signs of the French versus German are very slight –  they use the same Latin words, but the early German puts the adjective before the noun and the early French puts it after, for example.

I have a bit of the text somewhere, and may update this after #WVGTbook's finally put to bed. But that's all for now.

Update: 2018.05.1410:45 – Added inline PSs

No comments:

Post a Comment