Ce qu’il faut de sanglots pour un air de guitare/ How many tears for an tune on the guitar”

Aragon and Triolet (wiki)

Louis Aragon was born in Paris after his teenage mother had a liaison with a senator and Prefect of Police in Paris, a man 32 years older than her, in 1897.

Elsa Triolet (née Illa Kagan) was born in Moscow in 1896 in a rich Jewish family.

Aragon thought his mother was his older sister until he became an adult. His famous father always refused to recognise his paternity, although he agreed to be his godfather. This might be the reason why his unacknowledged son developed his rebellious disposition, was given to melancholia, joining the Communist party and always ready to defend the underdog. He was one of he founder member of the Surrealist movement. He fought in the first world war and received decorations for bravery, something he was to display in all the facets of his life.

During the second world war he briefly saw action, and again he was decorated, this time with the prestigious Croix de Guerre, for rescuing a number of his wounded comrades. When the French army was overwhelmed, he joined the resistance movement, using his literary skill to write and distribute stirring pamphlets which nurtured enthusiasm and bravery for the cause.

Elsa studied architecture, although she would find out later that her talent for literature was much greater. She had a brief affair with the Vladimir Mayakovsky, the poet of the Soviet revolution, but when she introduced him to his sister Lilya, a coup de foudre between the poet and her was sparked (which would last until his suicide). Illa, now Elsa, emigrated to Paris and was briefly married to a French cavalry officer André Triolet. They travelled considerably together, and later divorced.

Soon after Louis and Elsa met, and another coup fe foudre resounded. They would stay together and get married for forty-two years, living their last years together in an old windmill. She was his muse, and he would write hundreds of poems for her. Theirs was an intense a love, and it would define them. Whilst together, neither would look at another man or woman. Which was quite strange in a way, as Aragon had been in a homosexual relationship in his youth. In Paris Elsa was able to devote herself to her own writing, and was the first woman to win the Prix Goncourt .

Elsa died in 1970, and Aragon lived for another twelve years, during which time he never had a single relationship with another woman.

Much of Aragon’s poetry has been avidly gobbled up by musicians and chansonniers and turned into songs or musical compositions. Jean Ferrat, Georges Brassens and Léo Ferrer are among the famous singers who have adapted and sung his poetry.

I have translated a number of the poets oeuvres, and include them here with the original versions:

To love until you lose your mind

With words to say it impossible to find

With only you as my horizon

Unable to recognise the season

Except by the pain of departure

Lost, mindless like one in rapture

You’re always the one getting hurt

Always your mirror that gets broken

You’re my happiness, my weakness

You’re the one insulted and forsaken

The flesh of your body martyred

To love until you lose your mind

With words to say it impossible to find

With only you as my horizon

Unable to recognise the season

Except by the pain of departure

Lost, mindless like one in rapture

It’s through the filter of our passion

That I feel hunger, cold or exhaustion

All the misery of our planet

If I have faith it’s through my love that I feel it

I bear my cross in her light

And on their nights rest my night

To love until you lose your mind

With words to say it impossible to find

With only you as my horizon

Unable to recognise the season

Except by the pain of departure

Lost, mindless like one in rapture

The original

Aimer à perdre la raison

Aimer à perdre la raison

Aimer à n’en savoir que dire

A n’avoir que toi d’horizon

Et ne connaître de saisons

Que par la douleur du partir

Aimer a perdre la raison

Ah c’est toujours toi que l’on blesse

C’est toujours ton miroir brisé

Mon pauvre bonheur, ma faiblesse

Toi qu’on insulte et qu’on délaisse

Dans toute chair martyrisée

Aimer à perdre la raison

Aimer a n’en savoir que dire

A n’avoir que toi d’horizon

Et ne connaître de saisons

Que par la douleur du partir

Aimer a perdre la raison

La faim, la fatigue et le froid

Toutes les misères du monde

C est par mon amour que j’y crois

En elle je porte ma croix

Et de leurs nuits ma nuit se fonde

Aimer à perdre la raison

Aimer a n’en savoir que dire

A n’avoir que toi d’horizon

Et ne connaître de saisons

Que par la douleur du partir

Aimer a perdre la raison

La faim, la fatigue et le froid

Toutes les misères du monde

C est par mon amour que j’y crois

En elle je porte ma croix

Et de leurs nuits ma nuit se fonde

Aimer à perdre la raison

Aimer a n’en savoir que dire

A n’avoir que toi d’horizon

Et ne connaître de saisons

Que par la douleur du partir

Aimer a perdre la raison .

Be it Sunday

Or Monday

Noon or sunrise

In hell or paradise

Devotion is its own reflection

Let us forever share a bed

’Twas yesterday and it’s now tomorrow

You’re my only way ahead

My heart I’ve let you borrow

To keep in safety next to yours

For all the remaining hours

We will sleep together

Beloved, what has been will last forever

Heaven’s spread over us like a blanket

I’ll wrap your body in mine

Morning or sunset

Rain or shine

I love you so much I shiver

And for as long as you desire

We will sleep together

The original

Nous dormirons ensemble

Que ce soit dimanche ou lundi

Soir ou matin minuit midi

Dans l’enfer ou le paradis

Les amours aux amours ressemblent

C’était hier que je t’ai dit

Nous dormirons ensemble

C’était hier et c’est demain

Je n’ai plus que toi de chemin

J’ai mis mon coeur entre tes mains

Avec le tien comme il va l’amble

Tout ce qu’il a de temps humain

Nous dormirons ensemble

Mon amour ce qui fut sera

Le ciel est sur nous comme un drap

J’ai refermé sur toi mes bras

Et tant je t’aime que j’en tremble

Aussi longtemps que tu voudras

Nous dormirons ensemble

Love isn’t meant to be joyful

No power, ability, weakness or frailty

No heart or soul are given to man free

A cross, no their shadows pop up, his arms opened

And when he holds tight his bliss, he finds it flattened

His life is a divorce strange and painful

Love isn’t meant to be joyful

His life is like those soldiers with no weaponry

Who were fitted for another destiny

What’s the point of getting up at first light

Only to find them disarmed and listless at night

Say these words dear my life and don’t be tearful

Love isn’t meant to be joyful

My beautiful love, my dearest love.my hurt

I carry you in me like a wounded bird

And even those who know us not watch us leave

Repeating after me the words I weaved

And who died on the spot for your big eyes

Love isn’t meant to be joyful

By the time one has learnt to live, it’s far too late

How much sobbing can our two hearts tolerate

How many misfortunes o feed the smallest trill

How many regrets must be paid for a thrill

How many tears shed for an air on the guitar

Love isn’t meant to be joyful

There is no love if it’s not wrapped in pain

There is no love if there is no bruise or sprain

There is no love if it does not undermine you

Love of one’s country though less than mine for you

There is no love that needs not tears to grow

Love isn’t meant to be joyful

But what’s between us is love, I know

The original

Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux

Rien n’est jamais acquis à l’homme Ni sa force
Ni sa faiblesse ni son coeur Et quand il croit
Ouvrir ses bras son ombre est celle d’une croix
Et quand il croit serrer son bonheur il le broie
Sa vie est un étrange et douloureux divorce
Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux

Sa vie Elle ressemble à ces soldats sans armes
Qu’on avait habillés pour un autre destin
À quoi peut leur servir de se lever matin
Eux qu’on retrouve au soir désoeuvrés incertains
Dites ces mots Ma vie Et retenez vos larmes
Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux

Mon bel amour mon cher amour ma déchirure
Je te porte dans moi comme un oiseau blessé
Et ceux-là sans savoir nous regardent passer
Répétant après moi les mots que j’ai tressés
Et qui pour tes grands yeux tout aussitôt moururent
Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux

Le temps d’apprendre à vivre il est déjà trop tard
Que pleurent dans la nuit nos coeurs à l’unisson
Ce qu’il faut de malheur pour la moindre chanson
Ce qu’il faut de regrets pour payer un frisson
Ce qu’il faut de sanglots pour un air de guitare
Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux.

Il n’y a pas d’amour qui ne soit à douleur
Il n’y a pas d’amour dont on ne soit meurtri
Il n’y a pas d’amour dont on ne soit flétri
Et pas plus que de toi l’amour de la patrie
Il n’y a pas d’amour qui ne vive de pleurs
Il n’y a pas d’amour heureux
Mais c’est notre amour à tous les deux

Prizewinning playwright. Mathematician. Teacher. Professional Siesta addict.

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