Song 289: "Ma France" - Jean Ferrat

From lowlands to forests, from vales to hills
From the spring to be born to your dead seasons (1)
From what I lived to what I imagine
I shall not stop writing your song
My France

In the great Summer sun which curves Provence
From brooms of Brittany to heathers of Ardèche (2)
Something in the air has that transparency
And that taste for happiness that makes my lip dry
My France

That air of freedom beyond borders
Which used to take foreign people's breath away
And which whom you nowadays usurp the prestige
She still answers for the name of Robespierre
My France

The one of old Hugo railing from his exile (3)
Of five years old children working in the mines
The one who built with her hands your factories
The one whom mister Thiers said :"Lets' shoot her !" (4)
My France

Picasso holds the world at the tip of his palette
From Eluard's lips some doves fly away (5)
They do not stop, your prophetic artists,
To say "It's time for misfortune to succumb"
My France

Their voices multiply to make but one
The one who always pays for your crimes, your mistakes
Filling History and its mass graves
May I sing forever the workers' one (6)
My France

The one who has her sleepless nights for only gold
For the stubborn struggle of that daily time
From newspapers you sell on a Sunday morning (7 )
To the poster you hang on a wall the day after (8 )
My France

May she rise from mines, descend from hills
The one who sings in me, the pretty, the rebel
She holds the future tight in her thin hands
The one from thirty-six to sixty-eight candles (9)
My France

Submitted by cyr22 on Thu, 12/02/2015 - 13:02
Author's comments:
(1) "morte saison" is usually translated as "off season" but I thought it was too prosaic here and didn't reflect the author's intention

(2) Provence, Brittany and Ardèche are french cultural and administrative regions/departments

(3) Victor Hugo, among the greatest and most famous french writers in History

(4) Adolphe Thiers was a president under the 3rd French republic and is historically considered, at least in popular culture, to be responsible for the bloody repression of the Paris Commune in May 1871

(5) Paul Eluard, famous french poet from the early 20th century, a major member of the dadaist and surrealist artistic movements

(6) Because in French the word is the same for "story" and "history", the author switches in this verse from one meaning to the other

(7) As the author talks about the working classes' bravery here, it could be assumed that he evokes L'Humanité (lit. The Mankind ), the press organ of French communist party, as Ferrat himself was a supporter of it, though he never was an official member

(8 ) literal translation would be "on the day after's wall" but I didn't like the sound of it

(9 ) subtle pun using several linguistic and historical concepts : "to see stars" translates as "voir 36 chandelles " (lit. "to see thirty-six candles" ); sixty-eight arguably refers to May 1968, month historically renowned for having seen the biggest social contestation movement in France since the end of WW II ; and the author uses the tradition of birthday candles to mean that the France he belongs to has a wide variety of ages

De plaines en forêts de vallons en collines
Du printemps qui va naître à tes mortes saisons
De ce que j'ai vécu à ce que j'imagine
Je n'en finirai pas d'écrire ta chanson
Ma France

Au grand soleil d'été qui courbe la Provence
Des genêts de Bretagne aux bruyères d'Ardèche
Quelque chose dans l'air a cette transparence
Et ce goût du bonheur qui rend ma lèvre sèche
Ma France

Cet air de liberté au-delà des frontières
Aux peuples étrangers qui donnait le vertige
Et dont vous usurpez aujourd'hui le prestige
Elle répond toujours du nom de Robespierre
Ma France

Celle du vieil Hugo tonnant de son exil
Des enfants de cinq ans travaillant dans les mines
Celle qui construisit de ses mains vos usines
Celle dont monsieur Thiers a dit qu'on la fusille
Ma France

Picasso tient le monde au bout de sa palette
Des lèvres d'Éluard s'envolent des colombes
Ils n'en finissent pas tes artistes prophètes
De dire qu'il est temps que le malheur succombe
Ma France

Leurs voix se multiplient à n'en plus faire qu'une
Celle qui paie toujours vos crimes vos erreurs
En remplissant l'histoire et ses fosses communes
Que je chante à jamais celle des travailleurs
Ma France

Celle qui ne possède en or que ses nuits blanches
Pour la lutte obstiné de ce temps quotidien
Du journal que l'on vend le matin d'un dimanche
A l'affiche qu'on colle au mur du lendemain
Ma France

Qu'elle monte des mines descende des collines
Celle qui chante en moi la belle la rebelle
Elle tient l'avenir, serré dans ses mains fines
Celle de trente-six à soixante-huit chandelles
Ma France