Fernande (Song by Georges Brassens)

Carla Bruni chooses to sing a Brassens song  and the song that she chooses is banned on French radio. She is not only beautiful, she has a sense of humour. I like the naughty twinkle in her eye when she tells us that she has been advised against singing this song but that she is going to sing it all the same.

This song deals with the inconsistent sexual consolations available to men when they are in situations deprived of women. That Brassens includes himself in this company links with the sexual frustration of his mature years (after years of plenty) described in “Auprès de mon arbre”.  He was then in his final, longlasting but (he often complains) sexless, relationship with Joha Heiman, his “Pupchen” - see also Brassens' “Je me suis fait tout petit”.

YouTube Video


Fernande
Une manie de vieux garçon,
Strange habit of an old bachelor
Moi, j'ai pris l'habitude
I have got into the way
D'agrémenter ma solitude
Of spicing up my loneliness
Aux accents de cette chanson :
With the accents of this song

Quand je pense à Fernande
When I think of Fernande
Je bande, je bande,(1)
It's so hard, It's so hard,
Quand j' pense à Félicie
When I think of Félicie
Je bande aussi,
It's hard as well,
Quand j' pense à Léonore,
When I think of Léonora
Mon Dieu, je bande encore
Good Lord, it's hard once more
Mais quand j' pense à Lulu,
But when I think of Lulu
Là, je ne bande plus.
There,it is hard no more
La bandaison, papa,
Getting erect papa,
Ça n' se commande pas.
That just can't be controlled.


C'est cette mâle ritournelle, (2)
It is this popular male refrain
Cette antienne virile,
This ancient chant for men 
Qui retentit dans la guérite
Which rings out from the sentry box
De la vaillante sentinelle :
Of the valiant duty guard .

Quand je pense à Fernande
When I think of Fernande
Je bande, je bande,
It's so hard, It's so hard,
Quand j' pense à Félicie
When I think of Félicie
Je bande aussi,
It's hard as well,
Quand j' pense à Léonore,
When I think of Léonora
Mon Dieu, je bande encore
Good Lord, it's hard once more
Mais quand j' pense à Lulu,
But when I think of Lulu
Là, je ne bande plus.
There, it is hard no more
La bandaison, papa,
Getting erect papa,
Ça n' se commande pas.
That just can't be controlled.


Afin de tromper son cafard,
To get over his homesickness
De voir la vie moins terne,
To see life 'bit less bleak 
Tout en veillant sur sa lanterne,
Even while tending to his lamp
Chante ainsi le gardien de phare :
The lighthousekeeper sings out thus.

Quand je pense à Fernande
When I think of Fernande
Je bande, je bande,
It's so hard, It's so hard,
Quand j' pense à Félicie
When I think of Félicie
Je bande aussi,
It's hard as well,
Quand j' pense à Léonore,
When I think of Léonora
Mon Dieu, je bande encore
Good Lord, it's hard once more
Mais quand j' pense à Lulu,
But when I think of Lulu
Là, je ne bande plus.
There, it is hard no more
La bandaison, papa,
Getting erect papa,
Ça n' se commande pas.
That just can't be controlled.


Après la prière du soir,
After evening prayers
Comme il est un peu triste,
As he is a little sad
Chante ainsi le séminariste
The priest in training sings like this
À genoux sur son reposoir :
As he's kneeling at his altar

Quand je pense à Fernande
When I think of Fernande
Je bande, je bande,
It's so hard, It's so hard,
Quand j' pense à Félicie
When I think of Félicie
Je bande aussi,
It's hard as well,
Quand j' pense à Léonore,
When I think of Léonora
Mon Dieu, je bande encore
Good Lord, it's hard once more
Mais quand j' pense à Lulu,
But when I think of Lulu
Là, je ne bande plus.
There,it is hard no more
La bandaison, papa,
Getting erect papa,
Ça n' se commande pas.
That just can't be controlled.

À l'Étoile où j'étais venu
On the Place de l’Étoile where I'd come
Pour ranimer la flamme,
For revival of the flame
J'entendis ému jusqu'aux larmes
I heard and was moved to tears
La voix du Soldat Inconnu :
The voice of the unknown soldier :

Quand je pense à Fernande
When I think of Fernande
Je bande, je bande,
It's so hard, It's so hard,
Quand j' pense à Félicie
When I think of Félicie
Je bande aussi,
It's hard as well,
Quand j' pense à Léonore,
When I think of Léonora
Mon Dieu, je bande encore
Good Lord, it's hard once more
Mais quand j' pense à Lulu,
But when I think of Lulu
Là, je ne bande plus.
There,it is hard no more
La bandaison, papa,
Getting erect papa,
Ça n' se commande pas.
That just can't be controlled.

Et je vais mettre un point final
And I am going to finish
À ce chant salutaire,
This salutary song
En suggérant aux solitaires
By suggesting for lonely people
D'en faire un hymne national.
To make it a national anthem

Quand je pense à Fernande
When I think of Fernande
Je bande, je bande,
It's so hard, It's so hard,
Quand j' pense à Félicie
When I think of Félicie
Je bande aussi,
It's hard as well,
Quand j' pense à Léonore,
When I think of Léonora
Mon Dieu, je bande encore
Good Lord, it's hard once more
Mais quand j' pense à Lulu,
But when I think of Lulu
Là, je ne bande plus.
There,it is hard no more
La bandaison, papa,
Getting erect papa,
Ça n' se commande pas.
That just can't be controlled.
 (Georges Brassens 1972)
 
TRANSLATION NOTES
 
1)  Collins Robert advise that the word “bander” is an indecent word that you are advised not to use if you are not a native French speaker. It means "to have or to get an erection". Until now- the 31st of Match 2010 - I have translated the line more delicately, saying "I get turned on". However, I have come in for a lot of criticism from bloggers who say that if Brassens in his characteristically blunt fashion says: " I have an erection ..... , I, as an honest translator must say the same. (Further comment below)
2)  C'est toujours la même ritournelle means « It’s always the same old tune » - Collins Robert



Comments from readers on my Georges Brassens Blogsite 
 
 At the start, I had put the direct translation of "Je bande" right at the bottom of this page, so as not to offend.  There I explained:" Je bande means "I get an erection"
Anonymous reproached me ...

"There is something I don't understand", he wrote. "This is a very delicate and formal translation. Can anybody be offended by that ???

19 September 2008 06:37

After a couple of weeks my weblog told me that a number of readers agreed with him and I decided to give the direct translation.  However the English is an awkward phrase of 7 syllables that I could not manage, so I chose "It is hard". 

Blogsite Comments Section

I really laughed very hard when I was reading this page of yours. Thank you for such interesting info. The song should definitely become a national anthem!

# posted by Anonymous : 9 January 2009 07:05

I got a giggle out of this page as well. Was wondering what sort of debauchery lay at the bottom of the page... :)

# posted by teedee : 24 January 2009 14:38

Brassens is a genius. Thanks to Carla Bruni for choosing this song and to you for the excellent translation.

# posted by Anonymous : 17 July 2009 16:52

is it true carla was originally a man then ?

# posted by annabelle lecture : 1 November 2009 18:41

Well, if the author of the song, Georges Brassens in this case, chooses "Je bande", then don't change it. Even though I was aware of the meaning of the expression prior to reading your translation, it really annoyed me that you changed it. Let the Author maintain his Authority. It's just a small gesture of courtesy, I know, but principles matter.

# posted by Gaspard Winckler : 28 March 2010 16:12

First thanks for your work to make Brassens understandable for non French speakers.

As a french, about "je bande" - I see that English speakers propose the litterral "I have an erection". Alright - who could say it's no exact. But it's not exactly exact.

"Je bande" is slang, and if Brassens uses it in a song, he knows what he is doing. So an honnest translation should use the same slang word in English - so that the English listener can be: either be shocked like all French listener can be at first.

This provocation as a meaning : to say you are shocked with a word, but not shocked by millions of death and by religions who approuved theses wars.

So, with many thanks for your work, on this sentence I must say that as long as your translation will stay like that, it looses the main part.

# posted by Anonymous : 4 April 2010 15:48

(I apologize for my bad english : I'm french)
First of all, I want to congratulate you for your work : I know how hard is the art of translation, especialy in matter of poetry.
"Je bande" is a french slang saying. Brassens used to write his lyrics with all levels of french, from the highest forms of poetry down to the crudest slang, sometime in the same song. These lyrics can be deemed as offensive or shocking : however, Brassens did want them to be so.Do not hesitate to use slang in your translation, because Brassens did not, so a good tranlation cannot neither.

# posted by Anonymous : 5 March 2011 20:59

 

Comments