Des de Moor

My Father Said
Mon père disait

Water of Europe Water of Europe
One of 12 new English chansons and three covers on this 1999 solo album.
More details.
Des de Moor
voice, acoustic guitar, cymbal Stanley Adler
celli Kev Hopper
musical saw

The great Belgian chansonnier Jacques Brel (1924-78), though born in Brussels, had a love-hate relationship with the country of his birth and looked largely to the French tradition of popular song as his inspiration. However, he maintained a soft spot for the desolate landscapes of Flanders, and wrote a number of beautiful, lyrical songs celebrating the people and countryside of this 'flat land'.

This number, from 1967, is one such song, brimming with characteristic romantic fatalism. The image of England breaking off from Flanders ob viously preoccupied Brel since he also used it as the theme for a tone poem he co-wrote. This was my first Brel translation and part of a growing portfolio of versions of Brel's 'Flemish' songs; the French title is literally 'My father used to say' but to fit the metre I rendered it as 'My father said'.

My father said
It's the North wind
That broke the dijks
At Scheveningen,
At Scheveningen, my boy,
A wind so strong
We've long lost sight
Of those at sea
Beyond the dijks
And it's the North wind
That tears through the eyes
Of our Northern youth
And our old and wise
And calls the blue
Carillon cries
Home from a North
That's deep in their eyes.

My father said:
It's the North wind
That stirs the sand
Around the town of Bruges,
Around Bruges, my boy.
It's the North wind
That planed the land
Around the towers,
The towers of Bruges,
That gives our girls
That old calm face
Like ancient towns
Locked into space,
Gives their brown hair
The fragile grace
Of Flemish lace,
Of Flemish lace.

My father said:
It's the North wind,
The wind that broke
The earth at Zeebrugge,
At Zeebrugge, my boy,
And by that wind
The earth was rent
Between Zeebrugge
And the cliffs of Kent
And London's left
Cut loose and free
With the Bruges headland
Taunting the sea
And London's left
To forever be
A suburb of Bruges
Lost in the sea.

My father said:
It's the North wind
That'll bear to earth
My soulless body,
My passionless body, my boy.
It's the North wind
That'll bear to earth
My soulless body
Across the grey North Sea,
That'll make me captain
Of a ship that sails
On a breeze of tears
Or a school of whales.
I'll captain the breeze
That blows high above,
That breeze of tears
For those I love.

Translation: Deptford, London, May 1993

Jacques Brel

Des de Moor

Jacques Brel

Des de Moor

© Copyright 1967 Editions Musicales Pouchenel, Bruxelles. Translated by permission of the publisher and France Brel.

Originally recorded by Jacques Brel in 1967, now available on Jacques Brel 6: J'arrive (Barclay). This translation from the album Water of Europe (see left).

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My Father Said (Jacques Brel)
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