Des de Moor

Les Poètes

Barb Jungr: Chanson The Space In Between From Chanson: The Space In Between
Barb Jungr's chanson album including five original translations by Des.
Click here for details

Barb Jungr
Kim Burton
accordion, piano
Rolf Wilson
Julie Walkington
double bass

When Barb Jungr asked me to get involved in her chanson project, we agreed that we would look for some material which is rarely, if ever, performed in English to include alongside the slightly better known Brel and Piaf repertoire. We settled on two songs from Monaco-born singer-songwriter, poet, eccentric and anarchist Léo Ferré, including this one, which -- appropriately enough -- demonstrates just how close French chanson is to poetry.

They are the odd men out who live by ink and pen
Whose lives are lived as each new season comes along
They cross the evening mists, these strange and thoughtful men
With footsteps like the birds that fly on wings of song

Under a Paris bridge they’ll sate their souls on wines
Their wealth is measured in slim volumes never sold
The only wives they have are clichéed closing lines
From tales of lust and love in songs you know of old

They paint grey paving stones with colours as they tread
As if they walk on waves on far imagined seas
They breathe in city air and breathe out words instead
And tie bright ribbons round our dull old ABCs

And sometimes they have dogs for company in pain
Who lick the bitter ink from soft and friendly hands
Such faithfulness that sets their muzzles all aflame
Lighting the lonely ways through absurd forsaken lands

These are the odd men out that look at blooming flowers
And see a woman’s smile in a petal’s aureole
These are the odd men out that sing of desperate hours
To pianos of the heart and violins of the soul

They look at their bare arms and imagine them as wings
Chasing the tails of words across the open sky
Then falling to cold earth as ghosts on rubbish bins
Where with a turn of phrase once more their verses die

They walk among the clouds, their heads are in the street
They know each horse and bird and have kind words for each
They walk in abbatoirs with corpses at their feet
Their thoughts are far beyond the executioner’s reach

There’s surely space on Earth to let their words fly free
To paint a paradise in bargain basement rhymes
Though some would lock them up and throw away the key
In case words ring too true in these complacent times

Translation: Deptford, 29 June 1999

Léo Ferré

Des de Moor

Léo Ferré

Kim Burton

© Copyright 1960, 1999 Les nouvelles éditions Méridian, Paris/La Memoire et la Mer, Monaco. Translated by permission of Marie Christine Ferré and the publishers.

Originally recorded by Léo Ferré 1960, now available on Avec le temps... (Barclay)
This version recorded by Barb Jungr on Chanson: The Space In Between (see opposite).

Buy original version on Léo Ferré: Avec le temps compilation from Amazon

All rights reserved. No material on these pages can be reproduced in whole or in part in any form, except for short passages for the purpose of quotation or review, without prior written permission of the copyright owner.

 More lyrics
Ne me quitte pas (Jacques Brel)
Quartier Latin (Léo Ferré)
Marieke (Jacques Brel/Gérard Jouannest)
La chanson des vieux amants (Jacques Brel/Gérard Jouannest)
Les poètes (Léo Ferré)
Lyrics Index