Saturday 6 August 2016

Cupidon s'en fout - A promising romantic date that falls flat

This song appeared in Brassens’ album « Don Juan » in 1972.  Four years earlier, he had dealt with the problem of the inequalities of passion of partners when making love in his song:  “Quatre-vingt quinze pour cent” (on the Fernande album).  

In “Cupidon s’en fout”, he is relating a very personal story, which illustrates the same predicament.
 It tells how he had a flirtatious relationship with an attractive young lady and believed that they were in the early stages of a real romance.  When she accepted an invitation from him to join him on a day's outing in a forest favoured by lovers, he was sure that both of them understood the pleasures that this promised.  The song tells the complicated sequel.

Pour changer en amour notre amourette,(1)
Il ne s’en serait pas fallu de beaucoup,(2)
Mais, ce jour-là, Vénus était distraite,
Il est des jours où Cupidon s'en fout(3).

Des jours où il joue les mouches du coche(4),
Où elles sont émoussées dans le bout,(5)
Les flèches courtoises(6) qu'il nous décoche,
Il est des jours où Cupidon s'en fout.

Se consacrant à d'autres imbéciles,
Il n'eut pas l'heur(7) de s'occuper de nous,
Avec son arc et tous ses ustensiles,
Il est des jours où Cupidon s'en fout.

On a tenté sans lui d'ouvrir la fête,
Sur l'herbe tendre, on s'est roulés, mais vous
Avez perdu la vertu(8), pas la tête(9),
Il est des jours où Cupidon s'en fout.

Si vous m'avez donné toute licence,
Le coeur, hélas, n'était pas dans le coup ;(10)
Le feu sacré brillait par son absence,(11)
Il est des jours où Cupidon s'en fout.

On effeuilla vingt fois la marguerite(12),
Elle tomba vingt fois sur "pas du tout".
Et notre pauvre idylle a fait faillite,
Il est des jours où Cupidon s'en fout.

Quand vous irez au bois conter fleurette (13),
Jeunes galants(14), le ciel soit avec vous.
Je n'eus pas cette chance et le regrette,
Il est des jours où Cupidon s'en fout.

Album - Don Juan (1976)

To change our flirtation into real love,
It would not have taken us all that much,
But on that day, Venus was distracted
There are days when Cupid gives not a damn.

Days when he messes around, in the way,
Days when worn badly blunt at the ends are
The amorous darts that he shoots at us,
There are days when Cupid gives not a damn.

Concentrating on other imbeciles,
He didn't have the time to look after us,
With his bow and all his utensils
There are days when Cupid gives not a damn.

We tried getting  things going without him,
On the soft grass, we rolled around, but you
Lost your virtue, without losing your head,
There are days when Cupid gives not a damn.

If you gave me licence for everything,
Your heart, alas, was not in the doing;
The sacred fire was glaringly absent
There are days when Cupid gives not a damn.

Twenty times over, we plucked the daisy,
Twenty times it came out "loves you not".
And our poor idyll came to nothing
There are days when Cupid gives not a damn.

When you go to the woods for sweet loving
Young lustful lads, heaven be with you.(15)
I had no such luck and I'm sorry,
There are days when Cupid gives not a damn.

Cupidon Translation notes

1)      notre amourette- Collins Robert translates this as “a passing fancy”/ passing love affair.
2)      Il ne s’en serait pas fallu de beaucoup – s’en falloir de faire quelque is used in expressions which say what is needed / what you are short of in order to something.  Collins Robert gives the example: « Il s’en faut de beaucoup qu’il soit heureux » = He is far from being happy/ He is by no means happy.
3)      s'en fout – “Il s’en fout” is an idiom meaning “he doesn’t care”.  So the English idiom “He doesn’t give a damn” would be “Il s’en fout complètement.  Foutre is a multipurpose verb, meaning “throw”- “put”- “do” etc. used in colloquial French – sometimes having a crude usage.
4)      il joue les mouches du coche – Literally this phrase means that Cupid acts like flies swarming around a « coche » - which in olden times was a horse-drawn coach offering public transport.  The meaning of this expression comes from the fable of La Fontaine “Le coche et la Mouche”.  In this fable, La Fontaine is showing that, in life, there are people who, behaving as though they are in a great hurry, meddle in the business of others; they act as though they are indispensable but are in the way everywhere they go..  As a result, like flies, they need to be driven away. 
5)      émoussées dans le bout- blunted at the tip.
6)     courtoises – has two meanings :1)  courteous/ polite 2) courtly.  The second sense would seem more appropriate here.  In the Encyclopaedia Britannica there is this description of a courtly lover in Medieval terms: The courtly lover existed to serve his lady. His love was invariably adulterous, marriage at that time being usually the result of business interest or the seal of a power alliance. Ultimately, the lover saw himself as serving the all-powerful god of love and worshipping his lady-saint.  - In a modern context, we would tone this down!
7)      Il n'eut pas l'heur – « l’heur » is short for le bonheur = good luck/happy chance
8)      Vertu  - Among the meanings of this word , as in the English word: “virtue”, is the sense of feminine chastity and sometimes it can mean “virginity”.  As they rolled in the grass, the couple did things that were not completely chaste, but this would not seem to be the first crossing of the bridge by either of them.
9)      Pas la tête - not her control of events - I think.
10)   N’était pas dans le coup – the idiom means "didn’t come into it".
11)   brillait par son absence _  was notable by its absence.
12)   effeuilla vingt fois la marguerite -   the international game  for lovers is for the man to pull off the petals of a daisy in turn, to see if the last petal will tell whether she loves him or she loves him not.
13)   conter fleurette – It is the word fleurette which gave the word « flirt »
L’Internaute tells me On suppose que cette expression date du 16ème siècle où le verbe "fleuretter" avait le sens de "dire des balivernes" –talk nonsense. Le mot "fleurette" signifiait alors "bagatelle", d’où le fait qu’il représente un sentiment léger ou une relation sexuelle  .
(14) Galant can mean a man who enjoys romance, but less romantically a man who runs after women 

(15) I changed "heaven be with you" to "heaven help you", as this second phrase in normal English usage has lost practically all its religious sense to mean "only something extraordinary can save you!".  It seems more suitable for Brassens, who is not known for spontaneous piety.

A report than can give a very personal understanding of this poem.

On the 23rd June 2016, the following comment, signed by the name of Vincent was made after my translation of “Je me suis fait tout petit devant une poupée”:

“I once heard a first-hand report from a close friend of Brassens, that he was for a long, long time in love with a woman, with so much desire and tension and difficulties that when they eventually got to bed together, he was impotent.”

I have no way, of course, of confirming that this was a real event in Brassens’ life, but if this traumatic experience is read as the background to “Cupidon s’en fout”, it would give a very strong personal poignancy to this Brassens song.

My thanks go to Vincent for this insight.   -D.Y.

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