Ne me quitte pas
Il faut oublier
Tout peut s'oublier
Qui s'enfuit déjà
Oublier le temps
Des malentendus
Et le temps perdu
A savoir comment
Oublier ces heures
Qui tuaient parfois
A coups de pourquoi
Le coeur du bonheur
Ne me quitte pas

Don't leave me
We must forget
All we can forget all we have done
Let's forget the cost of the breath
We've spent saying words unmeant
And the times we've lost hours that must destroy
Never knowing why everything must die at the heart of joy
Don't leave me

Moi je t'offrirai
Des perles de pluie
Venues de pays
Où il ne pleut pas
Je creuserai la terre
Jusqu'après ma mort
Pour couvrir ton corps
D'or et de lumière
Je ferai un domaine
Où l'amour sera roi
Où l'amour sera loi
Où tu seras reine
Ne me quitte pas

I'll bring back to you pearls of rain
From a distant land where rain never fell
And until my death I'll keep mining the ground
To cover your body in gold and light
I'll build you a domain where love is law
Where love is king and you are queen
Don't leave me

Ne me quitte pas
Je t'inventerai
Des mots insensés
Que tu comprendras
Je te parlerai
De ces amants-là
Qui ont vue deux fois
Leurs coeurs s'embraser
Je te raconterai
L'histoire de ce roi
Mort de n'avoir pas
Pu te rencontrer
Ne me quitte pas

Don't leave me
For you I'll invent
Meaningless words that you will understand
Tales of lovers who fell apart and then fell in love again
I will tell you of a king
Who died from not meeting you
Don't leave me

On a vu souvent
Rejaillir le feu
De l'ancien volcan
Qu'on croyait trop vieux
Il est paraît-il
Des terres brûlées
Donnant plus de blé
Qu'un meilleur avril
Et quand vient le soir
Pour qu'un ciel flamboie
Le rouge et le noir
Ne s'épousent-ils pas
Ne me quitte pas

Often we've seen that flames spill anew
From an ancient volcano we thought too old
When all's said and done scorched fields
Could give more corn than the finest April
And when evening is nigh with flames overhead
The black and the red aren't they married in the sky
Don't leave me

Ne me quitte pas
Je ne vais plus pleurer
Je ne vais plus parler
Je me cacherai là
A te regarder
Danser et sourire
Et à t'écouter
Chanter et puis rire
Laisse-moi devenir
L'ombre de ton ombre
L'ombre de ta main
L'ombre de ton chien
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas
Ne me quitte pas

Don't leave me
I will cry no more
I will talk no more hide myself
To watch you dance and smile
And hear you sing and laugh
Let me be the shadow of your shadow
The shadow of your hand
The shadow of your dog
Don't leave me

A cry making song. Hear this song, and it reaches right into the bit of you that you hoped you'd left behind, and gives a cruel pinch to your most abject, humiliating memories of rejection. Makes you fall in love again with love, grim and pointless; love, mocking, transient, and debilitating. But see this song...

The greatest art does not transcend the mundane, but transforms it. Jacques Brel wrote this song after his lover, having undergone an abortion due to his refusal to accept the paternity of their child, left him. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the guy. This gut-wrenchingly beautiful piece of poetry was the fruit of sordid self-delusion on the part of a buck toothed, scrawny manchild: that very flash of unreasoning self-pity that comes with the realisation that a love affair is really over, the very instant of its collapsing beyond repair.

An unsympathetic figure in life, Brel remains an unsympathetic figure in art. He does not fall into the trap of confessional sentimentality, never invites the audience to share his own feelings, never seeks approval or agreement. His uncompromising aim is to force out of his audience their own thoughts and emotions, their own backdrops to the centerpieces of his stories. Sobbing into the closed-up camera, he does not ask you to feel for him, but performs the ultimate act of creative heroism: opens a door to a landscape of intimate torment and invites you to feel.

Translation courtesy of http://www.high-priestess.com/ with some modifications of my own.

A video of Jacques Brel performing the song can be found at http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=425176058583199440.

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