pauvre rutebeuf

Josef Albers, Diptic, 1934


Presentation and translation of the lyrics of the song composed by Léo Ferré

Of Ruthebeuf, French poet of the XNUMXth century, little is known. A satirical and confessional poet, as well as a writer of hagiographies and plays, he stands out not only for the diversity of his work, but for his frank and direct way of expression, beyond the troubadour conventions of his time. The XNUMXth-century satirical poetry is, in fact, considered one of the important moments (and one of the main literary means) of the historical process of development of Old French, the so-called (generally speaking, as a set of languages ​​or dialects) langue d'oil.

In Rutebeuf's poetry, the poet is the central character of many of his verses in which he complains and appeals to the king and the powerful of the time about his adverse living conditions, material difficulties, poverty, loneliness. In fact, apparently nothing remains of the poet's figure in contemporary literature and chronicles, but posterity has done him some justice from the literary specialists and scholars of the XNUMXth century.

From the language of his verses, it was concluded that Rutebeuf was Parisian, by adoption if not by origin, he lived, suffered and wrote there, exercising the extremely unstable profession of troubadour. From his verses, some experts deduced that his production was mainly literary in the strict sense, that is, to be read, which places the poet, despite so many and bitter complaints about his condition, on a scale slightly superior to the minstrels of public squares. Superior, but no less unstable.

Be that as it may, the poet's frank and vigorous expression tells us as much about the hardships of his life as about his poetic creation: the poetry of human misery unfolds in it into the necessary or inevitable "misery" of poetry, that is: from personal suffering the poet extracts the material from his art, as a protest, as a complaint that consoles and, at the same time, in the result, in the poem as creation, as a kind of celebration: the transmutation, so to speak, of personal pain into artistic expression. Transfigured suffering is here the prosperity of poetry.

The personal and powerful voice of the poet named Rutebeuf, the “rustic ox”, speaks to us from close up, crossing the centuries. It inspired one of the most beautiful melodies of French popular song of the XNUMXth century, a composition by one of its most inspired creators and interpreters, the genius musician and poet Léo Ferré.

Born in Monaco, Léo Ferré (1913-1993), of Franco-Italian origin, was one of the great composers and performers of French song in the XNUMXth century. As a modern troubadour, he expressed in his work, intensely personal and of great musical richness, the conflicts and hopes of his and our time. In music, as much as in poetry, Ferré's work bridges the gap between the erudite and the popular (and in this particular point, it reminds us of the same fertilization between different registers that characterizes the best of the tradition of modern Brazilian popular music, from Pixinguinha to Tom Jobim, Egberto Gismonti, Hermeto Pascoal, among many others).

From his erudite training, Ferré brought to popular music the melodic and harmonic sophistication of the modern French tradition, from Debussy to Ravel. From his immersion in the literature and poetics of surrealism, he created verses and poetic images of great impact and beauty. His poetic sensitivity led him to set poems by Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Apollinaire, Aragon, among others, to music. A man immersed in his time, he gave a poetic voice to anarchism as a revolutionary project of human emancipation in the second half of the 1968th century and celebrated rebellion, utopia and the revolution of the May Days of XNUMX.

Pauvre Rutebeuf, one of the most beautiful melodies by the French composer, was created in 1955, inspired by the verses and experiences of the poet from the XNUMXth century. The lyrics of Léo Ferré's song compile the troubadour's verses in a unit of their own. The translation we offer here (with the specialists' pardon) does not aim at philological fidelity (since the medieval troubadour's French was partly modernized in the song) or even literary, but at indicating to the reader the general meaning of the verses, that is, a reading possible and “subject to possible modifications”.

The song was recorded and re-recorded by its author and by several interpreters, in France and abroad, among which we can mention Catherine Sauvage, Nana Mouskouri and Joan Baez (in a sensitive, sober interpretation and in more than reasonable French that deserves to be heard ). Nana Mouskouri's interpretation, accompanied by the guitar, highlights the sophisticated simplicity and purity of Léo Ferre's melody and, in its measured and somewhat “intimate” expression, the characteristic confessional “frankness” of the poem.


Pauvre Rutebeuf / Poor Rutebeuf

Leo Ferre, 1955
[Translation: Marcelo Guimarães Lima]
Que sont month friend devenus
Qua j'avais de si près tenus
Et tan aimés

Ils ont été trop clairsemés
Je crois le vent les a ôtés
L'amour est morte

Ce sont amis que venta portage
Et il ventait devant ma porte
less matters

Avec le temps qu'arbre défeuille
When I don't rest on the branch,
Qui n'aille à terre

Avec pauvreté qui m'atterre
Qui departout made me the war
L'amour est morte

Ne convenient pas que vous raconte
Comment je me suis mis à honte
In that manière

Que sont month friend devenus
That you j'avais of yourself près tenus
Et tan aimés

Ils ont été trop clairsemés
Je crois le vent les a ôtés
L'amour est morte

Le mal ne sait pas seoul venir
Tout ce qui m'était à venir
m'est avenue

Pauvre sens et pauvre mémoire
M'a Dieu donné le roi de gloire
Et pauvre rente

Et droit sur moi quand bise vente
Let me come
Le vent m'évente
L'amour est morte

Ce sont amis que venta portage
Et il ventait devant ma porte
Les matters…

what happened to my friends
that I had them so close
And I loved them so much

They became so sparse
I believe the wind took them
love died

They are such friends that the wind takes and brings
And it blew in front of my door
They were taken

With the time that defoliates the trees
When there are no leaves left on the branches
That has not been dropped to the ground

With the poverty that afflicts and slaughters me
That makes me war everywhere
love died

It is not appropriate to tell them
What a shameful situation I found myself in
and in what way

What happened to my friends,
That I had them so close to me
And I loved them so much

They became so sparse
I believe the wind took them
love died

Evil does not know how to come unaccompanied
everything that was waiting for me
happened to me

Poor sense and poor memory
Gave me my God, the King of glory,
and meager income

And when the cold breeze blows over me
the wind comes to me
And the wind discovers me
love died

They are such friends that the wind takes and brings
And it blew in front of my door
They were taken…

*Marcelo Guimaraes Lima is a writer, researcher, teacher and visual artist. Author of Heterchronia and Vansihing Viewpoints – art chronicles and essays (Metasenta Publications).



Leo Ferré:

Nana Mouskuri:

Joan Baez:

Catherine Sauvage:

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