20 December 2013

Jacques Prevert: The Little Donkey

I don't think you have to speak French to get the humor of the original poem once you know the gist of the story.  The meaning crosses the language barrier quite well thanks to several words with common Latin roots .   My rough English translation is my holiday offering to readers.  Joyeux Noel !

"Être ange     -  (To be an angel)
c'est  l'estrange   - (is strange)  
dit l’ange       -  (said the angel)         
Être âne   -  (To be a donkey)
C’est étrâne  –  (is strange)
dit l’âne  –  (said the donkey)
Cela ne veut rien dire  –  (That's not saying anything)
dit l’ange en haussant les ailes –  (said the angel raising its wings)
Pourtant -  (However)
si étrange veut dire quelque chose –  (it s strange to say something)
étrâne est plus étrange qu’étrange –  (strange and stranger than strange)
dit l’âne  –  (said the donkey)
Étrange est –  (Strangeness is)
dit l’ange en tapant des pieds  -  (said the angel stamping its feet)
Étranger vous-même –  (Stranger yourself)
dit l’âne  –  (said the donkey)
Et il s’envole.' -  (And the angel  disappeared).
 - from  Bim - Le petit ane  by Jacques Prévert,and Albert Lamorisse, Paris, Hachette: 1952.  

Jacques Prevert (1900-1977) was a French poet and screenwriter. It was the Hungarian composer Joseph Kosma who was the human bridge between Prevert's two worlds.  While working with filmmaker Marcel Carne in the 1930s, the two men met.  When Prevert's collected poems were published in Paroles (1945), Kosma set several of them to music, most memorably Les feuilles morts (Autumn Leaves).  The song was featured in the 1946 film Les portes de la nuit (The Doors of Night), the last collaboration between Prevert and Carne. 

Image: Kees van Dongen - Le petit ane sur la plage, c.1930, Musee de l'Annonciade, Saint-Tropez.


Tania said...

The little donkey & walkers, nice !
"Etre ange" : the poem was on the wall in my studentroom. Je l'adore.

jane said...

Thank you, Tania, for the inspiration. I love it, too.

Prevert's "Contes pour enfants pas sages" , illustrated by Elsa Henriques, is a delightful book, also,that our local library has.

Patricia said...

I love Jacques Prévert et Kees van Dongen. Merci beaucoup, Jane, it's a beautiful post.

Jane said...

Patricia, moi aussi. Joyeux Noel.

silvermedusa said...

Thank you so much for this lovely post.
When I was a child, I grew up with a donkey and I remember this beautiful movie about Bim.
I am so happy to found someone who also loves Bim.

Best regards

Jane said...

Silvermedusa, to be a donkey may be strange but to have one as a childhood companion must have been wonderful. I didn't know there was a movie about Bim. I will try to find it. Thank you so much.

Thérèse said...