2010 October 10

The Deathbed

English lyrics by Elliot Thomas Grant, from Le Moribond by Jacques Brel

Farewell, Emile, I loved you well
Farewell, Emile, I loved you well, you know
We drank together the same wine
Together praised the women fine
And your cares were always mine

Farewell, Emile, I’m going to die
And though it’s hard to die in spring, you know,
I leave the peace I knew in life
And since your heart’s good as gold
I know you’ll take care of my wife

I hope they laugh
I hope they dance
I hope like fools they rant and rave
I hope they laugh
I hope they dance
When they drop me in my grave

Farewell, old priest, I loved you well
Farewell, old priest, I loved you well you know
Though we opened different doors,
Though we sailed toward different shores,
We arrived at the same port

Farewell, old priest, I’m going to die
And though it’s hard to die in spring, you know,
I leave the peace I knew in life
And since you were her confidant
I know you’ll take care of my wife

[Refrain]

Farewell, Antoine, though we weren’t friends
Farewell, Antoine, we were not friends, you know
My body’s wracked and torn by strife
But you, I see, are full of life
Hard as a rock, sharp as a knife

Farewell, Antoine, I’m going to die
And though it’s hard to die in spring, you know,
I leave the peace I knew in life
And since you were her lover then
I know you’ll take care of my wife

[Refrain]

Farewell, my wife, I loved you well
Farewell, my wife, I loved you well, you know
I can hear that whistle blow
Heaven’s train is coming slow
I’ll ride up, you’ll stay below

Farewell, my wife, I’m going to die
Although it’s hard to die in spring, you know
My eyes are closing, my dear wife,
And since I shut them to your lies
I know you’ll cherish my lost life

[Refrain]

…just to walk through a little of the translation thought process, I’ll focus on the title. Trying to make as exact a translation as possible, my first thought was to use the English word “moribund.” Unfortunately, it’s an adjective—and not a very common one at that. “The Moribund” felt forced and unnatural.

“The Dying Man” didn’t match the word pattern (and sounded like a bad Sherlock Holmes short story.) I was intrigued for a while by “Deathbound,” which echoed the final consonents. But again, it wasn’t a noun. Playing off that, however, led to the happy choice of “The Deathbed.” It matches the original word pattern, is a common English phrase, fit the mood of the song perfectly, and even carried over the final “b-d” consonents. Works for me.