Thursday, October 18, 2007

Ne Me Quit Pas

Lyrics in Songwriting Example:
"Ne Me Quit Pas" music and lyrics by Jacques Brel
English Translation: "Don't Leave Me Now" lyrics by Des de Moor

This song has long been my favorite Jacques Brel song - whether it's sung in English or French. I will say here however, that I'm not a big fan of the most popular English lyric translation, "If You Go Away" recorded by Sinatra and many others. The below lyrics are translated as "Don't Leave Me Now" and are much closer to the original French lyric than "If You Go Away" although I suspect that, even so, some of its beauty may have also gotten lost in translation.

In any event, I am struck by the poignancy of the lyrics (the pleading and promises) as well as the interesting phrasing. Notice the 'pivotal' lines in the verses -- for instance is the phrase 'all we can forget we must forget' or is it 'we must forget all we did till now'? Is the phrase 'for you I'll invent words and what they meant' or is it 'And what they meant only you will know'? Lots of play and interpretation for a good song stylist (aka vocalist). Also take note of the internal rhyming in the bridges (i.e. scorched fields of defeat will give us more wheat).

"Ne Me Quit Pas"
By Jacques Brel (music and lyrics)
English Translation "Don't Leave Me Now" lyrics by Des de Moor

Don't leave me now
All we can forget
We must just forget
All we did till now
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 now
Don't leave me now
Don't leave me now

I'll bring to you the clear pearls of rain
From a distant domain where rain never fell
And though I grow old I'll keep mining the ground
To deck you around in sunlight and gold
I'll build you a domain where love's everything
Where love is the king and you are the queen
Don't leave me now
Don't leave me now
Don't leave me now
Don't leave me now

For you I'll invent words
And what they meant
Only you will know
Tales of lovers who fell apart
And then fell in love again
Since their hearts stayed true
There's a story too
That I can confide
Of that king who died
From not meeting you
Don't leave me now
Don't leave me now
Don't leave me now

And often it's true that flames spill anew
From ancient volcanos we thought were too old
When all's said and done scorched fields of defeat
Will give us more wheat than the fine April sun
And when evening is nigh with flames overhead
The black and the red aren't they joined in the sky
Don't leave me now
Don't leave me now
Don't leave me now
Don't leave me now

I will cry no more
I will talk no more
Hide myself somehow
And I'll see you smile
And I'll see you dance
And I'll hear you sing
Hear your laughter ring
Let me be for you
The shadow of your shadow
The shadow of your hand
The dog at your command
Don't leave me now
Don't leave me now
Don't leave me now

PS: There's a wonderful version of this song by Barb Jungr on a CD called Chanson: The Space In Between. Actually the entire CD is well worth the investment. All of the songs are wonderful...not one dud. Beautiful arrangements and interpretations.

Chanson: The Space In Between

Jacques Brel and Barb Jungr Links:
Barb Jungr: Chanson: The Space In Between
Jacques Brel Wikipedia
Ne Me Quitte Pas Wikipedia
Barb Jungr Wikipedia


  1. What's missing is the juxta position between the Verses of Dispair and hope dying as an ember.

    At the end he doesn't say that he will be the dog at your command but the shadow of the dog at your command - Any compromise just to be near.

    This is the closest translation though.

    I still feel that something is missing if it's not heard in origional French - without seeming pretentious (Maybe it's better in Chinese, Arabic or Hebrew -but I don't speak those languages?)

  2. very nice. its good