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Rymill Park, Adelaide

C’est une vraiment belle chanson. C’est très mélancolique mais j’adore cette chanson.

I have decided to start posting photos taken by Kevin. Coming up to five years after his death, I am now able to enjoy his beautiful shots fully, without the sharp pang of loss that mars the reminiscing these photos usually bring.

More commonly known as Autumn Leaves, Les Feuilles Mortes is my favourite French song of all time. The literal translation of the song title is – The Dead Leaves. I remember the first time I heard this song. The haunting melancholic melody struck me deep down in my soul. I had no idea why. I didn’t even understand a single word of the lyrics. (It was before I began my French studies.) But something in that song moved me. I felt the aching emptiness of lost love that the author was trying to convey, without even understanding the words. Today, being able to understand the lyrics, has made me fall in love with this song even more so. The English translation of this song tries to maintain the spirit of the original French lyrics, but it falls short of conveying that deep melancholy that the French lyrics does so well, IMO.

This song was first introduced to the world in 1946 by Yves Montand in his film Les Portes de la Nuit. The music was written by Joseph Kosman, and the parole is by the famous poet Jacques Prévert. I love Prévert’s writing. It appears so simple. Simple enough that even someone like me with a limited grasp of the language can understand it, but the honesty and clarity of the words cuts right to the bone.

Over the years, there has been numerous versions of this song by many different singers. Even the inimitable Nat King Cole had a shot at it. But for me, no one comes close to the original singer of the song, Yves Montand. My favourite is his performance at the Olympia. Here are the beautiful lyrics, and my amateurish attempt to translate it. I am not translating it word for word as the grammar and words don’t always translate well directly to English, and I have had to subtitute some words because it sounds so horrible in English. For example la pelle = shovel.

Oh ! je voudrais tant que tu te souviennes.
Des jours heureux où nous étions amis.
En ce temps-là la vie était plus belle,
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu’aujourd’hui.

Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle.
Tu vois, je n’ai pas oublié…
Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi

Et le vent du nord les emporte
Dans la nuit froide de l’oubli.
Tu vois, je n’ai pas oublié
La chanson que tu me chantais.

C’est une chanson qui nous ressemble.
Toi, tu m’aimais et je t’aimais
Et nous vivions tous les deux ensemble,
Toi qui m’aimais, moi qui t’aimais.

Mais la vie sépare ceux qui s’aiment,
Tout doucement, sans faire de bruit
Et la mer efface sur le sable
Les pas des amants désunis.

Les feuilles mortes se ramassent à la pelle,
Les souvenirs et les regrets aussi
Mais mon amour silencieux et fidèle
Sourit toujours et remercie la vie.
Je t’aimais tant, tu étais si jolie.
Comment veux-tu que je t’oublie?
En ce temps-là, la vie était plus belle
Et le soleil plus brûlant qu’aujourd’hui.
Tu étais ma plus douce amie
Mais je n’ai que faire des regrets
Et la chanson que tu chantais,
Toujours, toujours je l’entendrai !

My attempt at an English translation:
Oh how badly I want you to remember
The happy days when we were friends
In that moment when life was so beautiful
And the sun shone so much more brilliantly

The falling leaves are gathering
You see, I have not forgotten…
The falling leaves are gathering
Gathering together my memories and regrets.

And the north wind carries them away
Into the cold, forgotten night.
You see, I have not forgotten…
The song that you sang to me.

It is a song that resembles us
You, you loved me and I loved you
And we lived together
You who loved me, and I who loved you

But life separates her lovers
So softly, without making a sound
And the sea erases on the sand
The footprints of lovers now disunited

The falling leaves are gathering
Gathering together my memories and regrets.
But my silent and faithful love
Smile always and be grateful for life
I loved you so much, you were so beautiful
How could I ever forget you?
In that moment when life was so beautiful
And the sun shone so much more brilliantly
You were my softer friend
But now I have only regrets
And the song that you sang to me
Always, always remains in my memory.

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