Mon Pere Disait By Jacques Brel: English Translation

Below is my poetic translation of ‘Mon Pere Disait’ by Jacques Brel. Particular attention has been paid to keeping the rhyme and flow of the piece while retaining the poetic origins of the French lyric.


My father said:
It’s the north wind that makes the sea walls creak
At Scheveningen, at Scheveningen, petit,
It’s so strong we no longer know who sails the sea, the North Sea.
It’s the north wind that blows through eyes of Norsemen
Young and old, young and old,
And makes the tears (from the north)
Start to rise, start to rise in their eyes.

My father said:
It’s the north wind that spins the earth around Bruges,
Around Bruges kiddo.
It’s the north wind that spins the earth around the towers
Of Bruges and Gand
It gave our girls the peaceful look of old towns, of old towns,
It gave our girls the fragile hair that lays like lace
On their nightgowns, on their nightgowns.

My father said:
It’s the north wind that shakes the earth
At Zeebrugge, at Zebrugge, little one.
It’s the north wind that shakes the earth
Between Zeebrugge and England.
And London, before the flood,
Was the tip of Bruges teasing the sea.
And now London’s a part of Bruges
Lost at sea, lost at sea, lost at sea.

My father said:
It’s the north wind that’ll bury my body, facing the sea.
It’s the north wind that’ll make a captain out of me.
And the whales and the tides, I’ll tame them all;
Just wait and see.
It will make me captain of those I love and the waves.

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