Mon Enfance By Jacques Brel: English Translation

Below is my poetic translation of ‘Mon Enfance’ 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 Childhood (Poetic Translation)

My childhood passed by 
In grey silence 
In false reverence 
And a lack of fights 
In winter I was held 
In the belly of a big house 
That had thrown down its anchors 
In the weeds in the south 

In spring half nude 
But completely modest 
I became a red Indian 
Already completely certain 
That my uncles had stolen 
The far west from me 

My childhood passed by 
With women in the kitchen 
Dreaming of china 
Growing old on the side 
Men at the table 
Enveloped in smoke 
Strong, wise and thoughtful 
And they thought that I was a joke 

Me who every night 
Arpeggiated all my sorrow 
Praying to a god I’d never know 
At foot of a double bed 
I wanted to go on an adventure 
I haven’t been on yet 

My childhood passed by 
From maid to maid 
I was always surprised 
When they never stayed 
I was surprised once again 
To be part of this family 
Strolling from death to death 
Without having time to grieve 

I was surprised and shocked 
To be one of this flock 

Being seen but never heard 
Learning to cry myself to sleep 
I had the eyes of the shepherd 
But the heart of the sheep 

Then my childhood blew up 
Here was adolescence 
And the wall of silence 
One morning tumbled down 
Here was the first flower 
The first cheer 
The first lover 
The first fear 

I was flying I swear 
I swear I was flying 
My heart was opening wide 
I was no longer uncivilised 

Then the war arrived 
And here we are tonight

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