Lyric Earwig

This song was in my head a great deal this week. And by “in my head” I mean that every time I woke up in the night for four nights running, this song was playing on my internal soundtrack. I found myself humming it when my mind wasn’t on anything else. I sang it, always in French, though I have only half-memorized the words, so there was a good deal of mumbling inside my head. Over and over and over. For four days, all day, all night, even in my sleep. Even in my dreams.

It’s always been a song, not a poem per se. The music was written by Kurt Weill in 1934, during his exile in France, as incidental music for the play Marie Galante.

The music, which I adore, is a tango in the style of a habanera. It’s sweet and sad and exactly captures the longing for escape from what Europe had become in the 1930s, or was about to become. Within a year of writing this music, Weill would flee France for the United States — one of the lucky few.

The song was given lyrics in 1946 by Roger Fernay. Fernay, the son of a music publisher, studied to become a lawyer but decided he’d rather be an actor instead. He worked on the French stage for about a decade, then became a writer for stage and screen. He spent the rest of his career unionizing writers and working on international copyright law. “Youkali” is his principal claim to fame.

Here is the exquisite Ute Lemper, the German chanteuse and actress renowned for her interpretation of the work of Kurt Weill, performing it exquisitely:

Youkali

by Roger Fernay (my translation interspersed throughout)

C’est presqu’au bout du monde
Ma barque vagabonde
Errant au gré de l’onde
M’y conduisit un jour
L’île est toute petite
Mais la fée que l’habite
Gentiment nous invite
A en faire le tour

It was almost at world’s end
That my vagabond little boat,
Wandering at the will of the waves,
Conducted me one day.
The island is very small
But the spirit that lives there
Kindly invited us
To take a walk  around

Youkali, c’est le pays de nos désirs
Youkali, c’est le bonheur, c’est le plaisir
Youkali, c’est la terre où l’on quitte tous les soucis
C’est, dans notre nuit, comme une éclaircie
L’étoile qu’on suit
C’est Youkali

Youkali, it’s the land of our desires
Youkali, it’s happiness, it’s pleasure
Youkali, it’s the land where you leave all your worries behind
It’s like a shaft of light in a dark night
The star we follow
It’s Youkali

Youkali, c’est le respect de tous les voeux échangés
Youkali, c’est le pays des beaux amours partagés
C’est l’espérance
Qui est au coeur de tous les humains
La délivrance
Que nous attendons tous pour demain

Youkali, it’s the respect from vows that are exchanged
Youkali, it’s the land where loves are shared
It’s the hope
In every human heart
Tomorrow’s deliverance
That we all await today

Youkali, c’est le pays de nos désirs
Youkali, c’est le bonheur, c’est le plaisir
Mais c’est un rêve, une folie
Il n’y a pas de Youkali

Youkali, it’s the land of our desires
Youkali, it’s happiness, it’s pleasure—
But it’s only a dream, a madness:
There is no Youkali.

Et la vie nous entraîne
Lassante, quotidienne
Mais la pauvre âme humaine
Cherchant partout l’oubli
A, pour quitter la terre
Se trouver le mystère
Où rêves se terrent
En quelque Youkali

And life carries us along
In tedium, day by day.
But the poor human soul,
Searching everywhere for oblivion,
Has, in order to escape the world,
Managed to find the mystery
Where dreams burrow themselves
In some Youkali.

Youkali, c’est le pays de nos désirs
Youkali, c’est le bonheur, c’est le plaisir
Mais c’est un rêve, une folie
Il n’y a pas de Youkali

Youkali, it’s the land of our desires
Youkali, it’s happiness, it’s pleasure—
But it’s only a dream, a madness:
There is no Youkali.

Advertisements
Categories: Poetry Sundays | 1 Comment

Post navigation

One thought on “Lyric Earwig

  1. indigo bunting

    Beautiful and haunting.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: