Valentine: "Ma plus belle histoire d'amour" by Barbara

For Valentine's Day, a favourite love song, "Ma plus belle histoire d'amour", written and sung by the beloved chanteuse, Barbara.

Even if you don't understand the French, watch. Barbara transcends, with her touching yet bold glamour. Fusing passion, melancholy, respect and a keen sense of time passing, Barbara sang from an experienced heart.

I asked Le Duc to translate the lyrics. He said, "I cannot, it simply would lose so much." "But people want to know what it's about", I protested. An English adaptation is below the French lyrics, with the caveat that the poetry and passion will be diluted.

Du plus loin, que me revienne
L'ombre de mes amours anciennes
Du plus loin, du premier rendez-vous
Du temps des premières peines
Lors, j'avais quinze ans, à peine
Coeur tout blanc, et griffes aux genoux
Que ce furent, j'étais précoce
De tendres amours de gosse
Ou les morsures d'un amour fou
Du plus loin qu'il m'en souvienne
Si depuis, j'ai dit "je t'aime"
Ma plus belle histoire d'amour, c'est vous

C'est vrai, je ne fus pas sage
Et j'ai tourné bien des pages
Sans les lire, blanches, et puis rien dessus
C'est vrai, je ne fus pas sage
Et mes guerriers de passage
A peine vus, déjà disparus
Mais à travers leur visage
C'était déjà votre image
C'était vous déjà et le coeur nu
Je refaisais mes bagages
Et poursuivais mon mirage,
Ma plus belle histoire d'amour, c'est vous

Sur la longue route
Qui menait vers vous
Sur la longue route
J'allais le coeur fou
Le vent de décembre
Me gelait au cou
Qu'importait décembre
Si c'était pour vous

Elle fut longue la route
Mais je l'ai faite, la route
Celle-là, qui menait jusqu'à vous
Et je ne suis pas parjure
Si ce soir, je vous jure
Que, pour vous, je l'eus faite à genoux
Il en eut fallu bien d'autres
Que quelques mauvais apôtres
Que l'hiver ou la neige à mon cou
Pour que je perde patience
Et j'ai calmé ma violence,
Ma plus belle histoire d'amour, c'est vous,

Les temps d'hiver et d'automne
De nuit, de jour, et personne
Vous n'étiez jamais au rendez-vous
Et de vous, perdant courage
Soudain, me prenait la rage
Mon Dieu, que j'avais besoin de vous
Que le Diable vous emporte
D'autres m'ont ouvert leur porte
Heureuse, je m'en allais loin de vous
Oui, je vous fus infidèle
Mais vous revenais quand même,
Ma plus belle histoire d'amour, c'est vous

J'ai pleuré mes larmes
Mais qu'il me fut doux
Oh, qu'il me fut doux
Ce premier sourire de vous
Et pour une larme
Qui venait de vous
J'ai pleuré d'amour
Vous souvenez-vous?

Ce fut, un soir, en septembre
Vous étiez venus m'attendre
Ici même, vous en souvenez-vous?
A vous regarder sourire
A vous aimer, sans rien dire
C'est là que j'ai compris, tout à coup
J'avais fini mon voyage
Et j'ai posé mes bagages
Vous étiez venus au rendez-vous
Qu'importe ce qu'on peut en dire
Je tenais à vous le dire
Ce soir je vous remercie de vous
Qu'importe ce qu'on peut en dire
Je suis venue pour vous dire,
Ma plus belle histoire d'amour, c'est vous

Deep, deep in my memories,
In the shadows of my ancient loves
Of my first broken hearts
I remember that first rendez-vous
I was but fifteen, barely,
All scabby knees and a virgin heart
They were — I was quite precocious —
The tender loves of adolescence
Or the bite of an "amour fou"
Deep, deep in my memories
If I've ever said since "I love you"
Know that my deepest love, ever, is you

It's true I was a bad girl
I turned many pages
Never reading them, all those empty pages
It's true I was a bad girl
All my warriors between battles,
Barely seen, they would quickly vanish
But in their faces, even then,
It was your image I saw
And with naked heart
I would pack my bags
To pursue my mirage,
Know that my deepest love, ever, is you

On the long road
that lead to you
On that long road
My heart was going crazy
The winds of December
chilled me to the bone
But I never worried about December
If it was for you

The road was long
But I walked it, that road
That led to you
And I do not lie
When I say to you tonight
That, for you, I would have done it on my knees
It would have taken much more
Than a few bad apostles
Than Winter or snow 'round my neck
To wear down my patience
So I calmed my violence
Know that my deepest love, ever, is you

The times of Winter and Fall
Of night, of day, and nobody
You were never at the rendez-vous
And suddenly, losing courage
I would rage in anger about you
My God, how I needed you
The hell with you
Others opened their door to me
Happy, I would go far from you
Yes, I was unfaithful
But still I came back to you
Know that my deepest love, ever, is you

I cried my tears
But how sweet it was
Oh, how sweet it was
That first smile from you
And, for a tear
that came from you
I cried with love
Do you remember?

It was an evening in September
You had come to wait for me
In this very spot, do you remember?
It was watching you smile
Loving you with no word said
That I understood, all of a sudden,
That my journey was over
I could lay my luggage down
You had come to our rendez-vous
No matter what people say
I wanted to say to you
Tonight I thank you for you
No matter what people say
I came to say to you:
Know that my deepest love, ever, is you


Susan B said…
J'adore Barbara! I read the lyrics first before listening, and was surprised and delighted by the almost innocent, softly bittersweet tune and delivery. It's really, really lovely. Happy Valentine's Day, Duchesse!
Anonymous said…
Duchesse, your husband is right, "traduire c'est trahir". In this case, the lovely poem loses all resonance for me in English. Although correctly rendered, it does not touch my soul. Of course Barbara's voice, oh my! Thank you so much for this.

Barbara is one of my favourite singers and /lyricist/composers; her lyrics are indeed very "adult", with a complex take on love and life. Very dark at times but with a strong appetite for living, so I wouldn't call her "world-weary". She didn't spend a ver long time in the Elegant Years, dying at 67, but was very much a "mature" artist.

As a youth, she survived both living on the run from the Nazis and French collaborators under the occupation and her father's own abuse, but these early terrors are only evoked elliptically in her body of work.

She was devoted to causes involving disadvantaged children, and towards the end of her too-short life, to support to people with AIDS, when that cause was still very controversial.

The lyrics here are polysemic, but the "vous" can definitely be interpreted to mean her public.
Duchesse said…
pseu: Thanks, I listen to it over and over.

Kirin: Yes, I almost did not provide them for that reason.

lagatta: She has said the subject is her public, but I never bought that. (Barbara was notorious for her complexity, reversals concerning her past to would-be biographers and quixotic nature.) The "vous" could indicate a a much older man, or a man who was also an authority figure or, a much darker reference, to her father, as some have thought. "Nantes" is an incredibly moving song too.
Unknown said…
My French is not quite up to knowing every word however I understood the flavour and the sentiment. French is truly a very romantic and complex language.
materfamilias said…
Lovely, thank you so much.
eveange66 said…
Yes it is true, Barbara always said and claimed she wrote this song for her particular "love affair" with her public and we, in France, although it can seems not romantic enough for this Valentine's Day, do buy it as you say. Although quite reserved Barbara was also quite honest so, sorry for breaking your romantic dreams about this song.
Duchesse said…
eveange66: I have heard a number of writers claim the object of their love song is the audience; it is a convention of those wishing privacy, but I am still not convinced.
LPC said…
Music is so personal. I have a deep need for gravel in the voice when I want to feel deeply:).
Anonymous said…
thank you for posting the translation--- i have looked several times for a decent translation on the internet, but they all butchered the lyrics with automatic translators etc.

i first heard the song in the closing scene of "Amour Fou"... Catherine Deneuve sings it to YVes St Laurent at the conclusion of his final haute couture show. deneuve doesn't do a bad job, but no match for barbara.

- julius
Duchesse said…
julius: I saw that scene and wondered whether she intended to reference only the title. The lyrics speak of an arduous, demanding, consuming love. Perhaps Deneuve was acknowledging St. Laurent's very difficult life and the demands of his work.

If the song is, as Barbara once said, about her love for the audience, maybe she was thinking of that, too.
Mama Jenny said…
Not convinced either. Far too passionate and personal to be a song to her public.

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