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La Goualante De Pauvre Jean (The Poor People Of Paris)

By Thomas Keyes
Mar. 31, 2005

“La Goualante de Pauvre Jean” literally means “The Ballad of Poor John” but, in English, is usually entitled “The Poor People of Paris”. This may be because “Jean” (John) and “gens” (people) have the same pronunciation. Anyway, this is a song about a big-time Parisian hustler who eventually gets arrested, so the usual English title is misleading, making it sound as if the song had been intended to extol the virtues or merry nature of the Parisian poor. The song is full of Parisian slang that I don’t know and couldn’t find, so I had to make a shrewd guess or two in my translation. If anyone knows better, let him contact me by e-mail.

The music was composed by Marguerite Monnot (1903-1961) to lyrics written by René Rouzaud. The song was made famous by French songstress Edith Piaf. It was introduced in 1961 in the US, and I have known of the song since then, but learned the French lyrics only in 2003.

The music can be heard at the following URL:

http://www.rpaige.com/poorpeopleofparis.mid

LA GOUALANTE DE PAUVRE JEAN (French Lyrics)

Esgourdez rien qu’un instant
La goualante du pauvre Jean,
Que les femmes n’aimaient pas,
Mais n’oubliez pas,
Dans la vie y a qu’une morale
Qu’on soit riche ou sans un sou,
Sans amour on n’est rien de tout,
Sans amour on n’est rien de tout.

Il vivait au jour le jour
Dans la soie et le velours.
Il piaussait dans de beaux draps,
Mais n’oubliez pas,
Dans la vie on est peau d’balle
Quand notre cœur est a clou.
Sans amour on n’est rien de tout.
Sans amour on n’est rien de tout.

Il bectait chez les barons.
Il guinchait dans les salons
Et lichait tous les tafias,
Mais n’oubliez pas,
Rien ne vaut une belle fille
Qui partage notre ragoût.
Sans amour on n’est rien de tout.
Sans amour on n’est rien de tout.

Pour gagner des picaillons,
Il fut un méchant larron.
On le saluait bien bas,
Mais n’oubliez pas.
Un jour on fait la pirouette,
Et derrière les verrous,
Sans amour on n’est rien de tout.
Sans amour on n’est rien de tout.

Esgourdez bien, jeune gens.
Profitez de vos vingt ans.
On ne les a qu’une fois,
Mais n’oubliez pas,
Plutôt qu’une cordelette
Mieux vaut une femme a son cou.
Sans amour on n’est rien de tout.
Sans amour on n’est rien de tout.

Et voilà, mes brave gens
La goualante de pauvre Jean,
Qui vous dit en vous quittant,
« Aimez vous ! »

LA GOUALANTE DE PAUVRE JEAN (English Translation)

Listen just a minute
To the ballad of poor John,
Whom the women do not like,
But don’t forget,
In life there is a moral,
Whether he is rich or penniless,
Without love, one is nothing at all,
Without love, one is nothing at all.

He lived from day to day,
In silk and velvet.
He went about in fine clothes,
But don’t forget,
In life, we are nothing
When our heart is in pain.
Without love, one is nothing at all.
Without love, one is nothing at all.

He visited the tycoons.
He hung around the salons
And drank up all the brandy,
But don’t forget,
Nothing is worth a beautiful girl
Who shares our meal with us.
Without love, one is nothing at all.
Without love, one is nothing at all.

In order to make money,
He became a cruel thief.
People bowed low to him,
But don’t forget,
One day he got arrested,
And behind bars,
Without love, one is nothing at all.
Without love, one is nothing at all.

Listen well, young people.
Take advantage of your twenty years.
You will have it only once,
But don’t forget,
A woman around your neck
Is worth more than a cord.
Without love, one is nothing at all.
Without love, one is nothing at all.

And there you have it, my good people,
The ballad of poor John,
Who says to you as he leaves you,
“Love!”

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About the author Thomas Keyes: I have written two books: A SOJOURN IN ASIA (non-fiction) and A TALE OF UNG (fiction), neither published so far.

I have studied languages for years and traveled extensively on five continents.

Email: udikeyes@yahoo.com


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