Ah, Josephine, if I dared…

Adventures in anaphora resolution: the Alain Bashung version.

A l’arrière des berlines
on devine
des monarques et leurs figurines
juste une paire de demi-dieux
livrés à eux
ils font des petits
ils font des envieux

What the hell is being delivered, and who the hell is it being delivered to? Livrés is masculine plural.  Berlines is feminine plural, so it can’t be the berlines; monarques is masculine plural, so it could be that; figurines is feminine plural, so it can’t be that; une paire de demi-dieux, I don’t know what to say about.  Demi-dieu is masculine (I think), but une paire is feminine and singular–WTF?  I’ve got livrés narrowed down to monarques or demi-dieux, in any case… Then we get to eux in livrés à eux.  My hypothesis: the figurines are being delivered to the monarchs.  Counter-arguments?

à l’arrière des dauphines
je suis le roi des scélérats
à qui sourit la vie

marcher sur l’eau
éviter les péages
jamais souffrir
juste faire hennir
les chevaux du plaisir

osez, osez Joséphine
osez, osez Joséphine

plus rien ne s’oppose à la nuit
rien ne justifie

usez vos souliers
usez l’usurier
soyez ma muse
et que ne durent que les moments doux
durent que les moments doux
et que ne durent que les moments doux

osez, osez Joséphine
osez, osez Joséphine
plus rien ne s’oppose à la nuit
rien ne justifie

13 thoughts on “Ah, Josephine, if I dared…”

    1. “faire hennir les chevaux du plaisir” is, indeed, my favorite verse of the song, although as in Spanish, I always have trouble remembering how to pronounce the difference between “horses” and “hair”… 🙂

      Spanish: caballos = chevaux, cabello = cheveux

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, there is a future post in the bloopers I have made in using the wrong (but similar words) since living here. Asking an immobilier to show me the squirrels and then qualifying the remark by saying loftily – where the hair will be kept was a classic.

        Stables – Écurie. Squirrels – Écureuils

        Liked by 3 people

  1. Honestly Bashung is not the king of French “chansons à textes”. He takes it too easy compared to serious poets of la chanson . Gainsbourg was decadent but as a lyric writer he was as seriously classic as I am (with some tons of extra skill of course) .
    For instance “livrés à eux” doesn’t mean a thing . The expression is “livré à lui-même”, “livrés à eux-mêmes” . Nothing to do with any delivery, it means you are left alone by yourself, either free to indulge in any forbidden pleasure (good scenario) or unlucky to get by in hard times (bad scenario) . He dropped -mêmes for the rhyme, we understand what he means, but there is something unsatisfactory for a Frenchman who likes the art of language .
    And what does this ending mean ? “Nothing justifies… ” OK we understand it’s related to the previous affirmation, nothing opposes our night of liberty and madness if we want, but I’m sorry it’s easy-lazy man ! As we say, “ça me laisse sur ma faim”. Justifier needs a direct object, otherwise we feel like when you carry a piece of food to your mouth and you find your fork is empty because the piece of food fell down during the transport .
    So well I like Bashung for his voice, his musics, his atmosphere but I don’t really listen to his words, sorry . I understand you nevertheless, I got very high with maaany Anglo-American songs fortunately before I was able to fully get their lyrics, even less able to duly estimate/appreciate their quality .

    To answer your initial question, “livrés à eux-mêmes” regards the “demi-dieux”, not paire nor figurines nor monarques, logically the last one . Bashung fancies they are fucking (ilsfont des petits) and hence make others envy them . “Faire des petits” means “faire des enfants” . As I understand, on the rear shelf of the car there are 2 little figurines that Bashung once sees as kings then as half-gods (who are fucking). I don’t see it as monarchs AND their figurines but you see, this confusing formulation is another example of easy-laziness . But I enjoy the sound and meaning confluence of “Ils font des petits, ils font des envieux” . Well, Bashung’s lyrics are not on par with Brel, Brassens, Gainsbourg, and some others, but we don’t like him for his lyrics first, he got much more beside that .

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It is very hard to articulate, but I frequently feel that the French language is so lyrical, musical, subtle and expressive of the “human condition” that we non-native speakers are consigned to hopelessly floundering on the periphery of this magic language and culture.

        Liked by 1 person

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