JACQUES PRÉVERT: Adrian

(from the French of Jacques Prévert)

Adrian don’t be difficult!
Come back!

The snowball
you threw at me
last winter
at Chamonix
I have kept
It is on the mantelpiece
by the bridal wreath
of fire my poor mother
who died murdered
by my late father
who died guillotined
one sad winter’s morning
or was it spring …

Adrian don’t be difficult!
Come back!

I have made mistakes I admit
I remained ages
without returning
to the house
But I always hid from you
that I was in prison!
I have made mistakes I admit
I often beat the dog
but I loved you!

Adrian don’t be difficult!
Come back!

And Brin d’osier
your little fox-terrier
who died
last week
I kept him!
He is in the fridge
and when from time to time I open the door
to get a beer
I see the poor dead creature
it disheartens me
And yet it was I who did it
one evening to pass the time
while waiting for you …

Adrian don’t be difficult!
Come back!

I threw myself off
the Saint Jacques Tower
the day before yesterday
I killed myself
because of you
Yesterday they buried me
in a pretty little cemetary
and I thought of you
And this evening I came back
to the apartment
where you wandered round naked
when I was alive
and I am waiting for you …

Adrian don’t be difficult!
Come back!

I have made mistakes I admit
I remained ages
without returning to the house
But I always hid from you
that I was in prison!
I have made mistakes I admit
I often beat the dog
but I loved you!

Adrian don’t be difficult!
Come back!

A NOTE ON JACQUES PRÉVERT’S POEM “ADRIEN”

In English, this poem could be read as a woman addressing a man, a man addressing a woman, or a man addressing a man. Only the title gives us a clue: the name Adrian is masculine. You simply have to guess whether it is a man or a woman begging Adrian to return.
In French, the title is Adrien (masculine) and we only have to read a few lines to realise that the person addressing Adrien is a woman:
je suis restée de longues années
sans rentrer
à la maison
De la tour Saint-Jacques
je me suis jetée
avant-hier
je me suis tuée
à cause de toi
The words restée, jetée, tuée, are all feminine; if the speaker were a man they would be resté, jeté, and tué. This is the text I translated from (a woman adressing a man) but as I say it would make no difference in the English version if the forms were masculine, the speaker a man, and the poem “gay”.
Another possibility in the French that I have come across is a complete role-reversal, a man adressing a woman. Here, you have the masculine resté, jeté etc and the person wandering around naked made feminine nue instead of nu.
Et ce soir je suis revenue
dans l’appartement
où tu te promenais nue
du temps que j’étais vivant
et je t’attends
And vivante in this version of course becomes vivant (masc). You can view this version here – ADRIENNE .
Knowing Jacques, I am pretty certain the original, scribbled down on a paper table-cloth, would have been the “gay” version (a man addressing a man), but the woman addressing a man is the one that was published. Fortunately, this affects the translation not at all.

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