(Translated from the French of Jacques Prévert)

I went to the wild bird market
And I bought some birds
For you
my love

I went to the flower market
And I bought some flowers
For you
my love

I went to the hardware market
And I bought some chains
For you
my love

And then I went to the slave market
And I looked for you
But I didn’t find you
my love.

JACQUES PRÉVERT: Weddings and Banquets

(from the French of Jacques Prévert)

To William Blake

In the ruins of a cathedral
Like a calf a butcher cries
Just because his parrot dies
And lying on the broken stones
A bell that fell and came a cropper
Displays to all its rusty clapper
You’d take it for an obscene priest
His cassock blown up by the breeze
And in the remnants of the vestry
Three or four old rogues in caps
Take the collection
At the marriage of Heaven and Hell

This happens in England
And also in honour of the French Revolution
And even the death of Louis XVI
The Best Man is called William Blake
He is very correct and completely naked
Except that he keeps his hat on his head
Because the Holy Spirit is in it
The Holy Spirit of Contradiction
When anyone asks Spirit are you there
The bird with a slow sweet smile says

When the wedding is over William Blake
Will make a present of it to the butcher
Who will forget his late parrot
And return to killing the animals
With a large mallet
We are not attached to a bird
Thinks William Blake
His mind on something else
That is to say his eyes upon a stunning girl
Invited to the wedding by no one knows who
But she is very beautiful and naked as him
A beauty thinks William, a beauty
Of shattering calmness
Pure as red wine
Innocent as spring
And he stares at her because he fancies her
And she stares too
Perhaps because she also fancies him

Just then a great Muscovy duck
Arrives with his little barrel-organ
And plays a song of all the ages and all the lands
And the wedding begins
The wedding in the strict sense of the term
Clarifies William Blake
For things are so badly phrased
And so incorrectly
Are you referring to the Mass
Demands an old man with the hair
Of a prophet or bishop
And a contrary air
But William Blake is a gentleman
A gentle man as they say in England
And he has no wish to argue with a bishop
On the day of the marriage of Heaven and Hell
And also perhaps who knows
His own wedding day
For the pretty girl is gorgeous
And without a doubt he loves her
And maybe she loves him too
So he contents himself with saying
To the man with the head of
A bishop or a prophet or a safety-pin

As the caterpillar chooses the fairest leaves to lay her
eggs upon, so the priest lays his curse on the fairest joys

On with the music
The Mass is beginning we’ll speak of this another time
And as he says On with the music
The music moves on
And behind the music the stunning girl
Who smiles at William Blake
Because one day he also said

Prisons are built with stones of Law
Brothels with bricks of Religion

And she gives him her arm
And all the rest is his to take
And who is the happiest of men
It’s William
William Blake


(translated from the French of Jacques Prévert)

I am what I am
I’m made like that
When I want to laugh
I burst out laughing
I love him who loves me
Am I to blame
If it’s not the same man
I love each time
I am what I am
I’m made like that
What more do you want
What do you want of me

I am made to please
That nothing can change
My heels are too high
My figure too curvy
My breasts far too firm
My eye-makeup too heavy
And afterwards
What has that to do with you
I am what I am
I please who I please
What has that to do with you

What happened to me
I loved someone
Yes someone loved me
As children who love one another
Simply know how to love
Love love…
Why question me
I am here for your pleasure
That nothing can change

“Nana” by Edouard Manet


(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!


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
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.


(from the French of Jacques Prévert)

This love
So violent
So fragile
So tender
So desperate
This love
Beautiful as day
And bad as the weather
When the weather is bad
This love so true
This love so beautiful
So happy
So joyous
And so pathetic
Shaking with fear like a child in the dark
And so sure of itself
Like a man at peace in the middle of the night
This love that scares the others
Which makes them talk
Which makes them pale
This love watched out for
Because we watched out for it
Hunted wounded trampled finished off denied forgotten
Because we hunted wounded trampled finished it off denied and forgot it
This whole love
Still so alive
And all sunlit
It is yours
It is mine
That which has been
This thing always new
And which hasn’t changed
As real as a plant
As trembling as a bird
As hot as vibrant as summer
We can both of us
Leave and come back
We can forget
And then go back to sleep
We wake suffer grow old
We sleep again
We dream of death
We rise smile and laugh
And feel young again
Our love remains
Stubborn as a donkey
Vibrant as desire
Cruel as a reminder
Stupid as regrets
Tender as a memory
Cold as marble
Beautiful as day
Fragile as a baby
It watches us with a smile
And it speaks to us without saying anything
And me I listen to it and tremble
And I cry
I cry for you
I cry for me
I beg you
For you for me and for all those who love
And have made love
Yes I cry to it
For you for me and for all the others
That I don’t know
Stay there
There where you are
There where you were the other time
Stay there
Don’t move
Don’t go away
We who are loved
We forgot you
Don’t you forget us
We’ve had only you on this earth
Don’t let us become cold
Always more distant
And no matter where
Give us a sign of life
Much later in a corner of the wood
In the forest of memory
Appear suddenly
Give us your hand
And save us.


(from the French of Jacques Prévert)

He put the coffee
In the cup
He put the milk
In the cup of coffee
He put the sugar
In the milk coffee
With the little spoon
He stirred
He drank the milk coffee
He put down the cup
Without speaking to me
He lit
A cigarette
He blew smoke-rings
With the smoke
He put the ash
In the ashtray
Without speaking to me
Without looking at me
He got up
He put
His hat on his head
He put
His raincoat on
Because it was raining
And he left
In the rain
Without a word
Without looking at me
And me I took
My head in my hands
And I wept.