One of the great benefits of speaking more than one language is enjoying poetry on its natural form.
It is an amazing delight to enjoy Augusto dos Anjos in Portuguese, he was dark in content but masterful in cadence; in English his counterpart, in my opinion was Edgar Allan Poe.
Translating Edgar Allan Poe into Portuguese degrades its original cadence, and the same goes for translating Augusto dos Anjos into English. The compromise is creating versions; usually the essence is kept and a new body is written for a song or a poem.
Growing up poor in Brazil, one of my only form of entertainment was radio, only richer folks could afford a television set. I am very grateful to public air-waves in Brazil; in fact, it was the only exposure I had to English in my youth; radio allowed me to become an autodidact—I started to learn languages.
One of my favorite songs during my youth was a French song called “C’est en Septembre,” song by Gilbert Becaud. I would be in trance, enjoying the song in my limited French back in the 80s, yet the content and cadence of the poetry was amazing. Basically it talks about life returning back to normal after the Summer vacations and how delightful life was to rest back under the olive tree.
Years later I was terribly disappointed when I herd the American version called “September Morn,” sung by Neil Diamond. The lyrics this time were about a simple love song, I totally disliked the effort of translating the French song into English. These feelings came back to me because today is the First of September and I write this short essay in the first morning of September.
Here is the delightful part of being wrong. It was only after a couple of decades that I learned that the original author of the “C’est en Septembre,” was actually written by Neil Diamond; in other words, the English version came first, the French version later. So, my original displeasure towards Mr. Diamond turned into appreciation and gratitude; thanks to him now I enjoy two versions.
I continue to assert that learning another language expose ourselves to more cultures and more poetry. Sometimes the original is better, sometimes it is not. When beauty is on the eye of the beholder every opinion is subjective. So, it is my opinion, that I also experienced the same in vice-versa; or I enjoyed the American version with more delight than the original song in French. I am referring to Frank Sinatra greatest hit called “My Way,” the English version was written by Paul Anka, and the original was in French written and sung by Claude François; called “Comme d’habitude” (translated into “As Usual).”
September is an incredible month for poetry, the prelude to Autumn leaves falling; the trees turning from green to amber, to naked, and a more temperate whether; notwithstanding, also the prelude to the “October Surprise,” just before the elections. The world is not going to end no matter who is elected; it is an amazing grace to enjoy the glory of a “September Morn,” because amazing colors happens “C’est en Septembre,” even when things most things will not go “My Way,” no matter how much I try “Comme d’habitude (as usual).”
Enjoy your September!
Here are the videos of all four songs in their English original and French version and vice-versa.
French Version “C’est en Septembre” with Gilbert Becaud
Original version “September Morn” with Neil Diamond
English Version “My Way” with Frank Sinatra
Original “Comme d’Habitude” with Claude François
If you may use a little more poetry, in your September Morning; here is the
Spanish Version “A Mi Manera,” with Gipsy Kings
(Copyright disclaimer: the songs belong to their original copyright holders, here are links directing the viewers to their storage at Youtube servers. Youtube and its partners are responsible to copyrights licenses or infringement thereof).