Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète

Plea to be buried on the beach at Sète

Georges Brassens (1964)

1. La Camarde, qui ne m'a jamais pardonné (2) D'avoir semé des fleurs dans les trous de son nez, (3) Me poursuit d'un zèle imbécile. Alors cerné de près par les enterrements, (4) J'ai cru bon de remettre à jour mon testament, De me payer un codicille. 2. Trempe dans l'encre bleue du Golfe du Lion, Trempe, trempe ta plume, ô mon vieux tabellion, Et, de ta plus belle écriture, Note ce qu'il faudrait qu'il advînt de mon corps, Lorsque mon âme et lui ne seront plus d'accord Que sur un seul point : la rupture. 3. Quand mon âme aura pris son vol à l'horizon Vers celles de Gavroche et de Mimi Pinson, (5) Celles des titis, des grisettes, Que vers le sol natal mon corps soit ramené Dans un sleeping du "Paris-Méditerranée" (6) Terminus en gare de Sète. 4. Mon caveau de famille, hélas, n'est pas tout neuf. Vulgairement parlant il est plein comme un œuf (7) Et, d'ici que quelqu'un n'en sorte, Il risque de se faire tard et je ne peux Dire à ces braves gens: "Poussez-vous donc un peu ! Place aux jeunes !"(8) en quelque sorte. 5. Juste au bord de la mer, à deux pas des flots bleus, Creusez, si c'est possible, un petit trou moelleux, Une bonne petite niche, Auprès de mes amis d'enfance, les dauphins (9) Le long de cette grève où le sable est si fin, Sur la plage de la Corniche. (10) 6. C'est une plage ou même, à ses moments furieux, Neptune ne se prend jamais trop au sérieux, Où, quand un bateau fait naufrage, Le capitaine crie : "Je suis le maître à bord ! (11) Sauve qui peut ! Le vin et le pastis d'abord ! Chacun sa bonbonne et courage !" (12) 7. Déférence gardée envers Paul Valéry, (13) Moi, l'humble troubadour, sur lui je renchéris, Le bon maître me le pardonne, Et qu'au moins, si ses vers valent mieux que les miens, Mon cimetière soit plus marin que le sien, Et n'en déplaise aux autochtones. 8. Cette tombe en sandwich entre le ciel et l'eau, Ne donnera pas une ombre triste au tableau, Mais un charme indéfinissable. Les baigneuses s'en serviront de paravent Pour changer de tenue, et les petits enfants Diront : "Chouette, un château de sable !" 9. Est-ce trop demander...? Sur mon petit lopin Plantez, je vous en prie, une espèce de pin Pin parasol, de préférence, Qui saura prémunir contre l'insolation Les bons amis venus fair' sur ma concession D'affectueuses révérences. 10. Tantôt venant d'Espagne, et tantôt d'Italie, Tout chargés de parfums, de musiques jolies, Le mistral et la tramontane (15) Sur mon dernier sommeil verseront les échos De villanelle un jour, un jour de fandango, De tarantelle, de sardane... (16) 11. Pauvres rois pharaons ! Pauvre Napoléon ! Pauvres grands disparus gisant au Panthéon ! Pauvres cendres de conséquence ! Vous envierez un peu l'éternel estivant, Qui fait du pédalo sur la vague en rêvant, Qui passe sa mort en vacances... Vous envierez un peu l'éternel estivant, Qui fait du pédalo sur la vague en rêvant, Qui passe sa mort en vacances...

1. The Grim Reaper, who has never forgiven those Who did sow flowers in the sockets of his nose Pursues me with the craziest zeal. And so, hemmed in close by burial and funeral I thought it right to bring up to date my last will To pay out for a codicil 2. Dip well in the blue ink of the Gulf of Lion, Dip well your quill, legal scribe, my old companion, And then in your finest handwriting, Note what there would have to become of my body When my soul and it in everything disagree Save on one point: split-up and parting! 3. When my soul ‘s taken its flight to the great beyond Towards those of Gavroche and of Mimi Pinson Those of urchins and of ”grisettes” Let my body to the soil of my birth be brought A "Paris-Méditerranée" sleeper transport It down to the station of Sète! 4. My own family tomb, alas, is not brand new. Packed like a sardine tin it’s full of happy few And failing that might get out someone I risk getting there late and will not be able To say to these good folk: “Move up, selfish rabble!” Or something like “Give way to young ones!” 5. Right up on the sea shore, two yards from waves of blue, Dig out, if it’s possible, a wee comfy hole A nice hole and a smallish niche Next to the friends of my childhood, the gay dolphins, Along that stretch of beach, where the sand is so thin On the “Plage de la Corniche”. 6. It’s a beach where even, in his moments of rage, Neptune does refrain from doing any outrage, Where at the shipwreck of his vessel The captain bellows forth: “I’m the master on board! Each for himself! The wine and the pastis go first Each take his demi-john and wrestle! …” 7. With all deference due towards Paul Valéry, I, humble troubadour, can go one up on him May the good master please excuse me! And if his verse is placed higher than mine, at least, Let my cemetery be nearer the sea than his In spite of all the natives’ fury. (14) 8. This tomb sandwiched between the sky and water Will not cast a gloomy shadow on the picture: Its charm will be indefinable. Female bathers will come to use it as a screen In order to get changed, and the little children Will say: “Oh, chance! Look a sand castle!” 9. Is it too much to ask? Upon my little plot Please plant for me a sort of pine, right on the spot An umbrella pine, preferably, That’s able to protect from the risk of sunburn All those good friends of mine, those who will come upon My resting place to gather fondly. 10. Sometimes coming from Spain, sometimes from Italy All laden with perfumes and with tunes so pretty The mistral and the tramontana Upon my final sleep will pour forth the echoes Of villanelles one day, one day of fandangos, Of tarantella, of sardana…. 11. Pardon me, poor Pharaoh kings, poor Napoleon! Poor departed greats, lying at the Pantheon For causing you such great frustration! The eternal holiday-maker you’ll envy Who dreams as he rides his pedal-boat placidly Who’s spending his death on vacation…. The eternal holiday-maker you’ll envy Who dreams as he rides his pedal-boat placidly Who’s spending his death on vacation…. Transl. Christian Souchon (c) 2017

(1) Brassens did not intend his petition to be buried on the beach too seriously. He once said he was only having fun with the idea. The tone of the poem verifies it.

(2) Five lines of each verse use the 12 syllable “alexandrine” of French Classical poetry.

(3) “Semé des fleurs” –The dictionary says that “semer des fleurs sur la tombe de quelqu’un” means to turn someone’s memory into a cult. “The Grim Reaper”, the English personification of death, is depicted with a dead skull with empty sockets for the nose and eyes. In French the personification of death is called” La Camarde” for this same reason. Camard is an adjective which means pug-nosed, having a flat nose, as if crushed –like the nose of an old-time boxer.

(4) “Cerné de près par les enterrements »- "Supplique pour être enterré à la plage de Sète" was written in 1966. In the previous year, Brassens lost his father on the 28th March.

(5) “Gavroche - Mimi Pinson”. Gavroche is a cheeky, rebellious young street urchin in the novel, “Les Misérables” by Victor Hugo. Mimi Pinson is a character in a work called “Mimi Pinson, profil de grisette" by the famous French poet, Alfred de Musset. A “grisette” is a young, easy-going, working class girl. Both of these fictitious characters liked to express themselves in song. With such company Brassens’ soul would be in heaven.

(6) “Paris-Méditerranée”: A train for holiday destinations.

(7) “Il est plein comme un œuf” : Brassens says the tomb was full as an egg.

(8) “Place aux jeunes”. Perhaps this incongruous remark in the society of the dead can be interpreted as a disdainful Brassens’ reference to the call made to the older performers with the advent of the teenage pop groups of the 1960s.

(9) “Les dauphins “: This was the name given to the swimming club at Sète when Brassens was a boy.

(10) La “Plage de la Corniche” is a very popular beach at Sète.

(11) The picture of life on a happy, boozy ship, with the odd nautical crisis, is reminiscent of Brassens’ memories of boating with his mates in “Les copains d’abord”.

(12) “Chacun sa bonbonne et courage!” Although the captain may make pretence of being in complete control, when the boat is sinking, all he can say in the end is "bon courage" =”hope for the best”.

(13) Paul Valéry (1871-1945) was a famous poet, critic and essayist. “Cimetière Marin” was the title of one of his most famous poems. He was born in Sète and buried there in the “Cimetière St Charles”. In the following year, 1946, the dignitaries changed its name to the “Cimetière Marin” in homage to him.

(14) “Autochtones » These are the important men of the town, who had decreed that Valéry’s graveyard was the “Cimetière marin”. Brassens, the outsider, certainly did not identify with them.

(15) “Le mistral et la tramontane” :These are two winds that blow over the South of France. One seems to come from the West, the other from the East.

(16) “Villanelle and tarantella - sardane and fandango”. This is the music of song and dance, blown in from opposite directions from Italy and Spain.

(17) Like for most of the Brassens songs at this site, these notes are borrowed from David Yendley's blog (
This singable translation is based on his prose translation.

(18) Comme pour la plupart des chansons de Brassens sur ce site, ces notes sont tirées du blog de David Yendley (
La traduction chantable anglaise est basée sur sa traduction en prose.

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