Who is the Narrator? And who is "Une sorcère comme les autres?"

MelB

Senior Member
United States English
I was wondering if someone might be able to help in understanding this Anne Syvestre song (her voice is very beautiful and alluring), the text of which seems to me pure poetry.

Here's a link to the words of the song.

http://www.paroles.net/chansons/34069.htm

It seems to me that the voice of the song, the "I" is a voice, god-like, maybe the voice of love, that brought us into being, watches over us. (Thus stanza two says, "I carried you living, I carried you as a child . . . I carried you still at the hour of your death . . . And stanza three: ""When you played at war, I kept the house, used up my prayers . . . "

However, there are other forces at work in the song/poem.

For example, stanza three says, "ce n'est que moi/ C'est elle ou moi,/ Celle qui parle/ Ou qui se tait/ Celle qui pleure/ or qui est gaie, C'est Jeanne d'Arc/ Ou bien Margot . . . "

Who is this she --which is a force opposite to the narrator???

Also, the song is filled with choices, some of which a French person might understand, but which I'm struggling with a bit. I don't understand the illusion to "Margot," or to Josephine (Napoleon's wife???) (what does she stand for?), Dupont (?) who is she. The way the choices came up in the song: "C'est Jeanne d'Arc/Ou bien Margo,/ Fille de vague/Ou de ruisseau."

And later, another choice "C'est Joséphine/Ou la Dupont/Fille de nacre/Ou de coton."

There's also near the end of the poem, a reference to Gabrielle (the angel?) or Eva (Eve, Adam's partner in Eden)? "Ce n'est que moi/ C''est elle ou moi. Et c'est l'ancêtre/ Ou c'est l"enfant/Celle qui cède/Ou se défend/C'est Gabrielle/Ou bien Eva/Fille d'amour/Ou de combat."

Also, there's a critical line (6th stanza and 11th stanza): "c'est ma mère/Ou la vôtre/ Une sorcière comme les autres." (Of course the title of the song is "Une sorcière comme les autres). And so there is apparently a force beyond the narrator [her mother], called "Une sorcière comme les autres," which is the title and the heart of the song.

I was thinking thinking, as I have already mentioned, that the narrator of the song might be the force of "love" and the "sorcière commes les autres," more god-like, but why "comme les autres," which might suggest multiple deities.

Can anyone help explain some of this, or is the text too complex to be comprehenisble? :cool:
 
  • LV4-26

    Senior Member
    Great topic ! Thanks MeB for asking that question. Thanks for reminding me of that fantastic song by Anne Sylvestre. Thanks for giving it the publicity it deserves. I had forgotten it almost completely. Now I'd like to listen to it again, especially with those gorgeous musical arrangements by this fantastic musician, François Rauber (who also arranged for Jacques Brel).

    Ok, I'll try to clear it up, at least partly. It's important to note that song was written in the 70s.
    Who is this she --which is a force opposite to the narrator???[....]
    And so there is apparently a force beyond the narrator [her mother], called "Une sorcière comme les autres,"
    I (the speaker, the narrator) stands for Woman in general (the same way you use "man" - without the article - as a general term). There is only one force, not two. Hence, there's no opposition. The narrator, Anne Sylvestre, the sorceress are one and only person. When she says "une sorcière comme les autres", you have to relate that to the beginning of the strophe "ce n'est que moi". Hence, this means I am a sorceress like all the others.

    The word "sorceress" isn't to be taken negatively. I think she alludes to the sorceresses that were burnt in the Middle Ages. On the contrary, it's positive. She claims to be a sorceress. Because she claims to be the one that's despised or ignored which she shouldn't be as she rightly says
    "I carried you living, I carried you as a child . . . I carried you still at the hour of your death . . . And stanza three: ""When you played at war, I kept the house, used up my prayers . . . "
    Anne Sylvestre, a sorceress like all the others, makes herself a spokeswoman for all her fellow females.


    - I guess Joséphine may be Napoléon's wife indeed. (mother-of-pearl girl).
    - I don't know who is la Dupont.
    - Margot is a name that is often used in French folk songs. I don't know which one she's referring to.
    - Eva, I think, is a reference to Argentinean political woman Eva Peron.
    - I think Gabrielle is Gabrielle Russier. She was a French teacher (I don't remember how old she was, maybe 30 or so) who had an affair with one of her 16 year-old pupils. They were both in love which each other. But as the boy was under 21 (legal majority in France at that time) she was imprisonned for that. That explains why she calls her "fille d'amour" (girl of love).

    Hope it's clearer now. Feel free to ask more questions if necessary. It's a fantastic song, I almost had tears in my eyes while rereading the lyrics.:eek:
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    If you understand French well enough, read the last paragraph of the text entitled "Rapport Complet". The one that starts as follows...
    Etre tourné vers l’avenir ne signifie pas oublier le passé … et le présent. Le texte d’Anne Sylvestre, « Une sorcière comme les autres » est un bon rappel au devoir de mémoire...
    HERE
    I guess it might help you understand what the song is about.
     

    MelB

    Senior Member
    United States English
    LV4-26,

    Thanks for helping to clear up the meaning of that song for me. And also, the link. I like the idea of the spirit of woman (martyrized?) going back to time immemorial.

    I'm not sure I understand the line, "S'il vous plaît/ Faîtes vous léger/ Moi je ne peux plus bouger." In the first stanza and the last stanza of the poem. Why can the singer no longer move? Maybe she means, "try to be light about it (this history of women martyrized), but as for me, it's so terrible, I can no longer move."

    In the text/link you cited to me, the author writes, "La chanteuse se veut le porte voix de la femme depuis l’aube des temps. « Vous m’avez aimée putain, et couverte de satin, vous m’avez faite statue et toujours je me suis tue. Quand j’étais vieille et trop laide, vous me jetiez au rebu, vous me refusiez votre aide quand je ne vous servais plus. » Not so many years ago woman were burnt at the stake as witches. But even today in some places, raped women may be forced to wed their rapist, or to be murdered for bringing shame to their families.

    http://news.scotsman.com/international.cfm?id=2279292005

    If as the link says, the song is about memory, it goes from past to present. It is a song, sad and yet beautiful in its poetry/presentation. Thanks for the help on it, and the informative/interesting link.
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    MelB said:
    I'm not sure I understand the line, "S'il vous plaît/ Faîtes vous léger/ Moi je ne peux plus bouger." In the first stanza and the last stanza of the poem. Why can the singer no longer move? Maybe she means, "try to be light about it (this history of women martyrized), but as for me, it's so terrible, I can no longer move."
    I'm not perfectly sure I perfectly understand it either. It can be related to the passage that says

    Je vous ai porté vivant
    Je vous ai porté enfant
    Dieu comme vous étiez lourd
    Pesant votre poids d'amour
    Je vous ai porté encore
    A l'heure de votre mort


    So it partly deals with the act of carrying. i.e. "I've carried you (man) so much that I'm strenghless and can't move any longer". It alludes to all the others things woman does for man which are metaphors of carrying, so to say. In the 70s (75 to pe precise), the women still had a disproportionate part of the house chores when they didn't simply undertake them all. It's also a way of saying that woman is stronger and braver than man. That she sometimes do for him things he can't do himself. (and not only the chores).
    So what it says is "I'm carrying you in every sense of the word, proper and metaphorical, so please make yourself light, don't weigh so much on me that is, don't count so much on me when you're tired or depressed or unable to face reality"

    At the same time, it isn't fierce or aggressive. The idea behind it is "take me for what I am, don't try to assign me a role whatever it is (servante, ignorante, putain, statue,....), get to know me better and you'll have as much to gain from it as I will. You'll be as I've been dreaming you "libre et fort comme le vent (And that's how you'll be if you make yourself "léger comme le duvet). (the wind is strong and free yet light at the same time)Hence these beautiful verses : "here I am, like a wave, (but) you won't be drowned". It's a kind reproach and a given hand at the sametime.

    There's really a lot to say about each and single verse and I could go on like that for hours on end. That's what makes it beautifully written : plenty of meaning concentrated in few words. Crystal clear (when you're very comfortable with the language of course) yet keeping some mystery. That's what makes real poetry.
     

    MelB

    Senior Member
    United States English
    LV4-26, You referred to the text as "Crystal clear (when you're very comfortable with the language of course) yet keeping some mystery. That's what makes real poetry."

    I agree with you how some mystery is really important in poetry. And I feel it in this piece. Becaue I'm not French, I can't say every thing is crystal clear, but most is understandable.

    I did want to comment though that poetry can take a position that I don't thing is fully fair, though it does catch aspects of truth. But it doesn't matter when it's poetry (that is, good writing . . .) That takes over then and creates its own magic.

    Here, the song treats woman mostly as victim/saint, rather than dealing with the complexity of gender roles, and the fact that all isn't black and white . . . For example, the songwriter says, "Quand vous jouiez à la guerre/ Moi je gardais la maison."

    Surely the "vous" refers to "men."" Is she suggesting that all wars come from men? No way. In the American Civil war and many other wars, women have often applauded and encouraged their men to fight, would have shamed them, ostracized them, if they didn't. (That's the way pacifists during the Civil War and WW II were sometimes treated) (they were ostrasized). Margaret Thatcher was no pacifist when she took the British flleet down to the Faulklands. Nor Golda Meir when she fought to defend Israel. (Not that either were wrong to not be pacifists). Just that the weren't that image of woman in Syvestre's song. Women in many country's today enlist in the military, and some want to fight for a cause they believe in. Sylvestre's woman is an idealization.

    Is man the oppressor of women? Sometimes, but very often he's the defender. In most centuries, he has had the responsibility to protect his family -- wife and children -- and would die to do that. He's the soldier who protects his country (as in WWII), is the fireman, who saves woman and children from burning builings (at the risk of his life), the policeman, who (at the risk of his life) fights crime to protect the helpless (yes there are some female policemen now but that's a recent change). And yes, there are Lady Macbeths who egg on their husbands to horrific crimes, as well as women who commit them.

    Of course, much is changing And Sylvestre has to be placed in her time. And poetry is poetry. And a fine chanteuese is always very much appreciated by me. So I very much like this song, ;) (for the truths that are in it). I think the lyrics of Donovan's The Universal Soldier is a bit naive
    http://www.seeklyrics.com/lyrics/Donovan/Universal-Soldier.html

    or even Bob Dylan's Masters of War,

    http://bobdylan.com/songs/masters.html

    And I still love those songs for the truths in them.
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    Is what is said true or untrue? I don't know. As often, I'd say it's neither totally true nor totally untrue. It's a matter of angle., how you look at reality.
    Anyway, I'm not really concerned with assessing whether A. Sylvestre is wrong or right. If we were in the Cultural forum, I might be ;) (but I understand how my enthousiasm for the "manner" (how it's said) inevitably contaminates my view of the "matter" (what is said) - are those really separate? Another question for the Cultural forum).

    You mentionned Mrs Thatcher. Well, everybody knows she's an exception. :D
     

    MelB

    Senior Member
    United States English
    LV4-26,

    I agree with you on the manner it was said being poetry (and deserving of your enthusiasm), couldn't help responding more broadly though in the context of trying to understand the meaning of the poem. Yes, maybe some of what I said might be better put in the Cultural forum, but the meaning you suggested for the poem didn't seem to enhance the poem for me. So I was hoping the words themselves might lead to another way of looking at the piece.

    Without having read the critics/analysts (and maybe a poem is what a reader takes from it, and the mystery Sylvestre puts in it leaves room . . .), I was hoping for a meaning that stood up more strongly to intellectual analysis. You know how sometimes we talk about the feminine side of a person (the more nurturing, artistic . . .) that both sexes have some of, as opposed to the masculine side (stronger, more aggressive) (that both sexes have). We really shouldn't use those labels even, but . . . I was trying to read the song/poem as being about not "Woman from time immemorial" but rather that nurturing/loving force that sustains us, is martyrised, but keeps going. And there are men who reflect that also (Try Christ for example, or Gandhi . . .) Then, the poem works for me, not just the beauty of the language, but the coherency of the message.

    Also, you said: "I think Gabrielle is Gabrielle Russier. She was a French teacher (I don't remember how old she was, maybe 30 or so) who had an affair with one of her 16 year-old pupils. They were both in love which each other. But as the boy was under 21 (legal majority in France at that time) she was imprisonned for that. That explains why she calls her "fille d'amour" (girl of love)."

    That's a strange choice (An adult woman who has an affair with a 16 year old pupil) if one were trying to highlight examples of woman as victim at the hands of man. :)

    Perhaps, Syvestre in choosing Gabrielle is referring to someone else.
     

    MelB

    Senior Member
    United States English
    Well, my research service ;) has come up with another possibility for Gabrielle :) What do you think of Gabrielle d'Estrée, king Henry IV's beautiful mistress who died in childbirth.

    http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabrielle_d'Estrées

    That would be more in fitting with the theme of the poem than Gabrielle Russier. No?
     

    LV4-26

    Senior Member
    MelB said:
    Well, my research service ;) has come up with another possibility for Gabrielle :) What do you think of Gabrielle d'Estrée, king Henry IV's beautiful mistress who died in childbirth.

    http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabrielle_d'Estrées

    That would be more in fitting with the theme of the poem than Gabrielle Russier. No?
    Possible, but not likely IMO.
    You might find this interesting.
    In that page, it says that she wrote a whole song dedicated to Gabrielle Russier. Apparently, it was shortly before "une sorcière comme les autres".
    By the way, let's keep in mind that song ("sorcière") was written around 1974. That is important when you try to analyse it. I mean it's quite a long time ago.
     

    MelB

    Senior Member
    United States English
    LV4-26,

    You said: "By the way, let's keep in mind that song ("sorcière") was written around 1974. That is important when you try to analyse it. I mean it's quite a long time ago."

    Yes, I agree with you.

    I think, though, the example of Gabrielle Rossier is not a good one for the song, because it works counter to its underlying premise of woman treated unfairly/oppressed. I mean, in my country, a 30 year old male teacher would be metaphorically speaking :rolleyes: drawn and quartered if he had an affair with a female high school student, particulary if she was below the age for statutory rape (which varies by state from 16 to 18 years of age).

    Thanks for that interesting link on the song Anne wrote, sympathetic to Gabrielle Rossier.
     
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