The Barrel Organ

I play the piano
one of them was saying
I play the violin
the other was saying
I play the harp I play the banjo
I play the cello
I play the bagpipes… I play the flute
and me I play the kazoo
And the ones and the others were talking talking
talking about what they played.
You couldn’t hear any music
everybody was talking
talking talking
no one was playing
but in the corner stood a man:
“And what instrument do you play Monsieur
you who are standing there not saying anything?”
asked the musicians.
“I play the barrel-organ
and I also play the knife”
said the man who up until now
had said absolutely nothing
and then he advanced the knife in his hand
and he killed all the musicians
and he played the barrel-organ
and the music was so true
and so lively and so beautiful
that the little daughter of the master of the house
came out from underneath the piano
where she had fallen asleep out of boredom
and she said:
“I played with a hoop
with jacks
I played hopscotch
I played with a pail
I played with a shovel
I played with my father and mother
I played tag
I played with my dolls
I played with my parasol
I played with my little brother
with my little sister
I played cops
and robbers
but that’s over over over
I want to play assassin
I want to play the barrel-organ.”
And the man took the little girl by the hand
and they travelled through the cities
through the houses through the gardens
and they killed as many as possible
after which they got married
and lived happily ever after.
Their first born learned the piano
the second the violin
the third the harp
the fourth the kazoo
the fifth the cello
and then they started talking
talking talking talking
you couldn’t hear the music anymore
and everything happened all over again!

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4 Responses to The Barrel Organ

  1. emiladams says:

    Prévert originally wrote “ils se marièrent et ils eurent beaucoup d’enfants”, which, literally translated, is “they got married and had lots of children”. This is the typical French way to end a fairy tale, exactly like the English “and then they lived happily ever after”, so I went with the idiomatic equivalent here. Also, no one knows what a crécelle is (a ratchet-type noisemaker), so I changed it to a kazoo.

    • Randi says:

      I read your positng and was jealous

    • darius: every one on this blog from time to time wants to say something so profound that the words alone will permeate the minds, bodies and souls of fellow bloggers such that it will transcend simultaneously on to the laker players, coaches, front office, reporters. color commentators, you name it, everyone willing to push in the same direction so that the lakers will win another world championship soon. with that thought in mind, i’m also falling off a cliff and just before i hit the ground, i wake up.Go Lakers !!

  2. Reblogged this on Eppur non si muove and commented:
    I hardly found a this translation for one of the poems I liked once. I think it is a sad poem…

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