Friday, November 26, 2004

Now that's what I call #5

Jacques Brel "Ne me quitte pas"

Brel starts out promising the impossible to rekindle the fire in his loved one's heart (I'll tell you about those lovers, there/Who saw their hearts twice inflamed), and sounds like he could just manage to accomplish it, defying climatology and physics (I'll bring you rain pearls from countries without rain"), linguistics ("I'll invent nonsense words that you'll understand) and even death (I'll dig the earth even after my death to to cover your body in gold and light). His first companion is the piano, then strings come in, affirming his point.

By the penultimate verse, the singer has become more reasonable, a sign of his inevitable failure: Fire has often been seen springing anew from a volcano/That was thought too old/There are, it seems, scorched earths/That give more wheat than the best April. Stepping out of his own maddening, world-conquering subjectivity, he goes into an external realm of logic, which, in matters of love, cannot (must not?) prevail. The death of love and the realisation of the death of love have overcome the impossible promises. The piano has left him, replaced by an ethereal flute (the spirit rising out of the body?), the once-strong and defined strings are now amorphous, resigned and sluggish, doing nothing to buoy our rebuked lover.

In the last verse, Brel is no longer promising or affirming, but pleading, desperately. Still, he attempts to mask his lingering desire in sensible closure (I won't cry any more/I won't talk any more), but he's been consumed and will never let go (I'll hide there and watch you/Dance and smile/And listen to you/Sing then laugh). He can only plead now, plead just to be on the edge of love, on the edge of death: Let me be the shadow of your shadow/The shadow of your hand/The shadow of your dog.

Ne me quitte pas