Richesses: Francophone Songwriter Poets
Southword Editions, 2008. Hardback.
Edited and translated by Aidan Hayes

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Songwriters who work in English whose lyrics are respected in the world of mainstream poetry are few (Leonard Cohen and Nick Cave come quickly to mind) but in French there is a much stronger tradition of a crossover between the two arts. In a dual-language anthology, Richesses assembles a selection of the most important practitioners, rendered into Aidan Hayes’s much praised English translations.

Translations of Léo Ferré, Barbara, Félix Leclerc, Jacques Bertin, Gilles Vigneault, Jacques Brel and Anne Sylvestre.


Selected Poems from Richesses


Rutebeuf (Léo Ferré)

pour les copains de Lyon


What have my friends become

That I had held so near

And strongly loved

They've been blown away

It was the wind lifted them

Love's no more


Friends borne away by the wind

The wind at my dooor

Time strips the trees

And no leaf remains secure


With poverty that brings me low

Coming at me from every hand

These winter days

It is better I should not say

How I came to shame

By what ways


What have my friends become

That I had taken to heart

And loved so well

They are blown away

The wind's whipped them

Love's no more


Evil being unable to travel solo

All that was to fall on my head

Is with me now

Poor senses and poor memory

The gifts the King of Glory's given me

And poor returns


And when the north wind rises

It scours me

It ventilates me

Love's no more

Friends borne away by the wind

The wind at my door

Hopes for tomorrow

These are my feast days


(Rutebeuf, troubadour– 13th century)




Nantes (Barbara)


It is raining on Nantes

Give me your hand

The Nantes sky

Makes my heart morose


On a morning like this one

Just a year ago already

The city looked pale

When I came out of the station

Nantes was then unknown to me

I had never come to the city

It had taken that message

For me to make the journey

Madam be at the appointed place

25 Wolfbarn Street

Be quick there's little hope

He has asked to see you


iAt the time of his final time

After years and years of straying

He came straight back into my heart

His cry tore the silence open

Since he had gone away

For a long time I had kept hopes of him

This wanderer this vanished one

And now he had come back to me

25 Wolfbarn Street

I'm remembering the appointed place

And I have engraved in my memory

That bedroom at the bottom of a corridor


Seated near a fireplace

I saw four men stand up

The light was white and cold

They were wearing Sunday clothes

I asked no questions

Of these strange companions

I said nothing but from their faces

I understood it was too late

And yet I was at the appointed place

25 Wolfbarn Street

But he never did see me again

He had already disappeared


There you know the story now

He had come back one evening

And it was his last journey

And it was his last shoreline

He wanted before dying

To warm himself by my smile

But he died that same night

With no I love you no goodbye

On the path that runs beside the sea

Lying in a garden of stones

I want him to rest peacefully

I lad him underneath the roses

My father my father


It is raining on Nantes

And I am remembering

The Nantes sky

Makes my heart morose




Fable (Jacques Bertin)


In the fist there is a bird

A bird a cry (That's a word)

And the first is a bird but it's a word

A bird is contingent

It is somewhere at the term of its flight

A cry is a bird it's a liar

A fist is a gesture it's a bird

Their necks must be cut before they have opened their


Copyright ©2008 Aidan Hayes






Aidan Hayes


Aidan Hayes was born in Cork in 1947 and educated at University College Dublin. He has worked variously as an actor and as a teacher at schools, colleges and prisons. In 1995 he won the Listowel Writers' Week Prize for Best Single Poem. His translations from Irish and French have been published widely in anthologies and periodicals. This is his first book.



























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