Français en Chansons
Les Copains D'abord - Georges Brassens

*Notes

*The French "Copains d'abord" is a play on words with a double meaning.
Literally, it means 'Mates come first'. However it sounds like 'copains de bord' which means 'shipmates'.  Thus the title could also be translated as 'Shipmates first and foremost.

The sailing ship the Medusa sank on the 2nd July 1816. 149 survivors crowded together on a raft. 27 days later the sailing ship the Argus rescued only 15, who had experienced every horror, even cannibalism.
Géricault immortalised the incident in his painting 'Raft of the Medusa'

Fluctuat nec mergitur  is the motto of the city of Paris, which is represented by a ship in full sail. The expression means  Beaten by the waves but does not founder.

Mais des amis franco de port:
There is a play on words here: franco de port = postage paid, and port = harbour

Castor et Pollux: In Greek mythology these were not only two inseparable friends but also gods of navigation.

Sodome et Gomorrhe: The Bible tells that God destroyed the 2 cities.
Sodom was of course the city in which men did not have female partners.
Brassens was often accused, although very mildly, of being a little mysogynistic.

Montaigne et La Boétie:
Montaigne, one of the greatest figures of French literature and thought, had a close and enduring friendship with the humanist La Boétie, which was celebrated in Montaigne's great essay "On friendship.
Their's was an intellectual as well as emotional bond, rather different from the familiarity (and vulgarity) of the "copains" who (translated literally) "slap each other on the belly"...the nearest equivalent English expression might be "mates who slap each other on the back".

Coup de Trafalgar: French speakers use this expression to describe a disaster...

Version Instrumentale (.mp3) Version Chantée (.mp3)
(Un chanteur interprète le guide vocal)

Paroles:  Les Copains D'abord

Non, ce n'était pas le radeau
De la Méduse, ce bateau,
Qu'on se le dis' au fond des ports,
Dis' au fond des ports,
Il naviguait en pèr' peinard
Sur la grand-mare des canards,
Et s'app'lait les Copains d'abord
Les Copains d'abord.

Ses fluctuat nec mergitur
C'était pas d'la litteratur',
N'en déplaise aux jeteurs de sort,
Aux jeteurs de sort,
Son capitaine et ses mat'lots
N'étaient pas des enfants d'salauds,
Mais des amis franco de port,
Des copains d'abord. 

C'étaient pas des amis de lux',
Des petits Castor et Pollux,
Des gens de Sodome et Gomorrh',
Sodome et Gomorrh',
C'étaient pas des amis choisis
Par Montaigne et La Boéti',
Sur le ventre ils se tapaient fort,
Les copains d'abord.
 

C'étaient pas des anges non plus,
L'Evangile, ils l'avaient pas lu,
Mais ils s'aimaient tout's voil's dehors,
Tout's voil's dehors,
Jean, Pierre, Paul et compagnie,
C'était leur seule litanie
Leur Credo, leur Confitéor,
Aux copains d'abord.
 

Au moindre coup de Trafalgar,
C'est l'amitié qui prenait l'quart,
C'est elle qui leur montrait le nord,
Leur montrait le nord.
Et quand ils étaient en détresse,
Qu'leur bras lancaient des S.O.S.,
On aurait dit les sémaphores,
Les copains d'abord
 

Au rendez-vous des bons copains,
(Il n’) Y'avait pas souvent de lapins,
Quand l'un d'entre eux manquait a bord,
C'est qu'il était mort.
Oui, mais jamais, au grand jamais,
Son trou dans l'eau n'se refermait,
Cent ans après, coquin de sort !

Il manquait encore.
 

Des bateaux j'en ai pris beaucoup,
Mais le seul qui'ait tenu le coup,
Qui n'ait jamais viré de bord,
Mais viré de bord,
Naviguait en père peinard
Sur la grand-mare des canards,
Et s'app'lait les Copains d'abord
Les Copains d'abord

Mates First : Lyrics

No, this wasn't the raft of the Medusa,
This boat of ours.
Let them tell each other that
Deep in the harbours and ports
It sailed along, taking it easy
On the big duck pond,
And they called it Friends First,
Friends first of all.


Its "fluctuat nec mergitur"
Were not exactly literature,
Begging the pardon of magicians and sorcerers, Magicians and sorcerers.
It’s captain and his crew
Were not sons of bitches,
But mates, as good as you could get,
Best mates first of all.

They weren't high quality friends
Like little Castor and Pollux
Or the guys of Sodom and Gomorrha,
Sodom and Gomorrha.
They weren't friends chosen
By Montaigne and La Boétie,
On the belly they slapped each other well,
Friends first of all.

They weren't angels either,
The Gospels, they hadn't been reading,
But they were friends in full sail,
In full rigging.
Jean, Pierre, Paul and the rest,
And this was their only Litany,
Their Credo and their Confiteor,
Friends first of all

At the slightest hint of Trafalgar,
It was friendship which took the watch,
It was this that showed them the north,
Gave them their bearings.
And when they were in distress,
And their arms signalled SOS,
You would have said they were signalling
"Friends first of all."


When the mates got together,
There was not often one of them missing,
When one of them was missing on board,
It was that he was dead,
But never, absolutely never
Would the hole in the water cover him.
A hundred years later, would you believe it, He would be missed still


I've taken a lot of boats
But the only one which stayed on course,
Which never got on the wrong tack,
Never got on the wrong tack,
Sailed along, taking it easy
On the big duck pond,
They called it Friends First,
Friends First.

Version Video, .mp4
(avec paroles, sans chanteur)
Version Video, .mp4
(avec paroles, et avec chanteur)

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