Marieke

[Let us take break from the battlefields of World War I and the fields of Flanders.  Jacques Brel, who was Flemish, wrote this beautiful and haunting song, Marieke in Flemish and French. It is an old love story, a reminder that life without love is dark and desolate.]

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Bruges

 

“Marieke” is a diminutive of Maria, my sweet Maria. The name is considered uniquely Belgian, although it later became popular in Holland. I suspect it is old. My wife’s family is Frisian* and the earliest female ancestor to arrive in America in 1642 was named, Volkje Juriaens van Noorstrant. “Volkje” being a diminutive of falcon, as in little falcon.

There is a beauty in words and always a certain amount of confusion in translation.

“Zonder” is most often translated as without, but it can also be used as, out of. Perhaps Jacques meant it both ways. “Flamand” is certainly a play on words for the Flemish country and the French – flaming sky. “Vlaanderland,” reminds me of the German “Vaterland.”It is used in so personal as to be not translatable without losing the sense of the word.

Here’s my translation.

Ay Marieke, Marieke je t’aimais tant
Entre les tours de Bruges et Gand
Ay Marieke, Marieke il why a longtemps
Entre les tours de Bruges et Gand
Zonder liefde warme liefde
Waait de wind de stomme wind
Zonder liefde warme liefde
Weent de zee de grijze zeeZonder liefde warme liefde
Lijdt het licht het donk’re licht
En schuurt het zand over mijn land
Mijn platte land mijn VlaanderlandAy Marieke, Marieke le ciel flamand
Couleur des tours de Bruges et Gand
Ay Marieke, Marieke le ciel flamand
Pleure avec moi de Bruges à Gand

Zonder liefde warme liefde
Waait de wind see’est fini
Zonder liefde warme liefde
Weent de zee déjà fini

Zonder liefde warme liefde
Lijdt het licht tout est fini
En schuurt het zand over mijn land
Mijn platte land mijn Vlaanderland

Oh Marieke, Marieke, I loved you so
Between the towers of Bruges and Ghent
Oh Marieke, Marieke, so long ago
Between the towers of Bruges and Ghent
Out of love, warm love
The wind blows, the quiet wind
Out of love, warm love
Cries the sea, the grey sea
Without love, warm love
Suffers the light, the dark light
And sends the sand over my country
My flat country, my VlaanderlandAy Marieke, Marieke the flamming sky
Colors the towers of Bruges and Ghent
Ay Marieke, Marieke the Flemish sky
Weeps with me from Bruges to Ghent

Out of love warm love
Blows the wind, it is done
Out of love warm love
Weeps the sea, until the end

Out of love warm love
Suffers the light and all is done
And showers the sand over my land
My flat land, my Vlaanderland

*Frisia is an ancient land, first mentioned by the Romans and Pliny the Younger in the first century. According to Pliny, they lived in man-made hills along the coast line of the North Sea. Linguistically, it is akin to German, and unlike Dutch in its pronunciation. Flemish is written like Dutch, but pronounced like German. The Frisian that is still spoken in the Jutland peninsula sounds like a mix of German and English.

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