Friday, November 7, 2014

Jacques Brel - The port of Amsterdam


The song has already been translated, even sung in English by David Bowie (you can find Bowie's version here) but the lyrics differs for the sake of the song. It's a very powerful song so I am trying to give the most colourful yet literal translation.
Original title: "Amsterdam"

In the port of Amsterdam
There are the sailors who sing
The dreams that haunt them
Off Amsterdam
In the port of Amsterdam
There are the sailors who sleep
Like oriflammes along the bleak banks

In the port of Amsterdam
There are the sailors who die
Full of beer and of tragedies
At first lights
In the port of Amsterdam
There are the sailors who are born
In the thick warmth
Of the ocean languors

In the port of Amsterdam
There are the sailors who eat,
On too white tablecloths,
Dripping fishes.
They show you teeth
to bite into the fortune,
To wane the moon,
To gobble up shrouds.

And it smells of cod
even in the heart of the fries
That their big hands invite
To come back in extra
Then get up while laughing
In a sound of tempest
shut their flies again
And go out while belching

In the port of Amsterdam
There are sailors who dance
While rubbing their paunch
on the paunch of the women
And they turn and they dance
Like spit out suns
In the torn up sound
Of a rancid accordion

They twist round their neck
So they can better hear themselves laugh
Until all of a sudden the accordion exhales
Then, of a solemn gesture
Then, the gaze proud
They bring back their Batavians
under the bright light

In the port of Amsterdam
There are sailors who drink
And who drink and drink again
And who drink once more
And they drink to the health
Of the whores of Amsterdam
whom there are many moreover
In short, they drink to the ladies
Who give them their pretty body
Who give them their virtue
For one gold coin
And when they have well drunk
Stick their nose to the sky
Blow their nose in the stars
And they piss like I cry
On the unfaithful women

In the port of Amsterdam
In the port of Amsterdam
another version here

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