Song : The Fugitive

 Anticipating my having a facility to download music on this website (many thanks to my website organiser Kyrios), this ‘talking’ version of “The Fugitive” of which I give a sample verse was recorded by Bob Shearn of Listen Inn, Shaftesbury. Greg Fraser did the vocals and played the accompaniment.

How did this song ever get to be written? I was looking for a French resistance song to use for the screenplay I am currently writing, Footbridge over the Seine, (a ‘coming-of-age’ drama with central character, Josette, a girl student living in Paris at the time of the Algerian war), and at first thought of using the original Complainte du Partisan, music Anna Marly, words Emmanuel d’Astier de la Vigerie. (Resistance fighters apparently often sang this song when giving a hasty burial to fallen comrades in the thick of action.) It contains the beautiful second verse

Personne ne m’a demande
D’ou je viens et ou je vais
Vous qui le savez
Effacez mon passage

(No one asked me/ where I came from or where I am going/You who know these things/ leave no sign of my passing.)

This suited perfectly the mood of my film but other verses were not quite what I wanted. The last verse is

Le vent souffle sur les tombes
La liberte reviendra
On nous oubliera
Nous rentrerons dans l’ombre

(The wind whistles above the graves./ Freedom will return/ We will be forgotten/We will pass into the shadows).

This is excellent also, particularly because it states categorically that the partisans will not be remembered, they will ‘pass into the shadows’ —  but this does not bother them because they have fulfilled their mission.) Once again, this is very much what I wanted to say in the screenplay, though, for my purposes, the text was too tied to the hope of political liberty — I would have preferred La vie reviendra (Life will return) rather than La liberte reviendra (Freedom will return).

I then passed to Leonard Cohen’s version, Partisan, which, though a highly effective song, did not quite fit the bill either — curiously he left out the key second verse of the original.
Eventually, as in so many other situations in my life, I found I had to do it all myself, not only write my own lyrics but the melody as well, and, despite having no musical training, I tried it out on the public at this summer’s ‘Dare2 Festival’ at Tollard Royal, Dorset —  many thanks to the organiser Paddy Seymour for giving me this unique opportunity !

       The Fugitive

I never planned this mission,
Where I stay I never know,
For I let the movement send me
Wherever it wants me to go.

If the Germans come and ask you,
Have you seen me passing by,

Tell them you never knew me,

Tell them it was not I.

I know quite soon they’ll catch me
At the challenge of a gun,

I’ll have to stand and face them,
There’ll be nowhere left to run.

We never planned this meeting,
Why we met we’ll never know,

But we let the current take us

Wherever it wanted to go.

No sign will mark my passing,
No tomb will bear my name,

But I’ll not be forgotten

When I go back to where I came.

                  Sebastian Hayes

Download and listen to the first part of The Fugitive.

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1 Comment

  1. keithw said,

    July 9, 2008 at 8:15 pm

    Hot from a Leonard Cohen concert (yes, magnificent and magical) I was reminded of two other ‘translations’ LC has done.
    From Lorca (he’s such a fan he named his daughter Lorca) ‘Take this Waltz’, from ‘Pequeno Vals Viene’, which is fairly literal – although ‘take this waltz with a clamp on its jaw’ seems crude compared with ‘take this waltz with a coin in its mouth’ – maybe he wanted to fight Spanish death imagery.

    More interesting is ‘Alexandra Leaving’ (on ‘Ten New Songs’), which is a reworking of Cavafy’s ‘The God abandons Anthony’, in which the poet urges Anthony to be strong as he loses the city of Alexandria; in LC’s song, Alexandria becomes Alexandra, a lover, but the sentiments – of strength in the face of adversity, of accepting fate, of remembering with pride what was good, of acknowledging the decisions of the gods – are exactly parallel. While Cavafy has Anthony hearing instruments and music as his protector, Dionysus departs, LC has Alexandra leaving ‘hoisted on the shoulder’ of the ‘god of love’! There’s a subtle interplay that repays parallel study.

    Best wishes for your performance of the song, and good luck with the film script.


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