Good find - and nice to be able to put a little more context to the song.
As I said before though, you just can't make a literal translation of a lyric, and expect it to be singable, let alone in any way artistic, as the subtitles clearly demonstrate: they tell you what the person is singing in another language, but fail to fit the music, or convey any poetry or linguistic sensitivity.
The person who translates a libretto has to be able to convey not just words, but also the intent of the piece, any dramatic points that the original was making or alluding to, and also convey the character of the singer within the drama.
As an example, I'll take as an example the song known in English as Do You Hear the People Sing?
, from Les Misérables
. The English show was a revised version of a French musical, then reworked to French in the revised form. This is useful, as a) both sides had to convey the basics of Hugo's novel, and b) the original composers worked closely with the English team both for the English revision, so there is no question that the English translator simply went "off piste" for no reason, or that the French misrepresents the English template - they were produced hand in hand.
The English lyrics begin: Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
The French song is completely
different (barring the melody). It's called À la Volonté du Peuple
(At the Will of the People
), and it is as follows: À la volonté du peuple
Et à la santé du progrès
Remplis ton cœur d'un vin rebelle
Et à demain, ami fidèle!
If you do a basic Google translation that would be rendered as: At the will of the people
And to the health of progress
Fill your heart with rebellious wine
And see you tomorrow, faithful friend!
The two "official" songs share nothing in common, on the face of it, and the Google translation, while functional as a crib-sheet for the content of the French, isn't in any way beautiful, and is quite unsingable.
But they have the same place and the same intent in the show - to convey that the patrons of the café Musain, calling themselves Les Amis de l'ABC
, a group of dissatisfied students, are being swept up in their dissatisfaction with the status quo
, and revolution is in the air, and each gets that.
The original English verse has a rhyming scheme of ABCB, the French one of ABCC, and Google doesn't rhyme at all; this helps us see why a translator of the Jewel Song
might need to make an insertion of material like the compare
couplet, if they need to keep to a rhyming scheme which the original lyrics don't accommodate.
As a final aside, it's interesting to me, looking for background for writing this, that I found that the French text actually contains a pun that is not made in the English, although it transfers (rather than translates) across.
As I recall (and I could be wrong because it's a long time since I read the book or saw the musical), the group are referred to by the "A.B.C." tag in the English, but the suggestion is that the café is known by that name, rather than Musain, and that is why the are so named because they meet there.
However, I see that the reason they are the "A.B.C." in French is because it sounds like, and therefore makes a pun with, abaissés
- therefore they are the friends of "the abased, the lowly", as the Wikipedia article on the subject
Anyway, thank you once more for providing the link to the video, it's a great illustration of what the Milanese Nightingale was up to on the stage! :-)