The Partisan

The Partisan is a song of defiance and hope. Leonard Cohen recorded it for his 1969 album, Songs from a Room. He apparently learned it in the 1950’s at summer camps. It was originally titled ”La Complainte du partisan” and was written in 1943 by Russian born cabaret singer Anna Marly and French resistance leader Emmanuel d’Astier de la Vigerie. Marly sang it and other songs on the BBC’s French service, through which she and her songs were an inspiration to the Resistance. The song was translated into English by Hy Zaret, an American Tin Pan Ally composer. Cohen used Zaret’s translation for his version of the song. One interesting change that Zaret made in translating the song is in the final stanza:

“The wind, the wind is blowing/through the graves, the wind is blowing/Freedom soon will come/and we’ll come from the shadows”

It was originally:

“the wind is blowing on the graves/Freedom will come back/everyone will forget us/we will return to the shadows”

One cannot help but be reminded of our current predicament where health care workers are putting their lives on the line to fight an invisible enemy, and when this pandemic is under control we will go on forgetting that they are still there saving lives everyday.

Here is the translation of the French stanzas:

Les Allemands étaient chez moi (The Germans were at my home)
ils m’ont dit “Résigne-toi” (They said, “Surrender,”)
mais je n’ai pas pu (this I could not do)
j’ai repris mon arme (I took my weapon again)

J’ai changé cent fois de nom (I have changed names a hundred times)
j’ai perdu femme et enfants (I have lost wife and children)
mais j’ai tant d’amis (But I have so many friends)
j’ai la France entière (I have all of France)

Un vieil homme dans un grenier (An old man, in an attic)
pour la nuit nous a cachés (Hid us for the night)
les Allemands l’ont pris (The Germans captured him)
il est mort sans surprise (He died without surprise)

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