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Paris: Metro verse notes

Observations and not very high ku from the streets of Paris

4.1 Le metro, verse notes for previous post

Hausmann, Madeleine, Concorde, Assemblée
Nationale, Rue du Bac.
Voulez-vous?

Saint Germain des-Pres, Odeon, Notre
Dame, Hotel de Ville, Rambuteau.
Qu’est-ce que c’est?

Sont des mots qui vont tres bien ensemble,
Tres bien ensemble.

+ + +

As I enjoy reading about poetry as much, and often more*, than the verse itself, I thought I’d make some notes about the lines above. (I confess, it’s only after sleeping on it that I can offer these explications — I had strung the verses quickly before bed.)

*I call on Ms Moore as my authority.

The names in the first stanza are the metro stations we passed through in the pictures above, on the St-Lazare line (We were on our way to dinner, changing twice to get off at … Victor Hugo! Wouldn’t it be great if, back home, we could get off at Les Murray and Miles Franklin and Brett Whiteley?).

Rue du Bac is our home metro. The other metro close by is St Germain des-Pres, which starts the next stanza, and the names in that are on the Porte de Clignancourt line away from us.

The French phrases become obvious after a sec: Voulez-vous comes from Abba (but also Patti LaBelle’s Lady Marmaladeget your shoes on:“Voulez-vous coucher avec moi (ce soir)?”Qu’est-ce que c’est? – Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer, of course; and Sont des mots etc is from the Beatles’ Michelle, slightly mysterious detached from the three little words, Michelle, ma belle.

They ended up in there as markers of foreign tributes — whether mocking (Heads) or wistful (Beatles) or entirely pragmatic (ABBA), they recognise a kind of feeling or an entire atmospheric that can be conjured with the barest of means, as one could economically say: Cadillac, Super Bowl and Sarah Lee. Or even just the metro name, Madeleine, with its aromatic Proustian aura.

And as the Beatles’ noted, it all goes together very well. There’s euphony built in — to quote a different musical wit, Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady: “The French don’t care what they do actually, as long as they pronounce it properly.”

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