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  • Légion étrangère: Kepi Blanc

    Posted by Lexington Green on June 23rd, 2010 (All posts by )


     
    For Gabrielle, Beatrice, Dominique, Elaine, Isabelle, Claudine, Huguette and Anne-Marie.

    Kepi Blanc

    I
    Puisqu’il nous faut vivre et lutter dans la souffrance
    Le jour est venu où nous imposerons au front
    La force de nos âmes, la force de nos cœurs et de nos bras
    Foulant la boue sombre, vont les képis blancs

    II
    La rue appartient à celui qui y descend
    La rue appartient au drapeau des képis blancs
    Autour de nous la haine, autour de nous les dogmes que l’on abat
    Foulant la boue sombre, vont les képis blancs

    III
    Combien sont tombés au hasard d’un clair matin
    De nos camarades qui souriaient au destin
    Nous tomberons en route, nous tomberons ou vaincrons au combat
    Foulant la boue sombre, vont les képis blancs

    IV
    La vie ne sourit qu’aux plus forts, aux plus vaillants
    L’ardeur, la fierté, la jeunesse sont dans nos rangs
    Pour nos combats, nos luttes, Honneur, Fidélité sur nos drapeaux
    Foulant la boue sombre, vont les képis blancs

    Google Translate gives this extremely rough and defective English version. If someone knows French, I would be grateful if you put up a comment with a decent literal translation.

    Kepi Blanc

    I
    Since we must live and struggle in pain
    The day has come when we will impose on the forehead
    The strength of our souls, the strength of our hearts and our arms
    Trampling the dark mud, the caps are white

    II
    The street belongs to him who descends
    The streets belong to the flag of white caps
    Around us the hatred around us dogmas the slaughter
    Trampling the dark mud, the caps are white

    III
    How many have fallen by chance in a clear morning
    Our comrades who smiled at destiny
    We will fall on the road, we will fall or conquer in battle
    Trampling the dark mud, the caps are white

    IV
    Life smiles only the strongest, the most valiant
    The enthusiasm, pride, youth are in our ranks
    For our struggles, our struggles, Honor, Loyalty on our flags
    Trampling the dark mud, the caps are white

     

    7 Responses to “Légion étrangère: Kepi Blanc”

    1. Gorgasal Says:

      You be the judge if this is decent… Of course, the white caps are the caps worn by the Legionnaires, and “Honneur et Fidélité” is their motto, which is embroidered on their flags.

      I
      As we have to live and fight in suffering
      The day has come for us to impose upon the front
      The power of our souls, the power of our hearts and of our arms
      Treading the dark mud walk the white caps

      II
      The road belongs to him who walks down it
      The road belongs to the flag and to the white caps
      Around us hate, around us the dogmas that we fell
      Treading the dark mud walk the white caps

      III
      How many have fallen at random on a clear morning
      Of our comrades who smiled at fate
      We will fall on the march, we will fall or conquer in battle
      Treading the dark mud walk the white caps

      IV
      Life smiles but at the strongest, at the most valiant
      Fire, pride, youth are among our ranks
      For our battles, our wars, Honor, Loyalty on our flags
      Treading the dark mud walk the white caps

    2. Lexington Green Says:

      Thanks, Gorgasal. I appreciate that very much.

    3. Johnny Farking-Rosbif Says:

      This is probably the best translation.

      I have tried to find a balance between literal and contextual translation so as to keep the spirit of the original.

      n.b. The word “Colours” here is in the military context of “Regimental Battle Flags”

      “Les Kepi Blancs” – The first Legion song that I learned as an “engagé volotaire” in 1981

      (sung to the tune of the WW2 era German “Panzer Lied” which was adapted from an even older German sea-shanty)

      I
      Since we must live and struggle in suffering
      The day has come when we shall prevail at the front (by)
      The strength of our spirit, the strength in our hearts and in our arms
      Pacing the sombre mud, go the White Kepis

      II
      The Street belongs to him who strides down it
      The Street belongs to the Colours of the White Kepis
      Surrounding us the hatred, the dogmas that we defy
      Pacing the sombre mud, go the White Kepis

      III
      How many have fallen at random on a bright morning
      Of our comrades who laughed at fate
      We (too) will fall by the wayside, we will fall or conquer in battle
      Pacing the sombre mud, go the White Kepis

      IV
      Life smiles but on the strongest, the most doughty
      Vigour, pride, youth are in our ranks
      For our battles, our struggles, Honour, Fidelity on our Colours
      Pacing the sombre mud, go the White Kepis

    4. Lexington Green Says:

      JFR, thank you very much for this version.

      I notice that Kepi Blanc is sung at the slower Legion marching pace, where the Panzer Lied has a more rapid, almost jaunty tempo.

      The slower tempo gives the Legion song a more somber or solemn feel.

      I wonder if the Kepi Blanc song came to the Legion after World War II, and they simply added French words, or if it had been part of the repertoire before then.

    5. Jim Bennett Says:

      Some interesting discussions of exactly why the Kepi Blanc has the same tune as the Panzer Lied:

      http://worldwartwozone.com/forums/showthread.php?1814-SS-and-the-Foreign-Legion

      http://www.strategypage.com/militaryforums/30-76965.aspx

      I had a friend who was a Vietnam vet, who said he had known a man in Vietnam who had originally been a German soldier on the Eastern Front in WWII, joined the Legion afterwards, went to Indochina, and eventually mustered out and became a civilian advisor to the ARVN. A lot of the details were similar to the sort of thing rumored about in Devil’s Brigade. I have no idea how much truth there was to the story, but it does show that such stories were in the air at the time.

    6. Lexington Green Says:

      As a child one of my favorite books was La Legion!: The French Foreign Legion and the Men Who Made It Glorious by Geoffrey Bocca (1965). Bocca was a journalist who was with the Legion in Vietnam and Algeria.

      He talks about the long history of Germans serving in the Legion. In the 19th century, the other European powers had colonial empires where soldiers could go for adventure. The Brits and French had maritime empires, Russia had central Asia and the Caucuses. Germans who wanted to do more than march up and down the barracks square would join the Foreign Legion. Ernst Jünger was in the Legion before World War I, for example. So, Germans in the Legion was a long tradition.

      Another thing Bocca mentions is that the Legion tended to be full of people who were on the losing side of whatever political turmoil was stirring in Europe. If there was a civil war or revolution, the losers would be looking for a place to go. As a result, after World War I, lots of Germans people from Eastern Europe ended up in the Legion. In the 1930s, as fascist governments were taking over in various places, the Legion filled up with leftists and communists from Germany, Spain, Italy and other places. After World War II you had a big influx of all kinds of German combat veterans, not just Waffen SS.

      So, after 1945, a very large number of Germans in the Legion was “over-determined.”

      But, I still don’t know if Kepi Blanc became a Legion song before or after World War II!

    7. FMC Says:

      Lex,

      You might like that as well:

      Marche du 1er zouaves
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN5E2i8tc1k&feature=related

      Sous le soleil brûlant d’Afrique
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bN5E2i8tc1k&feature=related

      Aux legionnaires
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KOm6qZp1b0

      All have interesting lyrics, particularly the last one.

      PS. if you re still interested in the question above I ll look round on some French sites later next week.

      FMC