The Belfry of Ghent

In the song Marieke by Jacques Brel (1929-1978), the two Flemish cities of Brugge and Gent are linked together over and over by their French names, because the song is about a love affair that took place “between the towers of Bruges and Gand”.

The Belfry of Ghent

Ay Marieke Marieke je t’aimais tant
Entre les tours de Bruges et Gand
Ay Marieke Marieke il y a longtemps
Entre les tours de Bruges et Gand

This is one of Jacques Brel’s few bilingual songs. In his original version from 1961 the verses are in Flemish but the refrains are in French, so he uses the French names of the two cities: de Bruges et Gand, de Bruges et Gand, de Bruges et Gand, …

(He later recorded a version entirely in Flemish, but this version is not nearly as well-known as the original.)

The tower in Ghent, the Belfry, was built starting in 1313 and was used for over four hundred years as a watch tower. It is also (as the name implies) a bell tower.

My photos in this post are from 2012. I revised the text in 2019.

See also: Jacques Brel’s Marieke in Brugge/Bruges.

2 thoughts on “The Belfry of Ghent”

  1. Jacques Brel’s “Marieke Marieke” entranced me in my teens! In my souvenir, Brel sang the refrain in French “Ay Marieke Marieke, je t’aimais tant, entre les tours de Bruges et Gand…” but it’s the insisting, staccato couplet in Flemish that sent me! The repetition…
    “Zonder liefde, warme liefde
    Waait de wind, de stomme wind
    Zonder liefde, warme liefde
    Weent de zee, de grijze zee
    Zonder liefde, warme liefde
    Lijdt het licht, het donker licht
    En schuurt het zand over mijn land
    Mijn platte land, mijn Vlaanderenland”
    That haunting couplet in Flemish still makes me tremble.
    I lived in Québec City then… Perhaps we were treated to a bilingual version… The switch from French to Flemish was powerful! It still haunts me today. As does Brel’s “Le plat pays” and Frida la blonde… Thanks Don for the memory!

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