Once upon a time there was a garden of earth – A song by Georges Moustaki from 1970

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C’est une chanson pour les enfants qui naissent et qui vivententre l’acier et le bitume, entre le béton et l’asphalte, et qui ne sauront peut-être jamais que la terre était un jardin.

Il y avait un jardin qu’on appelait la terre.
Il brillait au soleil comme un fruit défendu.
Non, ce n’était pas le paradis ou l’enfer
Ni rien de déjà vu ou déjà entendu.

Il y avait un jardin, une maison des arbres,
Avec un lit de mousse pour y faire l’amour
Et un petit ruisseau roulant sans une vague
Venait le rafraîchir et poursuivait son cours.

Il y avait un jardin grand comme une vallée.
On pouvait s’y nourrir à toutes les saisons,
Sur la terre brûlante ou sur l’herbe gelée
Et découvrir des fleurs qui n’avaient pas nom.…

Il y avait un jardin qu’on appelait la terre.
Il était assez grand pour des milliers d’enfants.
Il était habité jadis par nos grands-pères
Qui le tenaient eux-mêmes de leurs grands-parents.

Où est-il ce jardin où nous aurions pu naître,
Où nous aurions pu vivre insouciants et nus?
Où est-il ce jardin toutes portes ouvertes,
Que je cherche encore mais que je ne trouve plus?

Georges MoustakiGeorges Moustaki

Georges Moustaki. Foto Polygram. Die Vinyl Platte mit dem Chanson gibt es noch bei Amazon in Frankreich.

Der Garten Erde

Der Garten Erde. Foto: Stephan Bleek

In the summer of 1971, I and some school friends stopped off in the Camargue and Avignon. In Avignon we heard a concert with Georges Moustaki. His chanson “Il y avait un jardin” – there was once a garden … (called Earth) had particularly touched me.

“This is a song for children who are born and live between steel and asphalt, between concrete and asphalt, and who may never know that the earth was a garden.”

A few days ago I heard the song again on my 50 year old record and I got the idea to illustrate it with some film footage. The result is the video. Compared to what we knew 50 years ago, the situation of the earth today is incomparably more difficult. At that time, the shift to ecological ideas, which examine the interrelationships between living beings and their environment, had only begun with some forward thinkers. The Apollo astronauts had transmitted the image of the blue sphere in the black void of the cosmos. The idea that our spaceship Earth is a finite, fragile structure, and that we would do well to treat this little garden of ours with care, broke through – among a few.

“There was a garden called ‘The Earth’.
It shone in the sun like a forbidden fruit.
No, it was neither heaven nor hell
Nor anything we have seen or heard of before.”

There is no “business as usual

A lot has happened since then, but not nearly enough. My pictures show how the population explosion has triggered incredible urbanisation, along with mass impoverishment and destitution. The little girl in the Asian slum plants a yellow plastic flower against the desolation. Such an image did not come to our minds at the time when we heard the words of Georges Moustaki. We dreamt romantically of a return to more nature and probably still do today. In view of the images of environmental destruction and mass misery, we need more. We already heard about species extinction and the Co2 catastrophe 50 years ago. But we are now experiencing the full extent.

“There was a garden, a house of trees,
With a bed of moss where you could make love
And a little creek flowing without a ripple
Came to refresh it, and followed its course.”

A master plan is needed to stop the overpopulation of the planet and to achieve a CO2 neutral, sustainable economy in the industrialised countries. The bed of moss has become a bed of plastic waste. There needs to be a move away from plastic, a safe recycling that is worthy of its name. A move away from factory farming and intensive farming with pesticides. However, the majority of the population in this country still believes that there can be a “business as usual”. There is a huge gap between verbal ecology and real behaviour.

“There was a garden as big as a valley.
where one could feed in all seasons,
on the burning earth or on the frozen grass
and discover flowers that had no name….”

There was a garden called the Earth.
it was big enough for thousands of children
it was once inhabited by our grandfathers,
who themselves had it from their grandparents.

Where is this garden where we could have been born,
where we could have lived carefree and naked?
Where is this garden of open doors,
that I am still looking for but can no longer find?

Yes, where is this garden today? At that time, a tanker truck drove in front of us on the coastal road in the south of France. The inscription read: “L’eau est polluée, buvez du vin”. (The water is poisoned – drink wine!) Humour is still needed.

Commitment is necessary

What about it – the garden of all of us? It is high time to save it. In the small citizens’ group “Artenvielfalt Wörthsee” we try to do our part.