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Some years ago, I wrote a take off on a Gilbert Bécaud poem, L'Homme et La Musique, using a technique called parallel construction.

Bécaud's original began:

Moi, moi je suis homme, Et toi tu es la musique.

My version began, closely paralleling the original:

Elle, elle est femme, Et moi je ne suis qu'un rustique​.

My English translation was, “She, she is a woman, Next to her I'm just a peasant (rustique)”. The implication was “I'm not good enough for her.”

Allowing for poetic license, can one use rustique in this way?

(Added the following after seeing the comments.)

Later, the poem continues:

Parce qu'elle est comme le soleil, la lune et aussi la moitié, de tous les astres de la Grande Vie Lactée.

Because she's like the shining sun, the moon, and also half the stars, That populate the Milky Way.

Does the first “rustique” verse make a good “counterpoint” (or “foil”) for the above?

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I assumed Wauy was just a typo, not a try to mimic the variation on “la Voie Lactée”. –  Stéphane Gimenez Mar 22 '13 at 14:56

2 Answers 2

Yes, rustique can have this deprecating connotation. It can also have a positive connotation in other contexts. For example, charme rustique evokes a nostalgy for the (imagined) pleasant simplicity of the country life of yesterday, the good old days. In your case, un rustique is a peasant, unwashed or at least uncouth and uneducated, ill-mannered, not suited to the high-brow gentrified city life. The negation “je ne suis qu'” makes it apparent that the qualifier is negative (it would come out as probably negative even with just “je suis un rustique”, but the use of ne que makes it unambiguous). I think you got the undertone exactly right.

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I don't know. “​Elle est une femme et je suis un rustique” doesn't sound that deprecating to me. But then, I am but an unwashed provincial ;) –  Evpok Mar 20 '13 at 23:42
    
@Evpok “​Elle est une femme et je suis un rustique” with no other context can go either way for me (but it can't be neutral), but I would presuppose that a negative connotation is intended barring other clues. “je ne suis qu'un rustique” clinches it for me: it's self-deprecating (or it's indirect speech, saying that someone considers je to be uncouth). –  Gilles Mar 21 '13 at 0:01
    
My point exactly. –  Evpok Mar 21 '13 at 0:05

Rustique is not necessarily peasant. Here, it probably means either crude, ill-mannered or plain, as per

I. A. 2. b)
β) Péjoratif. Rude, grossier, sans savoir-vivre. […]
γ) Par extension. Qui a la simplicité sans façon et un peu fruste que l'on prête aux gens de la campagne.TLFi

either way, though rustique is not precisely flattering in most contexts, I wouldn't use it to mean “not good enough” by itself. For instance, here, the self-deprecating implication is conveyed by qu' rather than rustique.

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In a similar vein, French speakers will sometimes use "rustique" as a way to stress that something is very primitive and inconvenient. For instance, the French versions of "I went into a small hotel in a village and it was crappy, the only usable toilets were outside of the main building" or "We have no heating in this house, only a chimney" could elicit "Ah oui, c'est rustique" as a response, meaning "Woaw, that's ridiculously backwards". –  a3nm Mar 20 '13 at 23:44

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