Sunday, November 3, 2013

"Le Chanson de l'Emerillon"

A Sunday morning in the Farrell-Churchill household. I'm washing up the dishes, Jessica is drinking coffee from Café du Monde, and she starts humming a French tune, one to which most Americans know only the first line: "Alouette, gentille alouette..."

"That's a hawking song, you know."

"Really? What does it mean?"

"Well, alouette means lark..."

"Uh-oh."

"...and it's sort of a love song by the merlin to its traditional quarry."

"I don't like where this is going."

J'ai passé six années de français, mais j'ai oublié le plupart. [I took six years of French, but I've forgotten most of it. I keep this one sentence handy just in case.] This much, however, I can manage.

Le Chanson de l'Emerillon, as presented in John Loft's A Merlin For Me

Alouette, gentille alouette,
Alouette, je te plumerai.
Je te plumerai la tête,
Ah! la tête, ah! la tête,
Alouette, alouette, ah!

Alouette, gentille alouette,
Alouette, je te plumerai.
Je te plumerai le bec,
Ah! le bec, ah! le bec,
Alouette, alouette, ah!

Alouette, gentille alouette,
Alouette, je te plumerai.
Je te plumerai les ailes,
Ah! les ailes, ah! les ailes,
Alouette, alouette, ah!

Translated (for accuracy, not for meter):

The Song of the Merlin

Skylark, nice skylark,
Skylark, I will pluck you.
I will pluck your head,
Ah! your head, ah! your head,
Skylark, skylark, ah!

Skylark, nice skylark,
Skylark, I will pluck you.
I will pluck your beak,
Ah! your beak, ah! your beak,
Skylark, skylark, ah!

Skylark, nice skylark,
Skylark, I will pluck you.
I will pluck your wings,
Ah! your wings, ah! your wings,
Skylark, skylark, ah!

(For meter, I'd switch up the first lines to read:

I will pluck you, oh yes I will pluck you,
I will pluck you, pretty little lark.

Any falconer who's flown small hawks at birds, incidentally, will recognize the validity of the head-beak-wings sequence.)

Jessica again: "You're going to teach that to our kids, aren't you?"

"Sure, why not?"

"That's a terrible song!"

"Hey, don't blame me; you're the one who's part French."

1 comment:

Chas Clifton said...

Always associated in my mind with a cartoon that played at the drive-in movie of my youth (Rapid City, SD) -- jolly voyageurs paddling their canoe while singing it . . . to advertise something or other, I suppose.