Alouette (song)

France Salman Rushdie Paris
"Alouette"
Song
LanguageFrench
WrittenUnknown
GenreFolk
Songwriter(s)Traditional
Audio sample

"Alouette" (pronounced [alwɛt]) is a popular French-language Canadian[1] children's song, commonly thought to be about plucking the feathers from a lark. Although it is in French, it is well known among speakers of other languages; in this respect it is similar to "Frère Jacques". Many US Marines and other Allied soldiers learned the song while serving in France during World War I and took it home with them, passing it on to their children and grandchildren.[2][3]

History

The song's origin is uncertain, though the most popular theory is that it is French-Canadian. It was first published in A Pocket Song Book for the Use of Students and Graduates of McGill College (Montreal, 1879). Canadian folklorist Marius Barbeau was of the opinion that the song's origin was France, though the first printed copy in France came 14 years after the original Canadian (McGill) publication.[1]

The Canadian theory is based on the French fur trade that was active for over 300 years in North America. Canoes were used to transport trade goods in exchange for furs through established expansive trade routes consisting of interconnecting lakes, and rivers, and portages in the hinterland of present-day Canada and United States. The songs of the French fur trade were adapted to accompany the motion of paddles dipped in unison. Singing helped to pass the time and made the work seem lighter. In fact, it is likely that the Montreal Agents and Wintering Partners (precursor to the North West Company of fur traders) sought out and preferred to hire voyageurs who liked to sing and were good at it. They believed that singing helped the voyageurs to paddle faster and longer. French colonists ate horned larks, which they considered a game bird. "Alouette" informs the lark that the singer will pluck its head, nose, eyes, wings and tail. En roulant ma boule sings of ponds, bonnie ducks and a prince on hunting bound. Many of the songs favored by the voyageurs have been passed down to our own era.

"Alouette" has become a symbol of French Canada for the world, an unofficial national song.[1] Today, the song is used to teach French- and English-speaking children in Canada, and others learning French around the world, the names of body parts. Singers will point to or touch the part of their body that corresponds to the word being sung in the song.

Ethnomusicologist Conrad LaForte points out that, in song, the lark (l'alouette) is the bird of the morning, and that it is the first bird to sing in the morning, hence waking up lovers and causing them to part, and waking up others as well, something that is not always appreciated. In French songs, the lark also has the reputation of being a gossip, a know-it-all, and cannot be relied on to carry a message, as it will tell everyone; it also carries bad news. However the nightingale, being the first bird of spring, in Europe, sings happily all the time, during the lovely seasons of spring and summer. The nightingale (i.e., rossignol) also carries messages faithfully and dispenses advice, in Latin, no less, a language that lovers understand. LaForte explains that this alludes to the Middle Ages, when only a select few still understood Latin.[4] And so, as the lark makes lovers part or wakes up the sleepyhead, this would explain why the singer of "Alouette" wants to pluck it in so many ways if he can catch it, for, as LaForte notes, this bird is flighty as well.

The lark was eaten in Europe, and when eaten was known as a "mauviette", which is also a term for a sickly person.[5]

Structure

"Alouette" usually involves audience participation, with the audience echoing every line of each verse after the verse's second line. It is a cumulative song, with each verse built on top of the previous verses, much like the English carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas".

Lyrics

Below are the original French lyrics along with a literal English translation.

French English translation
Refrain
Alouette, gentille alouette,
Alouette, je te plumerai.

1.

Je te plumerai la tête. ×2
Et la tête!  ×2
Alouette!  ×2
A-a-a-ah
Refrain

2.

Je te plumerai le bec. ×2
Et le bec!  ×2
Et la tête!  ×2
Alouette!  ×2
A-a-a-ah
Refrain

3.

Je te plumerai les yeux. ×2
Et les yeux!  ×2
Et le bec!  ×2
Et la tête!  ×2
Alouette!  ×2
A-a-a-ah
Refrain

4.

Je te plumerai le cou. ×2
Et le cou!  ×2
Et les yeux!  ×2
Et le bec!  ×2
Et la tête!  ×2
Alouette!  ×2
A-a-a-ah
Refrain

5.

Je te plumerai les ailes. ×2
Et les ailes!  ×2
Et le cou!  ×2
Et les yeux!  ×2
Et le bec!  ×2
Et la tête!  ×2
Alouette!  ×2
A-a-a-ah
Refrain

6.

Je te plumerai les pattes. ×2
Et les pattes!  ×2
Et les ailes!  ×2
Et le cou!  ×2
Et les yeux!  ×2
Et le bec!  ×2
Et la tête!  ×2
Alouette!  ×2
A-a-a-ah
Refrain

7.

Je te plumerai la queue. ×2
Et la queue!  ×2
Et les pattes!  ×2
Et les ailes!  ×2
Et le cou!  ×2
Et les yeux!  ×2
Et le bec!  ×2
Et la tête!  ×2
Alouette!  ×2
A-a-a-ah
Refrain

8.

Je te plumerai le dos. ×2
Et le dos!  ×2
Et la queue!  ×2
Et les pattes!  ×2
Et les ailes!  ×2
Et le cou!  ×2
Et les yeux!  ×2
Et le bec!  ×2
Et la tête!  ×2
Alouette!  ×2
A-a-a-ah
Refrain
Refrain
Lark, nice lark,
Lark, I will pluck you.

1.

I will pluck your head. ×2
And your head!  ×2
Lark!  ×2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

2.

I will pluck your beak. ×2
And your beak!  ×2
And your head!  ×2
Lark!  ×2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

3.

I will pluck your eyes. ×2
And your eyes!  ×2
And your beak!  ×2
And your head!  ×2
Lark!  ×2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

4.

I will pluck your neck. ×2
And your neck!  ×2
And your eyes!  ×2
And your beak!  ×2
And your head!  ×2
Lark!  ×2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

5.

I will pluck your wings. ×2
And your wings!  ×2
And your neck!  ×2
And your eyes!  ×2
And your beak!  ×2
And your head!  ×2
Lark!  ×2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

6.

I will pluck your legs. ×2
And your legs!  ×2
And your wings!  ×2
And your neck!  ×2
And your eyes!  ×2
And your beak!  ×2
And your head!  ×2
Lark!  ×2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

7.

I will pluck your tail. ×2
And your tail!  ×2
And your legs!  ×2
And your wings!  ×2
And your neck!  ×2
And your eyes!  ×2
And your beak!  ×2
And your head!  ×2
Lark!  ×2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

8.

I will pluck your back. ×2
And your back!  ×2
And your tail!  ×2
And your legs!  ×2
And your wings!  ×2
And your neck!  ×2
And your eyes!  ×2
And your beak!  ×2
And your head!  ×2
Lark!  ×2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

Adaptations

An English song known as "If You Love Me" uses the same tune as "Alouette".

The English composer Benjamin Britten adapted the tune for part of his 1939 orchestral composition Canadian Carnival.

The tune of the chorus has been adapted to make the tune of the children's song "Down by the Station".

The song was used by French-Canadian nuns in the United States to help teach French to their students. They substituted the French word for human body parts for the bird parts.

An instrumental version was recorded on March 20, 1962, as one of the songs on the Pete and Conte Candoli jazz album There Is Nothing Like a Dame, featuring the Candoli brothers on trumpets, Shelly Manne on drums, Jimmy Rowles on piano, Howard Roberts on guitar and Gary Peacock on bass.

The tune was recomposed into a musical lesson on being a ghost, titled, appropriately, Ghost Lesson and sung by Casper and others on the record Casper - A Trip Through Ghostland.

The melody for the sung parts of "Little Bunny Foo Foo" is taken from "Alouette".

In popular culture

References

  1. ^ a b c Plouffe, Hélène. ""Alouette!"". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 13 January 2017.
  2. ^ Conrad LaForte, Survivances médiévales dans la chanson folklorique, Université Laval Press, 1981
  3. ^ Larousse gastronomique, Hamlyn, London, New York, Sydney, Toronto, 1974
  4. ^ LaForte, Conrad (1981). Survivances médiévales dans la chanson folklorique: Poétique de la chanson en laisse (Ethnologie de l'Amérique française). Presses de l'Université Laval. p. 227–229. ISBN 978-2763769288.
  5. ^ "Lark", Larousse Gastronomique, the encyclopedia of food, wine and cooking, Hamlyn: London, New York. Sydney, Toronto, 14th edition, 1974.
  6. ^ Rushdie, Salman (2005). Shalimar the Clown. Random House. p. 41.
  7. ^ Dirty Monkey Mackem. Septic Hank and the Magpie Cowboys. YouTube. 2007-03-06. Retrieved 2018-08-21.