Alouette (song)

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"Alouette"
Song
Genre folk
Music sample

"Alouette" is a popular French Canadian[1] children's song about plucking the feathers from a lark, in retribution for being woken up by its song. Although it is in French, it is well-known among speakers of other languages; in this respect it is similar to "Frère Jacques". Many American doughboys and other Allied soldiers learned the song while serving in France during World War I and brought it home with them, passing it on to their children and grandchildren.[2][3]

History[edit]

Its origin is uncertain, though the most popular theory is that it is French Canadian. The song was first published in A Pocket Song Book for the Use of Students and Graduates of McGill College (Montreal, 1879). However, Canadian folklorist Marius Barbeau was of the opinion that the song's ultimate origin was France.[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 sought out and preferred to hire voyageurs who liked to sing and were good at it.[citation needed] 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.

It 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 other English speakers 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 which 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 she will tell everyone; she 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 which 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, as Laporte notes, this bird is flighty as well.

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

Structure[edit]

"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[edit]

Below are the original French lyrics along with a literal English translation. As the translation does not match up well with the meter of the song, a slightly less literal, yet more singable, version is included.

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

1.

Je te plumerai la tête. x2
Et la tête! Et la tête!
Alouette! Alouette!
A-a-a-ah
Refrain

2.

Je te plumerai le bec. x2
Et le bec!  x2
Et la tête!  x2
Alouette!  x2
A-a-a-ah
Refrain

3.

Je te plumerai les yeux. x2
Et les yeux!  x2
Et le bec!  x2
Et la tête!  x2
Alouette!  x2
A-a-a-ah
Refrain

4.

Je te plumerai le cou. x2
Et le cou!  x2
Et les yeux!  x2
Et le bec!  x2
Et la tête!  x2
Alouette!  x2
A-a-a-ah
Refrain

5.

Je te plumerai les ailes. x2
Et les ailes!  x2
Et le cou!  x2
Et les yeux!  x2
Et le bec!  x2
Et la tête!  x2
Alouette!  x2
A-a-a-ah
Refrain

6.

Je te plumerai les pattes. x2
Et les pattes!  x2
Et les ailes!  x2
Et le cou!  x2
Et les yeux!  x2
Et le bec!  x2
Et la tête!  x2
Alouette!  x2
A-a-a-ah
Refrain

7.

Je te plumerai la queue. x2
Et la queue!  x2
Et les pattes!  x2
Et les ailes!  x2
Et le cou!  x2
Et les yeux!  x2
Et le bec!  x2
Et la tête!  x2
Alouette!  x2
A-a-a-ah
Refrain

8.

Je te plumerai le dos. x2
Et le dos!  x2
Et la queue!  x2
Et les pattes!  x2
Et les ailes!  x2
Et le cou!  x2
Et les yeux!  x2
Et le bec!  x2
Et la tête!  x2
Alouette!  x2
A-a-a-ah
Refrain
Refrain
Lark, nice lark,
Lark, I will pluck you.

1.

I will pluck your head. x2
And your head! And your head!
Lark! Lark!
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

2.

I will pluck your beak. x2
And your beak!  x2
And your head!  x2
Lark!  x2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

3.

I will pluck your eyes. x2
And your eyes!  x2
And your beak!  x2
And your head!  x2
Lark!  x2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

4.

I will pluck your neck. x2
And your neck!  x2
And your eyes!  x2
And your beak!  x2
And your head!  x2
Lark!  x2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

5.

I will pluck your wings. x2
And your wings!  x2
And your neck!  x2
And your eyes!  x2
And your beak!  x2
And your head!  x2
Lark!  x2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

6.

I will pluck your legs. x2
And your legs!  x2
And your wings!  x2
And your neck!  x2
And your eyes!  x2
And your beak!  x2
And your head!  x2
Lark!  x2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

7.

I will pluck your tail. x2
And your tail!  x2
And your legs!  x2
And your wings!  x2
And your neck!  x2
And your eyes!  x2
And your beak!  x2
And your head!  x2
Lark!  x2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

8.

I will pluck your back. x2
And your back!  x2
And your tail!  x2
And your legs!  x2
And your wings!  x2
And your neck!  x2
And your eyes!  x2
And your beak!  x2
And your head!  x2
Lark!  x2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain
Refrain
Little skylark, lovely little skylark,
Little skylark, I'll pluck your feathers off.

1.

I'll pluck the feathers off your head. x2
Off your head! x2
Little lark! x2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

2.

I'll pluck the feathers off your beak. x2
Off your beak!  x2
Off your head!  x2
Little lark!  x2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

3.

I'll pluck the feathers off your eyes. x2
Off your eyes!  x2
Off your beak!  x2
Off your head!  x2
Little lark!  x2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

4.

I'll pluck the feathers off your neck. x2
Off your neck!  x2
Off your eyes!  x2
Off your beak!  x2
Off your head!  x2
Little lark!  x2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

5.

I'll pluck the feathers off your wings. x2
Off your wings!  x2
Off your neck!  x2
Off your eyes!  x2
Off your beak!  x2
Off your head!  x2
Little lark!  x2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

6.

I'll pluck the feathers off your legs. x2
Off your legs!  x2
Off your wings!  x2
Off your neck!  x2
Off your eyes!  x2
Off your beak!  x2
Off your head!  x2
Little lark!  x2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

7.

I'll pluck the feathers off your tail. x2
Off your tail!  x2
Off your legs!  x2
Off your wings!  x2
Off your neck!  x2
Off your eyes!  x2
Off your beak!  x2
Off your head!  x2
Little lark!  x2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

8.

I'll pluck the feathers off your back. x2
Off your back!  x2
Off your tail!  x2
Off your legs!  x2
Off your wings!  x2
Off your neck!  x2
Off your eyes!  x2
Off your beak!  x2
Off your head!  x2
Little lark!  x2
O-o-o-oh
Refrain

Adaptation[edit]

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

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.

In popular culture[edit]

As this song is not under copyright, it is frequently used for the music of cartoons. For example, the two chefs in the classic Bugs Bunny short French Rarebit sing "Alouette" while inside an oven.

It is also frequently used in television and videos. In a The Kids in the Hall sketch, Kevin McDonald and Dave Foley sing the song whilst paddling a canoe through an office trapping employees for their clothes.

When Mr. and Mrs. Howell have a fight, the other castaways try to recreate the French restaurant where they met. Ginger Grant does her part by singing "Alouette" for the couple ostensibly to create a "romantic mood". The hysterical nature of this "faux pas" is not lost on the more astute members of the audience of Gilligan's Island.

The song is also used for parody and cultural reference. Comedian and performer Andy Kaufman used to sing his own derivative of "Alouette" entitled "Abodabee", which he claimed was a song "performed every harvest time in the islands of the Caspian Sea."

In François Bourgeon's The Twilight Companions, a group of Breton villagers sing the song as they merrily prepare to torture and kill a suspected witch. The series is set during the Hundred Years' War, prior to the French colonization of the Americas, and Bourgeon hence argues its European origin.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c [1]
  2. ^ Conrad LaForte, Survivances médiévales dans la chanson folklorique, les presses de l'Université Laval, 1981
  3. ^ Larousse gastronomique, Hamlyn, London, New York, Sydney, Toronto, 1974
  4. ^ Conrad LaForte, Survivances Médiévales dans la chanson folklorique, les presses de l'Université Laval, 1981, pp.227-229.
  5. ^ "Lark", Larousse Gastronomique, the encyclopedia of food, wine and cooking, Hamlyn: London, New York. Sydney, Toronto, 14th edition, 1974.

External links[edit]