Ah! vous dirai-je, maman

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"Ah! vous dirai-je, maman" (French: [a vu diʁeʒ(ə) mamɑ̃]) is a popular children's song in France, which has had numerous lyrics on different themes since its composition in the 18th century. This song was popularized in Twelve Variations on "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


According to Henri-Irénée Marrou, the origin of the melody is an anonymous pastoral song dating from 1740, with children's lyrics added relatively recently.[1] The melody was first published in 1761.[2] In 1774, the earliest known printed publication of the lyrics together with the music was in volume two of Recueil de Romances by M.D.L. (Charles de Lusse [de]) published in Brussels, under the title "La Confidence naïve".[3][4]

Nursery rhyme[edit]

Musical scores are temporarily disabled.

The French lyrics of the nursery rhyme exist in several variations, of which the following one is one of the most common versions.

Ah ! Vous dirai-je maman
Ce qui cause mon tourment?
Papa veut que je raisonne
Comme une grande personne
Moi je dis que les bonbons
Valent mieux que la raison.

Oh! Shall I tell you, Mama,
What is tormenting me?
Daddy wants me to reason
Like a grown-up person,
Me, I say that sweets
Are worth more than reasoning.

"La Confidence naïve"[edit]

The lyrics of the nursery rhyme are a parody of the original lyrics, an anonymous love poem, "La Confidence naïve" ("The naive Confidence").[citation needed]

Ah ! vous dirai-je, maman,
Ce qui cause mon tourment ?
Depuis que j'ai vu Silvandre,*
Me regarder d'un air tendre ;
Mon cœur dit à chaque instant :
« Peut-on vivre sans amant ? »

L'autre jour, dans un bosquet,
De fleurs il fit un bouquet ;
Il en para ma houlette
Me disant : « Belle brunette,
Flore est moins belle que toi ;
L'amour moins épris que moi.

Étant faite pour charmer,
Il faut plaire, il faut aimer ;
C'est au printemps de son âge,
Qu'il est dit que l'on s'engage.
Si vous tardez plus longtemps,
On regrette ces moments. »

Je rougis et par malheur
Un soupir trahit mon cœur.
Le cruel avec adresse,
Profita de ma faiblesse :
Hélas, maman ! un faux pas
Me fit tomber dans ses bras.

Je n'avais pour tout soutien
Que ma houlette et mon chien.
L'amour, voulant ma défaite,
Écarta chien et houlette ;
Ah ! qu'on goûte de douceur,
Quand l'amour prend soin d'un cœur !

Ah! Shall I tell you, Mama,
What causes my torment?
Since I saw Silvandre,
Look at me tenderly;
My heart says every moment:
"Can one live without loving?"

The other day, in a grove,
He made a bouquet of flowers;
He adorned my crook with it
Telling me: "Beautiful brunette,
Flora is less beautiful than you;
Love less enamoured than me.

Being made to charm,
You must please, you must love;
It is in the springtime of one's age,
That it is said one should commit.
If you tarry any longer,
One regrets these moments."

I blushed and unfortunately
A sigh betrayed my heart.
The cruel one skillfully
Took advantage of my weakness:
Alas, Mama! a misstep
Made me fall into his arms.

I did not have any support
Than my crook and my dog.
Love, wishing my defeat,
Put aside my dog and crook;
Ah! That we taste sweetness,
When love takes care of a heart!

^* Variations of the male lover's name found around the same time are Sylvandre, Lysandre, and Clitandre.

Appearances of the melody[edit]

Many songs in various languages have been based on the "Ah! vous dirai-je, maman" melody. In English, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", the "Alphabet Song" and "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" are all based on this melody.

The German Christmas carol "Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann [de]" with words by Hoffmann von Fallersleben, also uses the melody, as does the Hungarian Christmas carol "Hull a pelyhes fehér hó [hu]", the Dutch "Altijd is Kortjakje ziek [nl]", the Spanish "Campanita del lugar [es]", the Greek "Φεγγαράκι μου λαμπρό" and the Turkish "Daha Dün Annemizin".

Several classical compositions have been inspired by this tune:


  1. ^ Henri Davenson (pseudonym of Henri-Irénée Marrou), Le livre des chansons, Neuchâtel, Éditions de la Baconnière, 1944, p. 567.
  2. ^ George List, "The Distribution of a Melodic Formula: Diffusion or Polygenesis?", Yearbook of the International Folk Music Council, v. 10, (1978), pp. 33–52
  3. ^ de Lusse (1774). Recueil de romances historiques, tendres et burlesques, tant anciennes que modernes, avec les airs notés. 2. p. 75. Retrieved 14 February 2019.
  4. ^ The chronology is based on an account by Bob Kosovsky, librarian at the Music Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, 2001