Mots d'Heures

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Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames: The D'Antin Manuscript
Mots D'Heures Gousses, Rames 1967.jpg
Author Luis d'Antin van Rooten
Publisher Grossman Publishers
Publication date
Published in English
Media type book
Pages 76
OCLC 1208360
LC Class 67-21230

Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames: The D'Antin Manuscript (Mother Goose's Rhymes), published in 1967 by Luis d'Antin van Rooten is purportedly a collection of poems written in archaic French with learned glosses. In fact, they are English-language nursery rhymes written homophonically as a nonsensical French text (with pseudo-scholarly explanatory footnotes); that is, as an English-to-French homophonic translation.[1] The result is not merely the English nursery rhyme but that nursery rhyme as it would sound if spoken in English by someone with a strong French accent. Even the manuscript's title, when spoken aloud, sounds like "Mother Goose's Rhymes" with a strong French accent.

Here is van Rooten's version of Humpty Dumpty:[2]

Humpty Dumpty
Sat on a wall.
Humpty Dumpty
Had a great fall.
All the king's horses
And all the king's men
Couldn't put Humpty
Together again.
Un petit d'un petit
S'étonne aux Halles
Un petit d'un petit
Ah! degrés te fallent
Indolent qui ne sort cesse
Indolent qui ne se mène
Qu'importe un petit
Tout gai de Reguennes.
A child of a child
Is surprised at the Market
A child of a child
Oh, degrees you needed!
Lazy is he who never goes out
Lazy is he who is not led
Who cares about a little one
All happy with Reguennes

Secondary use[edit]

Ten of the Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames have been set to music by Lawrence Whiffin.[3]

Similar works[edit]

An earlier example of homophonic translation (in this case French-to-English) is "Frayer Jerker" (Frère Jacques) in Anguish Languish (1956).[4]

A later book in the English-to-French genre is N'Heures Souris Rames (Nursery Rhymes), published in 1980 by Ormonde de Kay.[5] It contains some forty nursery rhymes, among which are Coucou doux de Ledoux (Cock-A-Doodle-Doo), Signe, garçon. Neuf Sikhs se pansent (Sing a Song of Sixpence) and Hâte, carrosse bonzes (Hot Cross Buns).

A similar work in German-English is Mörder Guss Reims: The Gustav Leberwurst Manuscript by John Hulme (1st Edition 1981; various publishers listed; ISBN 0517545594, ISBN 978-0517545591 and others). The dust jacket, layout and typography are very similar in style and appearance to the original Mots D'Heures albeit with a different selection of nursery rhymes.

Marcel Duchamp draws parallels between the method behind Mots d'Heures and certain works of Raymond Roussel.[6]

Publication history[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Janson-Smith, Patrick (27 November 2009). "A French excursion for classic nursery rhymes" (Guardian Books Podcast). The Guardian. Retrieved 27 November 2009. 
  2. ^ "Luis d'Antin van Rooten's Humpty Dumpty". The Guardian. 27 November 2009. Retrieved 27 November 2009. 
  3. ^ Whiffin, Lawrence (1999). A setting of poems from Mots d'heures - gousses, rames : for mezzo soprano (musical score). Australian Music Centre. Grosvenor Place, N.S.W.: Australian Music Centre. OCLC 222653938. 
  4. ^ Chace, Howard L. (1956). "Frayer Jerker". Anguish Languish [English Language]. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. OCLC 2539398. 
  5. ^ de Kay, Ormonde (1980). N'Heures Souris Rames [Nursery Rhymes]. ISBN 978-0-517-54081-7. OCLC 6378996. 
  6. ^ Jean, Marcel (ed) (1980). Autobiography of Surrealism. New York: Viking Press; p326 footnote(MJ). ISBN 0-670-14235-2.