Mots d'Heures

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Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames: The D'Antin Manuscript
AuthorLuis van Rooten
PublisherGrossman Publishers
Publication date
Published in English
Media typebook
LC Class67-21230

Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames: The D'Antin Manuscript (Mother Goose 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 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.
And all the king's horses
And all the king's men
Can't put Humpty Dumpty
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 d'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 child of a child
Like Guy of Reguennes[a]


The original English nursery rhymes that correspond to the numbered poems in Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames are as follows:[3]

  1. Humpty Dumpty
  2. Old King Cole
  3. Hey Diddle Diddle
  4. Old Mother Hubbard
  5. There Was a Little Man and He Had a Little Gun
  6. Hickory Dickory Dock
  7. Jack Sprat
  8. Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater
  9. There Was a Crooked Man
  10. Little Miss Muffet
  11. Jack and Jill
  12. There Was a Little Girl She Had a Little Curl
  13. Little Jack Horner
  14. Ride a Cockhorse to Banbury Cross
  15. Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor
  16. Rain Rain Go Away
  17. Pat-a-cake Pat-a-cake Baker's Man
  18. Mistress Mary Quite Contrary
  19. Roses Are Red Violets Are Blue
  20. Tom Tom the Piper's Son
  21. Mary Had a Little Lamb
  22. Cross Patch Draw the Latch
  23. See Saw Margery Daw
  24. The Queen of Hearts She Made Some Tarts
  25. One Two Buckle My Shoe
  26. There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe
  27. Ladybird Ladybird Fly Away Home
  28. Monday's Child
  29. Lucy Locket
  30. Curly Locks
  31. Here Is the Church Here Is the Steeple
  32. Simple Simon
  33. I Do Not Like Thee Doctor Fell
  34. Pussycat Pussycat
  35. Little Bo Peep
  36. Baa Baa Black Sheep
  37. Polly Put the Kettle On
  38. Lock the Dairy Door
  39. This Little Pig Went to Market
  40. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Secondary use[edit]

Ten of the Mots d’Heures: Gousses, Rames have been set to music by Lawrence Whiffin.[4]

Similar works[edit]

An earlier example of homophonic translation (in this case French-to-English) is "Frayer Jerker" (Frère Jacques) in Anguish Languish (1956).[5]

A later book in the English-to-French genre is N'Heures Souris Rames (Nursery Rhymes), published in 1980 by Ormonde de Kay.[6] 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.[7]

Publication history[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Reguennes (French: [ʁəɡɛn]) is a contrived proper name.


  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. ^ "Mots D'Heures: Gousses, Rames". 27 January 2018. Retrieved 15 May 2018.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Chace, Howard L. (1956). "Frayer Jerker". Anguish Languish [English Language]. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall. OCLC 2539398. Archived from the original on 2013-03-13. Retrieved 2009-11-28.
  6. ^ de Kay, Ormonde (1980). N'Heures Souris Rames [Nursery Rhymes]. C. N. Potter. ISBN 978-0-517-54081-7. OCLC 6378996.
  7. ^ Jean, Marcel, ed. (1980). Autobiography of Surrealism. New York: Viking Press; p326 footnote(MJ). ISBN 0-670-14235-2.