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History and background of a French song

The_one_and_only_Dai 03 Oct 01 - 05:32 AM
Mrrzy 03 Oct 01 - 09:40 AM
Dunkle 03 Oct 01 - 09:42 AM
Malcolm Douglas 03 Oct 01 - 10:18 AM
Amos 03 Oct 01 - 11:29 AM
The_one_and_only_Dai 03 Oct 01 - 11:38 AM
wildlone 03 Oct 01 - 03:09 PM
Les from Hull 03 Oct 01 - 03:27 PM
wildlone 03 Oct 01 - 03:41 PM
The_one_and_only_Dai 04 Oct 01 - 04:00 AM
Malcolm Douglas 04 Oct 01 - 02:19 PM
The_one_and_only_Dai 05 Oct 01 - 03:40 AM
janemick 15 Dec 09 - 03:05 AM
Weasel 15 Dec 09 - 03:24 AM
janemick 15 Dec 09 - 04:05 AM
GUEST 15 Dec 09 - 01:24 PM
GUEST,Songbob 15 Dec 09 - 01:45 PM
Monique 15 Dec 09 - 07:20 PM
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Subject: History and background of a French song
From: The_one_and_only_Dai
Date: 03 Oct 01 - 05:32 AM

The song Au 31 du mois d'août was ably sung by a French chappie at our monthly singaround recently. Unfortunately he couldn't tell me anything about the historical background.

Now, my history is a bit shaky and my French is worse, but I know it's about some British ship bombarding Bordeaux and getting it's (probably justified) come-uppance. So, does anyone know more?


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: Mrrzy
Date: 03 Oct 01 - 09:40 AM

Never heard of this battle but I can translate the song if you like... guess the first question is, when did England declare war on France in the days of sailing ships?


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: Dunkle
Date: 03 Oct 01 - 09:42 AM

Is this it? I found it through Google at http://www.hibouq.org/Poesie/chanson/aboire/31aout.html

Le 31 du mois d'Août
Au 31 du mois d'août
Nous vîmes sous l'vent venir à nous une frégate d'Angleterre
Qui fendait la brise et les flots.
C'était pour aller à Bordeaux.

Le capitaine, en un instant
Fît appeler son lieutenant
"Lieutenant, nous sens-tu capable ? Dis moi, nous crois-tu assez fort,
Pour prendre l'anglais à son bord ?

Refrain
Buvons un coup, buvons en deux,
A la santé des amoureux !
A la santé du Roi de France ! Et merde pour le roi d'Angleterre
Qui nous a déclaré la guerre.

Le lieutenant, fier et hardis
Lui répondit capitaine oui.
Faites monter tout l'équipage. Hardis ! Gabiers, beaux matelots,
Faites monter tout l'monde là-haut.

Le maître ensuite a commandé
"Pour ça ramenez les perroquets
Largez les rives et vent arrière
Ramenons nous jusqu'à leur bord
Pour voir qui c'est qui sera le plus fort"

Refrain

Vire lof pour lof, en arrivant
Nous l'attaquons par son avant
A coup de haches d'abordage, de piques, de pioches, de mousquetons,
Nous l'avons mis à la raison.

Que dire maintenant de lui tantôt,
A Brest, à Londres ou à Bordeaux ?
'l a laissé prendre son équipage, par un corsaire de dix canons
Lui qu'en avait trente et six bons.

Refrain


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 03 Oct 01 - 10:18 AM

That seems to be a slightly modernised version of the text linked to in Dai's original post, which itself is very close to the set published by Henri Davenson (Le Livre des Chansons, 1955), though lacking a verse.  Davenson commented:

"Cette complainte célèbre les exploits, devenus vite légendaires, des corsaires français qui s'illustrèrent dans les guerres maritimes qui ont opposé la France et l'Angleterre tout au long du XVIIIme siècle."

["This ballad celebrates the exploits, which quickly became legendary, of the French Privateers who won fame during the naval wars that took place between France and England throughout the 18th century".]

I've never seen any reference to a specific naval encounter on this date, though I'm no historian and presumably the title is there for a reason.  I've always considered it a French equivalent of songs like  Warlike Seamen;  the victorious ship is always the smaller, of course.


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: Amos
Date: 03 Oct 01 - 11:29 AM

A six-gun corsair overwhelms a thirty-gun British frigate through stealth and heroism.

A


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: The_one_and_only_Dai
Date: 03 Oct 01 - 11:38 AM

Well, yes, I'd picked that much up. But when? Under what circumstances?? What's the other side's song???


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: wildlone
Date: 03 Oct 01 - 03:09 PM

Here is some info on the napoleonic navy Click here
dave


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: Les from Hull
Date: 03 Oct 01 - 03:27 PM

Well it must predate the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars when the French didn't have a 'roi'. So that could be the Seven Years War, the War of the Austrian Succession, or perhaps even the American Revolution. I'll have a look in me books.


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: wildlone
Date: 03 Oct 01 - 03:41 PM

If we had a name for the ships it would be a lot easier.
dave


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: The_one_and_only_Dai
Date: 04 Oct 01 - 04:00 AM

I'd thought that... the absence of names is quite suspicious, but I'm looking at it from an English song viewpoint.

I'm sure that if this song was an English one, the chorus would include a bit of 'Hurrah for the Bellerophon' or whatever, along with the two fingers to the other side.

Maybe it's more of a general sketch rather than specific event, but I did find this page about the Seven Years' War. Find 1757 a couple of paragraphs in, there's a note about a candidate naval action...


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: Malcolm Douglas
Date: 04 Oct 01 - 02:19 PM

I may as well add a full set, with its tune:

LE TRENTE ET UN DU MOIS D'AOUT

(French trad.)

Au trente et un du mois d'Août
Au trente et un du mois d'Août
On vit venir sous vent à nous
On vit venir sous vent à nous
Une frégate d'Angleterre
Qui fendait la mer-z-et les flots
C'était pour attaquer Bordeaux!

Refrain:

Buvons un coup, la la, buvons en deux,
A la santé des amoureux;
A la santé du Roi de France,
Et merde pour le Roi d'Angleterre,
Qui nous a déclaré la guerre.


Le commandant du bâtiment
Fit appeler son lieutenant:
"Lieutenant, te sens-tu capable,
Dis-moi, te sens-tu-z-assez fort
Pour prendre l'Anglais à son bord?"

Le lieutenant, fier et-z-hardi,
Lui répondit: "Captaine-z-oui,
Faites branlebas à l'équipage:
Je vas hisser notre pavillon,
Qui restera haut, nous le jurons."

Le maître donne un coup de sifflet
Pour faire monter les deux bordées:
Tout est paré pour l'abordage,
Hardis gabiers, fiers matelots,
Braves canonniers, mousses petiots.

Vire lof pour lof en arrivant:
Je l'abordions par son avant;
A coup de hache et de grenade,
De pieux, de sabre, de mousqueton,
En trois-cinq-sec je l'arrimions.

Que dira-t-on du grand raffiot,
A Brest, à Londres et à Bordeaux,
Qu'a laissé prendre son équipage
Par un corsaire de dix canons;
Lui qu'en avait trente et six bons!

THE THIRTY-FIRST OF AUGUST

(French trad.)

On the thirty-first of August
On the thirty-first of August
We saw approaching under sail
We saw approaching under sail
An English frigate
Cutting through the sea and the waves
In order to attack Bordeaux!

Chorus:

Let's drink a cup, la la, let's drink in two draughts,
To the health of truelovers;
To the health of the King of France,
And shit to the King of England,
Who has declared war on us.


The commander of the ship
Summoned his lieutenant:
"Lieutenant, do you feel able,
Do you feel strong enough
To board and take the Englishman?"

The proud and hardy lieutenant
Replied, "Yes, Captain;
Call all hands to their stations:
I shall hoist our colours,
Which will stay aloft, we swear it."

The master blew his whistle
To call all hands on deck:
All was made ready for the boarding,
Hardy topmen, proud sailors,
Brave gunners, wee cabinboys.

Turning our back to the wind as we came up,
I boarded her at her forepart;
With hatchet and grenade,
With pike, sabre and musketoon,
Quick as a flash I had her all in order.

What will they say of the great big tub,
In Brest, in London, and in Bordeaux,
That let its crew be taken
By a privateer with six cannon,
When it had thirty-six good ones!



From Le Livre des Chansons, Henri Davenson (Cahiers du Rhône, 1955.)  Davenson did not always specify his sources, and gave no information in this case.  The English is a fairly literal translation, one or two points of which may be interpreted a little differently.   A midi of the tune given by Davenson goes to  Mudcat Midis;  meanwhile, as usual, it can be heard via the  South Riding Folk Network site:

Le Trente et Un du Mois d'Août


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: The_one_and_only_Dai
Date: 05 Oct 01 - 03:40 AM

Thank you Malcolm. This is a great song for chorus singers, if there are any others around...


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: janemick
Date: 15 Dec 09 - 03:05 AM

Here in France at chant de marins' singing sessions we are often regailed with this song.
Our french friends (and ourselves too, for that matter) would love it if we could come up with a suitable riposte. Does anyone know of an equivalent insulting song we can use please?


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: Weasel
Date: 15 Dec 09 - 03:24 AM

When my french friends are foolish enough to mention the odd french success over the English I usually decline the invitation to sing songs of Agincourt, Waterloo and all the others because there are simply too many and we haven't enough days in the year!


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: janemick
Date: 15 Dec 09 - 04:05 AM

Hi Weasel, I know there are lots of songs about winning battles etc (one of our favorites is Brave Benbow)But these are not quite so SPECIFICALLY insulting!


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: GUEST
Date: 15 Dec 09 - 01:24 PM

"The song tells the battle -remained famous- that St Malo born Surcouf fought on the 31st of August 1800 against the English vessel "Kent", which, in spite of her 400 men and 36 canons was boarded by the French corsair vessel 'Confiance'"
From Trésor des plus belles mélodies de tous les temps et de tous les pays, V. Delfolie, Ed. Edsco, Chambéry,Fr. 1947


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: GUEST,Songbob
Date: 15 Dec 09 - 01:45 PM

"31st of August 1800"

And still, "To the health of the King of France"?

Sounds like perhaps an earlier song got appropriated for this one, or "A la santé du Roi de France" is more fun to sing than "Hurrah for First Consul Bonaparte," though I would have thought that was easy enough to sing, too.

Bob


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Subject: RE: History and background of a French song
From: Monique
Date: 15 Dec 09 - 07:20 PM

The anonymous guest at 1:24 was me.
In Chants de marins, à la découverte d'une tradition vivante, Michel Colleu/Nathalie Couilloud, Ed. Chasse-Marée, they say that the song was published as early as 1845 in La France maritime and was later collected many times near seamen from Brittany, Normandy and Vendée -I doubt that all those seamen knew how to read. They too say that the song was probably written around 1810 and that a version collected in 1985 sung by a fisherman from Fécamp who used to fish off Newfoundland gave some hints: it said that a fregate left St Malo to go fight the English on their 100 canon vessel and returned to St Malo, which would refer to the fight mentioned above.
I agree that "A la santé du Roi de France" is more fun, beside "Hourrah pour le Premier Consul Bonaparte" wouldn't have fit the tune!


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