petite anglaise

November 29, 2004

songs about plucking

Filed under: Uncategorized — petiteanglaiseparis @ 10:33 pm

Tadpole has started singing. Mostly nonsense words, but it sounds incredibly cute all the same. She has a little electronic nursery rhyme book which sings to her in French. I had a problem with this at first, as it sounds like my mother in law’s voice on the recording, but I’m over it now. Anyway, I thought I’d have a look for the full lyrics of some French nursery rhymes on the interweb, as the book sings the first few lines and then just plays the music and I don’t know how the songs are supposed to continue.

Mr Frog, needless to say, can’t remember any of the words. I sometimes wonder if he really is French? Or whether he had a childhood. Maybe he’s actually an alien masquerading as a French person. I haven’t seen any evidence of super powers so far, but if I do you will be the first to know.

What I like about English nursery rhymes are the references to comforting things like tea – ‘Polly put the kettle on’, ‘I’m a little teapot’. Of course I am aware that some of our best loved nursery rhymes were inspired by rather unpalatable historical events: ‘Mary Mary quite contrary’, which appears to be Tadpole’s favourite, allegedly recounts the persecution of protestants during the reign of catholic Mary Tudor (the garden being a graveyard and the silver bells and cockle shells being instruments of torture according to one source). But let’s face it, to Tadpole it is just song about a garden with pretty things in it.

I can’t help however being a little perturbed after reading the full lyrics for Alouette, one of the best known French contines.

Alouette, gentille Alouette,
Alouette je te plumerai,
Alouette, gentille Alouette,
Alouette je te plumerai,
Je te plumerai la tête,
Je te plumerai la tête,
Et la tête, et la tête,
Alouette, Alouette,
Alouette, gentille Alouette,
Alouette je te plumerai…

So what do we have here? A song about a lovely lark. Getting plucked.

Lark, lovely lark,
Lark, lovely lark,
Lark, I’m going to pluck you,
Lark, lovely lark,
Lark, I’m going to pluck you
I’m going to pluck your head,
I’m going to pluck your head,
And the head, and the head,
Lark, lark,
Lark, lovely lark,
Lark, I’m going to pluck you…

The song can be repeated substituting the word ‘head’ for other body parts (nose, eyes, wings, whatever). I cannot help but be reminded of all those bucolic French films with close up shots of rabbits being skinned and pheasants being plucked. But are larks even edible?

I am not looking forward to the day in the not too distant future when Tadpole inevitably asks me to explain what ‘plucking’ means and why the poor lark is getting it.

The upshot of all this is that I think I’ll stick to my English nursery rhymes after all. Preferably the ones about making tea.

*I think I may be delirious – I have an ear infection and sinus infection and am taking very strong drugs today – so please bear with me if this is utter nonsense. But I was getting blogging withdrawal symptoms.


  1. What about the three blind mice who got their tails cut off by the farmers wife ?
    And the black birds baked in a pie ?

    Apparently, though, larks are eaten in France in a pâté .

    Comment by Jenny — November 29, 2004 @ 11:18 pm

  2. Sorry to hear about your maladies. But fear not, your blog is as entertaining as ever.

    Get well soon.

    Comment by Mike — November 30, 2004 @ 12:14 am

  3. Dear Petite Anglaise,

    You are entertaining as ever, and a source of knowledge as well.
    Hope you feel better soon, damn colds and winter ills.


    Comment by Cal — November 30, 2004 @ 2:09 am

  4. Ugh, commiserations on the sickness. Keep taking the drugs. I can just imagine Tadpole singing – sweet! Although I am slightly disturbed now that you have translated Alouette, I never knew what that was before. I don’t know if larks are edible, but the French eat small birds don’t they? While wearing a large cloth over their head? Ooh, it’s like a weird movie..*runs away spooked*

    Comment by Claypot — November 30, 2004 @ 7:16 am

  5. I always prefer the more brutal nursery rhymes… I enjoyed explaining to my pt mother inlaw that “ring a ring a roses” is about catcing the plague…

    you’re fine on the drugs… but get better anyway!

    enjoy it while tadpole still sings the cute (and/or nasty) nursery rhymes… soon it’ll be the barbie adverts or the french equivs of “girls aloud” or equal crap. eugh.

    Comment by vitriolica — November 30, 2004 @ 9:47 am

  6. Wait til you get on to “Pomme de Reinette et Pomme d’Api”

    Last line?

    “Ou je te donne un coup de marteau!”

    “Or I’ll hit you with a hammer!”

    Kids. You can’t beat ’em. Shame!

    Hope you feel better soon.

    Comment by Jim in Rennes — November 30, 2004 @ 10:01 am

  7. About “pate d’alouette”: it’s mainly known as a reference to some swindle, as in “recette du pate d’alouettes : mettre un cheval pour une alouette” (alledgedly, the lark pate is prepared with one horse for one lark, obviously because lark is a expensive meat).

    I wasn’t even sure the recipe ectually existed before I followed your link!

    Comment by Fabien — November 30, 2004 @ 11:08 am

  8. I believe that larks used to be eaten in certain regions – note the use of the past tense, because I think that it has been banned now.
    I once complained about this song to my father in law, who launched into a nostalgic rendition of the song and shook his head sadly at the fact that it is very difficult to find lark nowadays. I was regaled with stories about the “good old days” and how larks were eaten in pies and pâté … or something of the sort… I tuned out as my stomach started churning ;)

    Comment by Katia — November 30, 2004 @ 11:46 am

  9. While it’s not really a cantine, I do have a fondness for the song about the rabbit that kills the hunter…

    ce matin, un lapin, a tué un chasseur,
    c’était un lapin qui, c’était un lapin qui,
    ce matin, un lapin, a tué un chasseur,
    c’était un lapin qui, avait un fusil.

    that is so one badass rabbit.

    Comment by kim — November 30, 2004 @ 1:59 pm

  10. err, contine. although perhaps at the cantine they served rabbit hunter stew.

    Comment by kim — November 30, 2004 @ 2:00 pm

  11. I can’t believe you live in France and questioned whether lark is edible. Surely, in France, *everything* is edible! Apart from “mouton à la menthe” of course :razz:

    I remember my friends and I making our own version of Alouette: “Alopecia, gentille alopecia” – cruelly appropriate…

    Comment by witho — November 30, 2004 @ 2:09 pm

  12. On the subject of plucking, try this one fast:
    I’m not a pheasant plucker
    I’m a pheasant plucker’s son
    And I’ll keep on plucking pheasants
    Till the pheasant plucking’s done

    Comment by David — November 30, 2004 @ 2:26 pm

  13. Hi, sorry to hear about your cold :cry:

    I have blogging withdrawal syndrome too, I need to get back to write in mine again after the Thanksgiving period, so I understand you completely

    As for songs, a lot of nursery rhymes (and fairy tales) are actually quite violent and gloomy. That is what children like :twisted:

    I just read a book about the famous middle ages great pestilence (pest) and the rhymes “ring around the rosy” (I think that is what it is called) originates from that…..

    Comment by sandrine — November 30, 2004 @ 4:24 pm

  14. Larks’ tongue pie; lovely.

    We sang that at school, in England.

    Comment by David K — November 30, 2004 @ 6:11 pm

  15. I prefer the hallucinatory quality to today’s post.

    Get well soon, and all that, obviously, but keep taking the drugs anyway.

    Comment by Tim — November 30, 2004 @ 7:41 pm

  16. tim – is that your secret then? maybe if I keep on taking them I’ll understand all your posts, even the really bizarre ones where I feel like I’m missing something…

    Comment by petite — November 30, 2004 @ 9:13 pm

  17. Who care the lyrics and their meanings from many, many years previous. I’m delighted to know that she enjoys song and expression. In my city, while riding the metro one can hear small children signing things I dare not repeat. So allow your Tadpole to alouette away! Feel better.

    Comment by M.J. — November 30, 2004 @ 9:40 pm

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