Wednesday, March 21, 2012

What Do the Lyrics to the "Alouette" Song Mean in English?

Knowledge is good, but there are certain things I would rather not know. The English translation of the French lyrics of "Alouette" is one of them. Since childhood I've loved this little song; it sounds so cheerful! The words "le tete"(the head) were the only ones I knew in English. I thought Alouette must be the name of a person, and a "jaunty" one at that.

I'd sort of forgotten about the song until a TV ad for Target stores started running, featuring this song and the antics of a troupe of acrobats in brightly colored costumes. It is all rather charming and the song got stuck in my head. Which led me to wonder what the song actually means. I looked it up and now I know. And wish I didn't. The lyrics are below. What do you think?

Here are the lyrics to "Alouette,"as provided by Wikipedia:

Alouette, gentille Alouette
Lark, nice lark
Alouette, je te plumerai
Lark, I shall pluck you
Je te plumerai la tête
I shall pluck your head
(Je te plumerai la tête)
(I shall pluck your head)
Et la tête
And your head
(Et la tête)
(And your head)
Alouette, gentille Alouette
Alouette, je te plumerai
Je te plumerai le bec
I shall pluck your beak
(Je te plumerai le bec)
Et le bec
(Et le bec)
Et la tête
(Et la tête)
The song continues in this fashion, with the italicized phrase (a part of the bird) in each verse being substituted with a new one, with the previous items being recited at the end:
  • Et le cou
And your neck
  • Et le dos
And your back
  • Et les ailes
And your wings
  • Et les pattes
And your feet
  • Et la queue
And your tail
La Conclusion
The Ending
Alouette, gentille Alouette
Lark, nice lark
Alouette, je te plumerai
Lark, I shall pluck you
Naturally, the literal English translation does not match up well with the meter of the song, so a slightly less literal (but more singable) version would be:
Little skylark, lovely little skylark
Little lark, I'll pluck your feathers off
I’ll pluck the feathers off your head
I’ll pluck the feathers off your head
Off your head - off your head
Little lark, little lark
And adding:
Off your beak
Off your neck
Off your back
Off your wings
Off your feet
Off your tail

Related posts:
Harmonizing with the Beaconettes
HONK! If You Love Music