An Electronic Cabaret: Paris Street Songs, 1748–50

A supplement to Poetry and the Police: Communication Networks in Eighteenth-Century Paris by Robert Darnton

Performed by Hélène Delavault and Claude Pavy

Program Notes

Here are a dozen of the many songs that could be heard everywhere in Paris at the time of the Affair of the Fourteen. Their lyrics have been transcribed from contemporary chansonniers, and their melodies, identified by the first lines or titles of the songs, come from eighteenth-century sources collected in the Département de musique of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. They have been recorded by Hélène Delavault, accompanied on the guitar by Claude Pavy.

Street singers in eighteenth-century Paris often belted out their songs to the accompaniment of fiddles or hurdy-gurdies. Miss Delavault’s rendition cannot therefore be taken as an exact replica of what Parisians heard around 1750, but it gives an approximate version of the oral dimension to the messages that flowed through the communication circuits of the Ancien Régime.

Only the first two songs have a direct connection with the Affair of the Fourteen. The others convey the same themes by music that varies in character from drinking ballads to compositions for the opera and Christmas hymns. A few illustrate the way songsters worked current events such as the Battle of Lawfeldt and the proclamation of the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle into their lyrics. They are not necessarily hostile to the government, although they frequently mock ministers and courtiers in a manner that expressed the political rivalries in Versailles. Most take Mme de Pompadour as their target. Their tendency to pun on her maiden name, Poisson, made them known as “Poissonades,” suggesting some affinity with the “Mazarinades” aimed at Cardinal Mazarin during the Fronde of 1648–1653.

1. The song that brought down the Maurepas ministry: “Par vos façons nobles et franches,” composed to the tune of “Réveillez-vous, belle dormeuse” and “Quand le péril est agréable.”

1a. Réveillez-vous, belle dormeuse

A traditional version, sweet and plaintive:

MP3

Réveillez-vous, belle dormeuse,
Si mes discours vous font plaisir.
Mais si vous etes scrupuleuse,
Dormez, ou feignez de dormir.

Awake, beautiful sleeper,
If my words give you pleasure.
But if you are scrupulous,
Sleep on, or pretend to sleep.

—La Clef des chansonniers ou recueil de vaudevilles depuis cent ans et plus (Paris, 1717), 1: 130.

1b. Sur vos pas, charmante duchesse

An apolitical parody:

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Sur vos pas, charmante duchesse,
Au lieu des grâces et des ris
L’amour fait voltiger sans cesse
Un essaim de chauve-souris.

On your footsteps, charming duchess,
Instead of graces and laughter,
Love sets fluttering constantly
A swarm of bats.

—Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. fr. 13705, fo. 2.

1c. Par vos façons nobles et franches

The attack on Mme de Pompadour:

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Par vos façons nobles et franches,
Iris, vous enchantez nos coeurs;
Sur nos pas vous semez des fleurs.
Mais ce sont des fleurs blanches.

By your noble and free manner,
Iris, you enchant our hearts.
On our path you strew flowers.
But they are white flowers.

—Journal et mémoires du marquis d’Argenson (Paris, 1862), 5: 456.

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2. A song as a running commentary on current events: “Qu’une bâtarde de catin,” to the tune of “Dirai-je mon Confiteor” and “Quand mon amant me fait la cour.”

2a. Quand mon amant me fait la cour

A conventional version about courtship and love:

MP3

Quand mon amant me fait la cour,
Il languit, il pleure, il soupire,
Et passe avec moi tout le jour
A me raconter son martyre.
Ah! S’il le passait autrement,
Il me plairait infiniment.

De cet amant plein de froideur
Il faut que je me dédommage;
J’en veux un, qui de mon ardeur
Sache faire un meilleur usage,
Qu’il soit heureux à chaque instant,
Et qu’il ne soit jamais content.

When my lover woos me,
He languishes, he weeps, he sighs,
And spends the whole day with me
Discoursing on his suffering.
Ah! If only he would spend it differently,
It would please me infinitely.

For this lover, so completely cold,
I must find some compensation.
I want one who can make better use
Of my ardor.
May he be happy at every moment
And never contented.

—Le Chansonnier français, ou recueil de chansons, ariettes, vaudevilles et autres couplets choisis, avec les airs notés à la fin de chaque re cueil (no place or date of publication), 8: 119–120.

2b. Qu’une bâtarde de catin

A version adapted to court politics:

MP3

(This recording includes only the first five verses of the following version. For more on the many versions of this very popular song, see Appendix III of Poetry and the Police.)

[On Mme de Pompadour and Louis XV]

Qu’une bâtarde de catin
A la cour se voit avancée,
Que dans l’amour et dans le vin
Louis cherche une gloire aisée

That a bastard strumpet
Should get ahead in the court,
That in love or in wine,
Louis should seek some easy glory

Refrain:

Ah! Le voilà, Ah! Le voici,
Celui qui n’en a nul souci.

Ah! There he is, Ah! Here he is,
He who doesn’t have a care.

[On the Dauphin]

Que Mongr. le gros Dauphin
Ait l’esprit comme la figure
Que l’Etat craigne le destin
D’un second monarque en peinture

That Monseigneur, the fat Dauphin
Should be as stupid as he looks,
That the state should be afraid of
The future painted on his face

[On Pompadour’s brother]

Qu’ébloui par un vain éclat,
Poisson tranche du petit maître,
Qu’il pense qu’à la cour un fat
Soit difficile à reconnaître

That dazzled by a vain luster,
Poisson should act like a fop,
That he should think that at court,
An ass is difficult to spot

[On the Maréchal de Saxe]

Que Maurice ce fier à bras
Pour avoir contraint à se rendre
Villes qui ne résistaient pas
Soit plus exalté qu’Alexandre

That Maurice, that man of might,
Should be more exalted than Alexander
For having forced to capitulate
Cities that did not resist

[On the Maréchal de Belle-Isle]

Que notre héros à projets
Ait vu dans sa lâche indolence
A la honte du nom français
Les Hongrois piller la Provence

That our heroic man of projects
Should have looked on indolently,
While to the shame of France
The Hungarians pillaged Provence

[On the Chancellor d’Aguesseau]

Que le Chancelier décrépit
Lâche la main à l’injustice
Que dans le vrai il ait un fils
Qui vende même la justice

That the decrepit chancellor
Should cease administering justice,
That in fact he has a son,
Who even puts justice up for sale

[On the ministers Maurepas and St. Florentin]

Que Maurepas, St. Florentin
Ignorent l’art militaire
Que ce vrai couple calotin
A peine soit bon à Cythère

That Maurepas, St. Florentin
Should know nothing of the art of war,
That this sanctimonious pair
Should barely be able to make it in bed

[On Comte d’Argenson, Minister of War]

Que d’Argenson en dépit d’eux
Ait l’oreille de notre maître
Que du débris de tous les deux
Il voie son crédit renaître

That d’Argenson in spite of them
Should have the ear of our master
That from the ruins of both of them
He should see a rebirth of his credit

[On Boyer, the ecclesiastical official in charge of appointments to benefices]

Que Boyer, ce moine maudit
Renverse l’Etat pour la bulle
Que par lui le juste proscrit
Soit victime de la formule

That Boyer, this cursed monk,
Should upset the state for the bull [Unigenitus]
That by him the condemned just man
Should be the victim of [the required Renunciation of Jansenism]

[On Maupeou, Premier Président du Parlement de Paris]

Que Maupeou plie indignement
Ses genoux devant cette idole
Qu’à son exemple le Parlement
Sente son devoir et le viole

That Maupeou should unworthily
Bend his knee before this idol [Pompadour]
That by his example the Parliament
Should sense its duty and violate it

[On Puisieulx and Machault, ministers of Foreign Affairs and Finances]

Que Puisieulx en attendant
Embrouille encore plus les affaires
Et que Machault en l’imitant
Mette le comble à nos misères

That Puisieulx while waiting [for an opportunity]
Should embroil affairs still more
And that Machault in imitating him
Should add the final touch to our misery

Final verse:

Que ces couplets qu’un fier censeur
A son gré critique et raisonne
Que leurs traits démasquent l’erreur
Et percent jusqu’au trône!

May a proud censor criticize
And reason on these stanzas
May their shafts unmask error
And penetrate up to the throne!

Ah! Le voilà, Ah! Le voici,
Celui qui n’en a nul souci.

Ah! There he is, Ah! Here he is,
He who doesn’t have a care.

—Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris, ms. 580 ff. 248–249.

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3. Tout Paris est bien content

A song about an event: the Battle of Lawfeldt, July 2, 1747, between the French and the allied army commanded by the Duke of Cumberland, son of George II. Although he was not decisively defeated, Cumberland withdrew his troops from the battlefield, and the French hailed the outcome as a victory. Sung to the tune of “Des Pantins.”

MP3

Tout Paris est bien content.
Le roi s’en va en Hollande.
Tout Paris est bien content.
On a frotté Cumberland
En lui disant “Mon enfant,
Votre papa vous attend
Dites adieu à la Zelande
Et vite et tôt, fout le camp.”

All Paris is very happy.
The king is off to Holland.
All Paris is very happy.
We gave Cumberland a beating
And told him: “Kid,
Your daddy’s waiting for you.
Say good-bye to Zeeland,
And quick, bugger off.”

—Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris, ms. 648, p. 36.

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4. C’est donc enfin

A song about the forthcoming proclamation of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle which was to take place in Paris on February 12, 1749. The ceremonies accompanying the proclamation were meant to celebrate the end of the War of the Austrian Succession with public rejoicing, but the treaty was unpopular among the Parisians, because it restored territory that the French armies had conquered in the Austrian Netherlands—and, worse, because Machault, the controller general of finances, refused to revoke the “extraordinary” taxes levied to finance the war. He eventually replaced them with a heavy and semi-permanent “twentieth” tax. Sung to the tune of “Biribi,” a very popular ditty with a nonsensical refrain.

MP3

C’est donc enfin pour mercredi
Qu’avec belle apparence
On confirmera dans Paris
La paix et l’indigence,
Machault ne voulant point, dit-on,
(La faridondaine, la faridondon…)
Oter les impôts qu’il a mis,
(Biribi…)
A la façon de Barbari, mon ami.

So at last it is on Wednesday
That with a lot of show,
Both peace and indigence
Will be confirmed in Paris,
Machault not wanting, it’s said,
(La faridondaine, la faridondon…)
To withdraw the taxes that he levied,
(Biribi…)
In the manner of Barbari, my friend.

—Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, ms. 11 683, fo. 125.

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5. Quel est ce festin public?

A song about the bungled festivities to celebrate the peace. Parisians vented their discontent on Bernage, the Prévost des Marchands, who was responsible for organizing the public ceremonies. The floats he had constructed for the peace procession, both in the streets and on the Seine, were widely criticized for looking ridiculous, and he also failed to make adequate provisions for the distribution of food and drink. Sung to the tune of “La mort pour les malheureux.”

MP3

Quel est ce festin public?
Est-ce un pique-nique?
Non,
C’est un gueuleton
Donné, dit-on,
Pour célébrer la paix.
Et de ces beaux apprêts
La ville fait exprès les frais.

Quelle finesse, quel goût
Règnent partout
Quels éclatants effets
Font ces buffets!
Et ce donjon doré
Bien décoré
Est un temple sacré.

Mais sur l’eau
Charme nouveau
Je vois flotter une salle
Où Bacchus
Ivrant Comus
Tient boutique de scandale.
De ce spectacle enchanteur
Nomme-t-on l’admirable auteur?
Le nommer, dites-vous, non,
Bernage est-il un nom?

What is this public banquet?
Is it a picnic?
No,
It’s a blast
Given, they say,
To celebrate the peace.
And all these fancy preparations
Are being charged to the city.

What delicacy, what taste
Reigns everywhere.
What dazzling effects
Are given off by those buffets!
And that golden dungeon,
So well decorated,
Is a sacred temple.

But lo! On the water,
Yet another charm,
I see floating a hall
Where Bacchus
Is getting Comus drunk
And running a house of ill repute.
Can one name the creator
Of this enchanting spectacle?
Name him, say you? No,
For does the name of Bernage count?

—Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris, ms. 649, p. 75.

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6. A Dieu mon cher Maurepas

A song on the fall and exile of Maurepas, which is used to mock other courtiers. They include the former foreign minister, Germain-Louis de Chauvelin, who was exiled in 1737 to Bourges, and the duc de La Vallière, a favorite of Mme de Pompadour, who (as “Maman Catin” and “la Princesse d’Etiole”) is the main target of the satire. Sung to the tune of the popular drinking song, “Lampons, camarades, lampons.”

MP3

A Dieu mon cher Maurepas
Vous voilà dans de beaux draps.
Il faut partir toute à l’heure
Pour Bourges votre demeure.
Lampons, lampons,
Camarades, lampons.

Quel malheur que Chauvelin
Votre ami tendre et bénin
Ne soit plus en cette ville;
Vous auriez fait domicile.

On dit que Maman Catin,
Qui vous mène si beau train
Et se plaît à la culbute,
Vous procure cette chute.

De quoi vous avisez-vous
D’attirer son fier courroux?
Cette franche péronnelle
Vous fait sauter de l’échelle.

Il fallait en courtisan
Lui prodiguer votre encens,
Faire comme La Vallière
Qui lui lèche la derrière.

Réfléchissez un instant
Sur votre sort différent.
On vous envoie en fourrière
Quand le St. Esprit l’éclaire.

Pour réussir à la Cour,
Quiconque y fait son séjour
Doit fléchir devant l’idole,
La Princesse d’Etiole.

Farewell, dear Maurepas,
There you are in a fine mess.
You must depart right away
For your estate in Bourges.
Take a swig, take a swig,
Comrades, take a swig.

What a pity that Chauvelin,
Your tender and benign friend,
No longer lives in that town;
You could have set up house together.

It’s said that Mother Slut,
Who gave you such a runaround
And is pleased at the [ministry’s] collapse,
Was the one who caused your fall.

What ever put it in your head
To provoke her proud anger?
That brazen, silly goose
Knocked you off your ladder.

As a courtier, you should have
Heaped flattery on her,
And licked her ass,
Like La Vallière.

Just consider for a moment
The difference of your fates.
You got cashiered,
And he got the Order of the Saint Esprit.

In order to succeed at court,
No matter who may play the game,
You must bow down before the idol,
The Princess of Etiole.

—Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris, ms. 649, p. 123.

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7. Les grands seigneurs s’avilissent

A song attacking Mme de Pompadour for her commoner origins, physical appearance, and supposed vulgarity, which are taken to epitomize the degradation of the state and the abasement of the king. Like many of the “Poissonades,” it mocks her maiden name. It also uses a rhetorical device known as “echoes,” repeating the last syllable of each verse, sometimes as a pun. In contrast to the previous tune, which evoked swilling in taverns, this melody, “Les Trembleurs,” has a refined origin. It comes from Jean-Baptiste Lully’s opera, Isis, although it was also used in performances at the more plebeian theatres permitted during the fair seasons (théâtres de la foire).

MP3

Les grands seigneurs s’avilissent,
Les financiers s’enrichissent,
Tous les Poissons s’agrandissent.
C’est le règne des vauriens.
On épuise la finance
En bâtiments, en dépense.
L’Etat tombe en décadence.
Le roi ne met ordre à rien, rien, rien.

Une petite bourgeoise
Elevée à la grivoise,
Mesurant tout à sa toise,
Fait de la cour un taudis;
Le Roi malgré son scrupule,
Pour elle froidement brûle,
Cette flamme ridicule
Excite dans tout Paris ris, ris, ris.

Cette catin subalterne
Insolemment le gouverne
Et c’est elle qui décerne
Les hommes à prix d’argent.
Devant l’idole tout plie.
Le courtisan s’humilie,
Il subit cette infamie,
Et n’est que plus indigent, gent, gent.

La contenance éventée,
La peau jaune et truitée,
Et chaque dent tachetée,
Les yeux fades, le col long,
Sans esprit, sans caractère,
L’âme vile et mercenaire,
Le propos d’une commère,
Tout est bas chez la Poisson, son, son.

Si dans les beautés choisies,
Elle était des plus jolies,
On pardonne les folies
Quand l’objet est un bijou.
Mais pour si mince figure,
Et si sotte créature,
S’attirer tant de murmure,
Chacun pense le roi f, f, f. [fou, fou, fou, [ou] fout, fout, fout]

Qu’importe qu’on me chansonne
Que cent vices l’on me donne,
En ai-je moins ma couronne?
En suis-je moins roi, moins bien?
Il n’est qu’un amour extrême,
Plus fort que tout diadème,
Qui rende un souverain blême
Et son grand pouvoir rien, rien, rien.

Voyez charmante maîtresse
Si l’honneur de la tendresse
Est d’exciter qui vous presse
D’obéir à son amour.
Ménagez bien la puissance
De ce bien aimé de France,
Si vous ne voulez qu’on pense
Qu’il ne vous a pris que pour, pour, pour.

The great lords are making themselves vile,
The financiers are making themselves rich,
All the Fish are growing big.
It’s the reign of the good-for-nothings.
The state’s finances are being drained
By construction, extravagant expenditure.
The state is falling into decadence.
The king doesn’t make order of anything, thing, thing.

A little bourgeoise
Raised in an indecent manner,
Judges everything by her own measure,
Turns the court into a slum.
The king, despite his scruples,
Feebly burns for her,
And this ridiculous flame
Makes all of Paris laugh, laugh, laugh.

That lowly slut
Governs him insolently
And it’s she who for a price
Selects the men for the top positions.
Everyone kneels beforee this idol.
The courtier humiliates himself,
He submits to this infamy,
And yet is even more indigent, gent, gent.

A stale composure,
Yellow, speckled skin,
And each tooth tarnished,
Her eyes insipid, her neck elongated,
Without wit, without character,
Her soul vile and mercenary,
Her talk like that of a village gossip,
Everything is base about Poisson, son, son.

If among the chosen beauties,
She were one of the prettiest,
One pardons follies
When the object is a jewel.
But for such an unimportant person,
Such a silly creature,
To attract so much bad-mouthing,
Everyone thinks the king must be mad, mad, mad.

What do I care if they make songs about me
And attribute a hundred vices to me,
Don’t I still have my crown?
Am I no less a king, no less well off?
It is only an extreme love,
Mightier than any diadem,
That makes a sovereign turn pale
And reduces his great power to nothing, nothing, nothing.

Charming mistress, see whether
It is the honor of inducing tenderness
That drives you to
Acquiesce in his love.
Take care to conserve the power
Of France’s much-beloved,
If you don’t want people to think
That he took you only to, to, to pour.

—Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. fr. 13709, ff 29–30 and also 71.

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8. Il faut sans relâche

Another “Poissonade,” which mocks Mme de Pompadour by threatening to produce ever more songs against her. It, too, derides her physical appearance, and it ridicules the mediocrity of her performances in the operas that she staged privately in Versailles to amuse the king. As in the previous song, the lyrics suggest an underlying sympathy for the king, despite his infatuation with his unworthy mistress. Sung to the tune of “Messieurs nos généraux sont honnêtes gens.” In this case, it has been impossible to find the music. As an example of how easily words could be adapted to tunes, Hélène Delavault sings it to the best known melody from eighteenth-century France, “Au clair de la lune.”

MP3

Il faut sans relâche
Faire des chansons.
Plus Poisson s’en fache
Plus nous chanterons.
Chaque jour elle offre
Matière à couplets
Et veut que l’on coffre
Ceux qui les ont faits.

Ils sont punissables
Peignant ses beautés
De traits remarquables
Qu’ils n’ont point chantés,
Sa gorge vilaine
Ses mains et ses bras,
Souvent une haleine
Qui n’embaume pas.

La folle indécence
De son opéra
Où par bienséance
Tout ministre va.
Il faut qu’on y vante
Son chant fredonné
Sa voix chevrotante
Son jeu forcené.

Elle veut qu’on prône
Ses petits talents,
Se croit sur le trône
Ferme pour longtemps.
Mais le pied lui glisse,
Le roi sort d’erreur
Et ce sacrifice
Lui rend notre coeur.

We must without respite
Make up songs.
The more Poisson gets angry,
The more we will produce new ones.
Every day she offers
Material for stanzas
And wants to shut up in prison
Those who have made them.

They are worthy of punishment,
Those who have painted her beauty
Without having sung of
Such remarkable features
As her nasty bosom,
Her hands and her arms,
And her breath, which often
Hardly smells sweet.

The mad indecency
Of her opera,
Where decorum requires
Every minister to be present.
It’s required that one vaunt
Her droning way of singing,
Her goat-like voice
Her frenzied style of acting.

She wants us to laud
Her meager talent,
Thinks herself firmly
On the throne for a long time.
But her foot is slipping,
The king is mending his ways;
And by sacrificing her,
He is winning back our hearts.

—Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. fr. 13709, fo. 41.

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9. Le roi sera bientôt las

A song prophesying that the king will soon tire of Mme de Pompadour and her boring operas. Sung to the tune of the “noël”, “Où est-il, ce petit nouveau né?” Although ostensibly Christmas carols, “noëls” were traditionally produced at the end of the year to satirize ministers and other “grands” of Versailles.

MP3

Le roi sera bientôt las
De sa sotte pécore.
L’ennui jusque dans ses bras
Le suit et le dévore
Quoi, dit-il, toujours des opéras,
En verrons-nous encore?

The king will soon be tired
Of his silly goose.
Boredom is stalking him, devouring him,
Even in her arms.
What? he says, always operas,
Will we still see more of them?

—Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. fr. 13709, fo. 42.

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10. Jadis c’était Versailles

Another song that emphasizes Mme. de Pompadour’s low origins by punning on her maiden name. This common theme suggests an aristocratic bias to the “Poissonades,” many of which probably originated at court. Despite their irreverent tone, there was nothing revolutionary about their satire. Sung to the tune of “Tes beaux yeux ma Nicole.”

MP3

Jadis c’était Versailles
Qui donnait le bon goût;
Aujourd’hui la canaille
Règne, tient le haut bout.
Si la cour se ravale,
Pourquoi s’étonne-t-on,
N’est-ce pas de la Halle
Que nous vient le poisson?

It used to be Versailles
That set the standard of good taste;
But today the rabble
Is reigning, has the upper hand.
If the court degrades itself,
Why should we be surprised:
Isn’t it from the food market
That we get our fish?

—Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. fr. 13709, fo. 71.

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11. Notre pauvre roi Louis

A song that recounts the supposed origins of Louis XV’s liaison with Mme de Pompadour, who was then married to Charles Guillaume Le Normant d’Etiolles, a financier who was the nephew of the notorious tax farmer, Le Normant de Tournehem: hence the disparaging references to “finance,” which suggest that the king had joined the ranks of his own rapacious tax collectors. It was rumored that Louis, then a widower, first noticed his future mistress at a masked ball, which was held to celebrate the wedding of the dauphin and which included some commoners. Sung to the tune of “Haïe, haïe, haïe, Jeannette.”

MP3

Notre pauvre roi Louis
Dans de nouveaux fers s’engage.
C’est aux noces de son fils
Qu’il adoucit son veuvage

Haïe, haïe, haïe, Jeannette,
Jeannette, haïe, haïe, haïe.


Les bourgeois de Paris
Au bal ont eu l’avantage
Il a pour son vis à vis
Choisi dans le cailletage

Haïe, etc.

Le roi, dit-on à la cour,
Entre donc dans la finance.
De faire fortune un jour
Le voilà dans l’espérance.

En vain les dames de cour
L’osent trouver ridicule.
Le roi ni le dieu d’amour
N’ont jamais eu de scrupule.

Our poor king Louis
Has enmeshed himself in new chains.
It was at his son’s wedding
That he found relief from his widowhood.

Haïe, haïe, haïe, Jeannette,
Jeanette, haïe, haïe, haïe.


The bourgeois of Paris
Had an advantage at the ball.
He [the king] chose his opposite number
From a group of [lowly] gossips.

Haïe, etc.

The king, they say at court,
Has gone into finance.
There he is, hoping some day
To make his fortune.

In vain the ladies of the court
Have dared to find it ridiculous.
Neither the king nor the god of love
Have ever had any scruples.

—Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. fr. 13701, fo. 20.

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12. Hé quoi, bourgeoise téméraire

A final “Poissonade” goes further than the others by shifting its mockery from Mme de Pompadour to the king, whom it accuses of lacking virility. Sung to the tune of “Sans le savoir” or “La coquette sans le savoir.”

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Hé quoi, bourgeoise téméraire
Tu dis qu’au roi tu as su plaire
Et qu’il a rempli ton espoir.
Cesse d’employer la finesse;
Nous savons que le roi le soir
A voulu prouver sa tendresse
Sans le pouvoir.

Well then, reckless bourgeoise,
You say that you have been able to please the king
And that he has satisfied your hopes.
Stop using such subtleties;
We know that that evening
The king wanted to give proof of his tenderness,
And couldn’t.

—Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. fr. 13701, fo. 20.

Audio recordings copyright © 2010 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved.

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