Sunday, 6 May 2012

Il était un petit navire

"Il était un petit navire" (English: There was a little ship) is a traditional French song that is now considered a children's song, despite its macabre tone.

The song tells the story of a young shipwrecked sailor who is about to be eaten by the other sailors. They discuss how to cook the man and what sauce to use. He then prays to the Virgin Mary and is saved by a miracle.

This song might refer to the famous wreck of the Medusa, immortalised in the painting The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault.

Il était un petit navire (bis)
Qui n'avait ja-ja-jamais navigué (bis)

Ohé ohé ohé ohé matelot
Matelot navigue sur les flots
Ohé ohé ohé ohé matelot
Matelot navigue sur les flots

Il entreprit un long voyage
Sur la mer Mé-Mé-Méditerranée

Au bout de cinq à six semaines
Les vivres vin-vin-vinrent à manquer

On tira-z-à la courte paille
Pour savoir qui-qui-qui serait mangé

Le sort tomba sur le plus jeune
Bien qu'il ne fût pas très épais

On cherche alors à quelle sauce
Le pauvre enfant-fant-fant serait mangé

L'un voulait qu'on le mît à frire
L'autre voulait-lait-lait le fricasser

Pendant qu'ainsi on délibère
Il monta sur sur sur le grand hunier

Il fit au ciel une prière
Interrogeant-geant-geant l'immensité

O sainte Vierge, öma patronne
Empêchez-les les les de me manger

Au même instant un grand miracle
Pour l'enfant fut fut fut réalisé

Des p'tits poissons dans le navire
Sautèrent bien-bien-bientôt par milliers

On les prit, on les mit à frire
Et le p'tit mou-mou-mousse fut sauvé


There was a little ship
That had never sailed

Oh eh oh eh oh eh mate
Mate sail onto the sea
Oh eh oh eh oh eh mate
Mate sail onto the sea

It began a long travel
On the Mediterranean Sea

After five or six weeks
The food ran short

They drew straws
To know who would be eaten

It fell to the youngest
Though he wasn't very fat

They tried to find the way
The poor child would be cooked

One wanted him fried
Another wanted him cooked

While they were discussing it
He climbed up the main topsail

He prayed to the heavens
Questioning the infinity

O holy Virgin, o, my lady
Forbid them to eat me

At once, a great miracle
Was performed for the child

Small fishes soon jumped by thousands
into the ship

They were gathered, they were fried
And the little ship's boy was saved.

Lowry uses a refrain from a the song in 'Hotel Room In Chartres' despite its macabre tone. Lowry gives the lyrics Ohe Kalo etc a hidden meaning as the lie in the text – “a forest of symbols”.

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