A Cheerful French Love Song Posted by on Apr 22, 2011 in History, Music, People, Vocabulary

Out of the les Côtes-d’Armor of the Brittany Peninsula, bordering the shores of Saint-Malo, from whence hailed and sailed the seafaring ancestors of the legendary Surcouf,le roi des corsaires (“the King of Corsairs”)une voix (a voice) Bretonne sings a cheerful tune about a local girl nicknamed “Marie la dondaine.

But what’s a “dondaine“, you may ask?

Could it be the name of a navire à voile (sailing ship), perhaps?

Also known under the name of a “carreau“, a dondaine is a sort of a bolt that was used in medieval times as ammunition for une arbalète (a crossbow)—As in many other old French songs, the word “dondaine” is most likely used here as mere onomatopée (onomatopoeia).


Maridon la dondaine, elle était amoureuse,

Maridon la dondaine, she was in love

D’un jeune garçon de coeur qui portait une robe blanche

Of a young choirboy who wore a white robe

D’un jeune garçon de coeur qui portait une chemise à fleurs

Of a choirboy who wore a flower shirt

Courant dans la prairie, Marie qu’elle était belle,

Running in the meadows, how beautiful Marie was

Les garçons l’appelaient Marie la belle en robe blanche

The boys called Marie “the beauty in the white robe”

Les garçons l’appelaient Marie la belle fleur de dentelle

The boys called Marie “the beautiful lace flower”

Que néni disait elle le seul homme de mon coeur

There’s no way she said, the only man in her heart

Est celui qui est là assis au milieu de l’église

Is the one who’s sitting in the middle of the church

Est celui qui est là vêtu d’une chemise à fleurs

Is the one who’s wearing a flower shirt

En revenant chez elle, elle parla à son père

Coming back home, she spoke with her father

De ce bel homme en blanc qui portait une croix sur son coeur

Of this handsome man in white who wore a cross on his heart

De ce jeune homme en blanc devenu l’élu de son coeur

Of this young man in white with whom she fell in love

Depuis tous les samedis, elle va à la confesse

Since then, each Saturday, she goes to confession

Pour voir ce beau jeune homme qui est revêtu d’une chemise

To see this handsome man wearing a shirt

Parler de ses amours à un amoureux de l’église

To talk about her crushes to a church faithful lover

Depuis cette aventure Maridon la Dondaine

Since that adventure, Marie la Dondaine

Se donna au Bon Dieu en entrant au couvent de Rennes

Offered herself to the Lord by joining the convent of Rennes

Soeur Marie la Dondaine c’était son nouveau nom de scène

Sister Marie la Dondaine, that was her new stage name

* * *

The lively atmosphere of a live performance of Anthony Chaplain

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  1. Charles Laster:

    Love the mixture of the french skill in lyrics, the celtic sound, and just plain punk rock rave-up sound.

  2. src:

    Is “Maridon” the same as “Marie”?

    • Hichem:

      @src Yes, “Maridon” is just an “affectionate nickname” for Marie!