French Language Blog

French Music: Guy Béart’s “L’Eau vive” Posted by on Jul 2, 2018 in Music

Recently, my house has been afflicted by un ver d’oreille. The literally definition of this term is an “earworm.” But, don’t worry—this post isn’t about those nasty little insects. Rather, in French, un ver d’oreille is a catchy tune that you just can’t get out of your head.

Courtesy of Pixabay.

It began with my mother-in-law (ma belle mère) singing a song to my son to put him to sleep. She said it was one of her mother’s favorite songs, and that she would sing it to her as a child. It has the melody of a child’s lullaby, but it is a really lovely and simple tune that was written by Guy Béart in 1958 for a French film of the same name—L’Eau vive. Every time my mother-in-law would finish singing, my son would shout “Encore! Encore!” (Again! Again!). And, now, my house is filled with the tune—we hum it, sing it outright, and translate the lyrics into English.

Guy Béart is one of the best-known French auteurs-compositeurs-interprètes (singer-songwriters). “L’Eau vive” might be one of his most famous songs, and it is considered a classic of the French chanson style, but he had many more successes including “L’Agent double” (“The Double Agent”) and “L’Ane” (“The Donkey”). The shy Béart famously disagreed with Serge Gainsbourg over the status of songwriting in the arts—with Gainsbourg calling it un art mineur (“a minor art”), while Béart believed in the power and artistic integrity of songwriting. As Le Figaro wrote for his obituary in 2015, “Il était certainement le grand chanteur français le plus sous-estimé de tous.” (“He was certainly the greatest underestimated French singer.”) Today, Béart is known for his most famous song L’Eau vive, as well as for being the father of French actress Emmanuelle Béart.

You can listen to the song and read the French lyrics (and their translation) below. Maybe it will become your ver d’oreille, too!


L’Eau Vive

Ma petite est comme l’eau, elle est comme l’eau vive
Elle court comme un ruisseau, que les enfants poursuivent
Courez, courez vite si vous le pouvez
Jamais, jamais vous ne la rattraperez

Lorsque chantent les pipeaux, lorsque danse l’eau vive
Elle mène mes troupeaux, au pays des olives

Venez, venez, mes chevreaux, mes agnelets
Dans le laurier, le thym et le serpolet

Un jour que, sous les roseaux, sommeillait mon eau vive
Vinrent les gars du hameau pour l’emmener captive
Fermez, fermez votre cage à double clé
Entre vos doigts, l’eau vive s’envolera

Comme les petits bateaux, emportes par l’eau vive
Dans ses yeux les jouvenceaux voguent à la dérive
Voguez, voguez demain vous accosterez
L’eau vive n’est pas encore à marier

Pourtant un matin nouveau à l’aube, mon eau vive
Viendra battre son trousseau, aux cailloux de la rive
Pleurez, pleurez, si je demeure esseulé
Le ruisselet, au large, s’en est allé.

Running Water (English translation courtesy of mayasurya) 

My girlfriend is like water
She’s like the running water
She runs like a stream
That children follow
Run, run,
Quick as you can
Never, never
You’ll never catch up to her
When the pipes sing
When the running water dances
She leads the flocks
To the land of olives
Come, come,
My kids, my lambs
In the laurel,
The thyme and the wild thyme
One day, when beneath the reeds,
My running water was sleeping
The men from the village came
To take her captive
Close, close,
Your double-locked cage
Between your fingers
The running water will fly
Like small boats
Carried by the running water
In her eyes, the youths
Were set adrift
Sail, sail
Tomorrow you’ll drop anchor
The running water
Is not yet to marry
And yet, one new morning
At dawn, my running water
Will come to beat her trousseau
Against the pebbles of the shore
Cry, cry
If I remain forlorn
The rivulet
Has gone offshore
Tags: , , , ,
Keep learning French with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Elizabeth Schmermund

Bonjour tout le monde! I'm a freelance writer, doctoral student, mom, and Francophile. I'm excited to share some of my experiences living in France, as well as the cultural nuances that I've learned being married to a Frenchman, with all of you. To find out more about me, feel free to check out my website at A la prochaine!