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French Music – Michel Delpech Posted by on Aug 13, 2019 in Culture, Music, Vocabulary

We’ve just had our first few cool nights here in the Northeastern United States and while still weeks away, it got me thinking about a fall state of mind.  En France, la fin de l’été et le début de l’automne signale l’ouverture de la chasse (In France, the end of summer and the beginning of fall signals the opening oh hunting season).

I love fall, and there is something charming about the rituals of hunting. Mind you, I’m not really a fan of hunting. I think that’s why the following song from the great French singer Michel Delpech spoke to me.

For another great song by Michel Delpech, this one honoring the national symbol of France, click here.

Il était cinq heures du matin  It was five o’clock in the morning
On avançait dans les marais*  We advanced through the swamps
Couverts de brume  Covered in fog
J’avais mon fusil dans les mains  I had my rifle in my hands
Un passereau prenait au loin  In the distance a sparrow
De l’altitude  Gained altitude (rose into the air)
Les chiens pressés marchaient devant  The anxious dogs walked in front
Dans les roseaux Through the reeds
   
Par dessus l’étang*  Above the marsh
Soudain j’ai vu  Suddenly I saw
Passer les oies sauvages  Wild geese go by
Elles s’en allaient  They were leaving
Vers le midi**  Towards the south
La Méditerranée The Mediterranean
   
Un vol de perdreaux  A flight of pheasants
Par-dessus les champs  Above the fields
Montait dans les nuages  Climbed into the clouds
La forêt chantait  The forest sang
Le soleil brillait  The sun was shining
Au bout des marécages* At the end of the wetlands
   
Avec mon fusil dans les mains  With my rifle in the hand
Au fond de moi je me sentais  Deep inside me I felt
Un peu coupable  A little guilty
Alors je suis parti tout seul  So I went off by myself
J’ai emmené mon épagneul  I took my spaniel
En promenade For a walk
   
Je regardais  I looked at
Le bleu du ciel  The blue of the sky
Et j’étais bien*** And I was good / happy
   
Par dessus l’étang  Above the marsh
Soudain j’ai vu  Suddenly I saw
Passer les oies sauvages  Wild geese go by
Elles s’en allaient  They were leaving
Vers le midi  Towards the south
La Méditerranée The Mediterranean
   
Un vol de perdreaux  A flight of pheasants
Par-dessus les champs  Above the fields
Montait dans les nuages  Climbed into the clouds
La forêt chantait  The forest sang
Le soleil brillait  The sun was shining
Au bout des marécages At the end of the wetlands
   
Et tous ces oiseaux  And all these birds
Qui étaient si bien***  Who were so good
Là-haut dans les nuages  Up there in the clouds
Moi, j’aurais bien aimé les accompagner  Me, I would like to have accompanied them
Au bout de leur voyage To the end of their journey
   
Oui, tous ces oiseaux  Yes, all those birds
Qui étaient si bien  Who were so good
Là-haut dans les nuages  Up there in the clouds
J’aurais bien aimé les accompagner  I would like to have joined them
Au bout de leur voyage To the end of their journey.

* The words marais, étang, and marécages all describe some form of wetlands environment. They can be translated in English as swamp, marsh, or bog. If you’re interested in exploring these environments (and other milieux humides), click here.
** Why is the south of France referred to as “le midi“? Well, selon (according to) this clip from Europe1, we call the south of France (at least the 1/4 of the country below the 45th parallel) le midi because “à midi (en Latin le milieu de la journée) lorsqu’on regarde le soleil, il nous indique le sud)” / at noon, (midi in Latin signifies the middle of the day) when you look at the sun, it points to the south.
*** Notice the use of the verb être here. Remember that bien can be both an adverb (modifying a verb) and adjective (modifying a verb). When used with the verb aller as in Je vais bien it relates to an emotional state of being and describes one’s mood. When used with the verb être though it has a slightly different meaning. For example in Il est bien là ou il est (He/it is good where he/it is) or Les filles étaient bien au chaud devant le feu (The girls where good in in the heat from the fire) it relates more to a physical well-being.

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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Lise: Maybe not always. Paris has ways of making people forget. / Jerry: Paris? No, not this city. It's too real and too beautiful. It never lets you forget anything. It reaches in and opens you wide, and you stay that way. / An American in Paris


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