Mudcat Café message #546859 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #38525   Message #546859
Posted By: Joe Offer
11-Sep-01 - 05:19 AM
Thread Name: Cajun Mardi Gras songs
Subject: ADD: Je Reviens de la Guerre
Je Reviens de la Guerre

Je reviens de la guerre, o ma chere, o ma chere.
(repeat)

Soldat, soldat, qu'emporteras-tu?
Soldat, soldat, qu'emporteras-tu?
Une bouteille pleine o ma chere, o ma chere, o ma chere,
Une bouteille pleine, o ma chere petite enfant.

Soldat, soldat, que me donneras-tu?
Soldat, soldat, que me donneras-tu?
Je t'en donnerai pleine un verre, o ma chere, o ma chere, o ma chere,
Je t'en donnerai pleine un verre, o ma chere infant.

Soldat, soldat, mon verre est bu.
Soldat, soldat, mon verre est bu.
Encore la moitie du verre, o ma chere, o ma chere, o ma chere
Encore la moitie du verre, o ma chere enfant.

Soldat, soldat, la moitie du verre est bu.
Soldat, soldat, la moitie du verre est bu.
Encore le quart du verre, o ma chere, o ma chere, o ma chere,
Encore le quart du verre, oh ma chere.

Soldat, soldat, le quart du verre est bu.
Soldat, soldat, le quart du verre est bu.
Encore la queue du verre, o ma chere, o ma chere, o ma chere,
Encore la queue du verre, o ma chere enfant.

Soldat, soldat, la queue du verre est bu.
Soldat, soldat, la queue du verre est bu.
Encore le robinet, o ma chere, o ma chere, o ma chere,
Encore le robinet, o ma chere enfant.

Soldat, soldat, le robinet est bu.
Soldat, soldat, le robinet est bu.
I return from the war, oh my dear, oh my dear.
(repeat)

Soldier, soldier, what are you carrying?
Soldier, soldier, what are you carrying?
A full bottle, oh my dear, oh my dear, oh my dear,
A full bottle oh, my dear little child.

Soldier, soldier, what are you going to give
Soldier, soldier, what are you going to give
I am going to give you a full glass, oh my dear, oh my dear,
Oh my dear, I am going to give you a full glass, oh my dear child.

Soldier, soldier, my glass is drank.
Soldier, soldier, my glass is drank.
There is still half a glass, oh my dear, oh my dear, oh my dear,
There is still a half a glass, oh my dear child.

Soldier, soldier, the half a glass is drank.
Soldier, soldier, the half a glass is drank.
There is still a quarter of a glass, oh my dear, oh my dear, oh my dear,
There is still a quarter of a glass, oh my dear child.

Soldier, soldier, the quarter of a glass is drank.
Soldier, soldier, the quarter of a glass is drank.
There is still the tail of the glass, oh my dear, oh my dear, oh my dear,
There is still the tail of the glass, oh my dear child.

Soldier, the tail of the glass is drank.
Soldier, the tail of the glass is drank.
There is still the spigot, oh my dear, oh my dear, oh my dear,
There is still the spigot, oh my dear child.

Soldier, soldier, the spigot is drank.
Soldier, soldier, the spigot is drank.


The textual and thematic similarities among Louisiana Mardi Gras songs and drinkmg songs are striking. For example, Mardi Gras singers state that they come from l'Angleterre (England). Post (1936) suggested that because the Mardi Gras wished to convey an image as potential troublemakers they used England as a place of origin because of that country's responsibility for deporting the Acadians from Canada. However, it is far more likely that the textual transformation occurred because de l'Angletetre (from England) sounds like de la guerre (from the war) and it conveys the notion that the Mardi Gras have come from a long distance - an important theme of Louisiana Mardi Gras in other songs. The phrase, du fond du verre (from the bottom of the glass) from drinking songs slips easily into le fond d'hiver, (the bottom of winter), and although some Mardi Gras participants insist that dufond du verre is the correct line, others propose that le fond d'hiver is more appropriate because of the season in which Mardi Gras occurs. However, given the obvious connection to drinking songs and the reference to the bottle, glass, etc., lefond du verre seems more likely to be the original line.
Some minor transformation of Mardi Gras song verses across the Tee Mamou and Grand Marais songs, and in relation to other versions such as Post's, is attributable to the nature of the French language in Louisiana. Because most French speakers were not literate in the language, songs were transmitted orally, hence the potential for changes in wording across generations, a universal feature of folk songs. Changes may also be attributed to the preference of a particular captain or even individual singers even though they may not be shared by the entire community. A good example of this is the perspective of a former Grand Marais captain who stated that dufond du verre is the proper line, whereas his wife stated that she always thought that the verse was du fond d'hiver.
Major differences in the Mardi Gras song texts must also be considered. The phrase "Mardi Gras what do you carry" in the Tee Mamou and Post variants differ considerably from the statement "Mardi Gras behave yourself' in the Grand Marais song. The former Grand Marais capitaine is the most adamant in proposing that this is the proper line rather than "What do you carry?" He interprets "behave yourself' as indicating that the soldiers must form a neat circle and perform the song in an orderly manner as part of each visit. This perhaps reflects his responsibility for maintaining order in the group. It seems clear, however, that at one time the Grand Marais song, or at least the song from which it derived, actually included the question "Mardi Gras what do you carry?" Considering that the next line carries the same response as the Tee Mamou variant and drinking songs: "I/we carry a bottle."
The Tee Mamou and Grand Marais songs differ most in their endings. The final lines of the Tee Mamou song make reference to the eldest daughter of the household. This verse is almost identical to portions of the Guignolee song, especially variants from the upper Mississippi Valley and Quebec. For example, the Guignolee song currently performed in Prairie du Rocher, Illinois, includes lines, which apart from differences in dialect, convey the same image as the end of the Tee Mamou Mardi Gras song:
Nous vou demandons seulement
La fille ainee.
Nous lui ferons faire bonne chere,
Et nous lui ferons chauffer les pieds.
We only ask of you,
The eldest daughter.
We will make her be a good girl,
And we are going to warm her feet

The song used in the now-disbanded Lejeune Cove Cajun Mardi Gras near Tee Mamou had additional lines that are nearly identical to Guignolee songs. There, the greeting to the hosts and household: Bonsoir le maitre and la maitresse, Et tout le monde du logis (good evening to the master and mistress, and everyone in the household) precedes the request for the eldest daughter (Brassieur 1999).
It has been suggested, although certainly not substantiated and indeed over fanciful, that the request for the eldest daughter is in reference to pre-Christian customs of human sacrifice. Supposedly, within the context of Christianity, the reference was transformed into a request for a dancing partner (Gagnon 1955). However, it is more likely that this request originated because the singers wished access to the eldest (and hence most eligible) daughter for dancing and courtship. The similarity between the Guignolee song and the Tee Mamou Mardi Gras songs suggests a direct integration of begging song themes into drinking songs. Unfortunately, the specific process of textual borrowing can probably never be satisfactorily documented and, hence, only possible linkages can be proposed. Portions of the Guignolee song could have been introduced to Louisiana in the course of 18th-century contact between the French settlements of the upper and lower Mississippi valley. In fact, some contemporary Louisiana French families can trace their ancestry to settlers who migrated from upper Mississippi valley communities where Guignolee was celebrated. Or, equally plausible, these verses could have been introduced as a song fragment by a later settler from an area of France or Canada where Guignolee songs were common (Brassieur 1999). The mystery remains, however, as to why only this line from the Guignolee song was incorporated into the Tee Mamou song, although as will be discussed shortly, the conscious desire to selectively borrow fragments from other songs may be a flictor.