Lyr Add: Ick Bin Ein Franzose (Holzerne Bein)
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Lyr Add: Ick Bin Ein Franzose (Holzerne Bein)

BobL 15 Aug 19 - 03:15 AM
keberoxu 14 Aug 19 - 07:07 PM
GUEST,Grishka 14 Aug 19 - 01:50 PM
Mrrzy 14 Aug 19 - 01:11 PM
keberoxu 13 Aug 19 - 07:14 PM
keberoxu 12 Aug 19 - 07:40 PM
GUEST,Grishka 12 Aug 19 - 06:49 PM
keberoxu 12 Aug 19 - 06:10 PM
keberoxu 12 Aug 19 - 04:56 PM
keberoxu 12 Aug 19 - 03:12 PM
keberoxu 11 Aug 19 - 06:02 PM
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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ick Bin Ein Franzose (Holzerne Bein)
From: BobL
Date: 15 Aug 19 - 03:15 AM

Some language teachers I once knew came up with the concept of "Freutschland". Twenty years later I visited Alsace and found many of their ideas realised. Except that the Freutsch could never decide on their National Anthem, between "Freutschland, Freutschland sur tous le monde" or "Allons kinder de la Vaterland"...

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ick Bin Ein Franzose (Holzerne Bein)
From: keberoxu
Date: 14 Aug 19 - 07:07 PM

Few English translations can be scared up by an online search.
I have found one, which will be presented in this post.
However, a few caveats.
The translation does not match the ten verses from the OP.
There are only six stanzas in this presentation,
and the fifth English stanza is a translation of
a verse that does not appear in the version I presented in the OP.

This translation appears, with its brief introduction, in the biography
Eugène de Beauharnais: The Adopted Son of Napoleon,
author Violette M. Montagu, published in 1913.

"...but then, Napoleon had never ceased to be the soldiers' hero. There is a quaint old song, a mixture of German and French, dating from the Napoleonic epoch, which is still to be found among collections of folk-songs on the Continent, and which, if my readers will forgive me, I will reproduce, as it, perhaps better than anything else, shows the spirit that reigned among the Emperor's vieux grognards:


In France was I born, in France was I bred,
The home of fair women and wine.
My name is Jean Grillon, mesdames,
My pride is my old wooden leg.

Tobacco, fresh air and potatoes
Are all that an old soldier asks.
And if on his breast he wears the Cross
To his grave he will go with a smile.

Think ye that I love not the fair sex?
Then ye are mistaken, forsooth!
The old wooden peg may go lamely,
But the lips are still ready to kiss.

I laugh and I sing and full often
Crack jokes with my old wooden leg.
My pegs may be worn out with service
But the top of me's lively as aye!

So we hobble through life all undaunted,
Poor Jean and his old wooden leg.
Kings, emperors and princes are proud to house
Brave Jean and his old wooden leg.

When Death reads the roll-call of honour,
And the time comes to lay down my arms,
Saint Peter will utter the word of command:
"Make room for that old wooden leg!"

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ick Bin Ein Franzose (Holzerne Bein)
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 14 Aug 19 - 01:50 PM

Mrrzy, the link keberoxu gave on 12 Aug 19 - 03:12 PM, while not absolutely accurate, answers your question correctly. "Ick" is the imaginary pronunciation by a Frenchman of the Standard German word "ich".

The lyrics have no reference to Alsace at all, according to the various commentators. However, the song has been collected in Alsace towards the end of 19th century, where and when it seems to have acquired some new significance, unintended by the original author. The above commentator, a native Alsatian, also has a specific (biased) view on the topic, based on the idea of a separate Alsatian identity.

Also, people write that the core of the lyrics predates Napoleon, and that some verses were added later. Nevertheless, the gist remains unchanged. The main point being mildly ridiculed is that the cliché Frenchman will always talk about l'amour, even if disabled and possibly addressing ladies of advanced age.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ick Bin Ein Franzose (Holzerne Bein)
From: Mrrzy
Date: 14 Aug 19 - 01:11 PM

Is Ick Alsacien for Ich?

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ick Bin Ein Franzose (Holzerne Bein)
From: keberoxu
Date: 13 Aug 19 - 07:14 PM

The OP lyric is ten verses long.

This version has thirteen verses.
Lied eines Kriegskrüppels

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ick Bin Ein Franzose (Holzerne Bein)
From: keberoxu
Date: 12 Aug 19 - 07:40 PM

A thousand thanks, Grishka.

Your explanation makes considerably greater sense to me
than what Yves Keler, the french-language commentator,
explained -- maybe Keler is correct but
it was hard work for me to follow his reasoning.

Very good -- grittig Grabwurm, greedy worms in the grave.

Ferocious wars, mild satire:
It reminds me of the 20th-century Johnny Mercer, the songwriter,
saying "Accentuate The Positive,"
as the lyric is as upbeat as it is mordant.
The soldier is grateful to be alive and
he looks for the sunny side of life, as another song says,
and finds things to joke about.

"Air to breathe,
Water to drink,
and potatoes to eat!"

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ick Bin Ein Franzose (Holzerne Bein)
From: GUEST,Grishka
Date: 12 Aug 19 - 06:49 PM

Thanks, keberoxu, for this nice finding.

The word is grittig = greedy.

The author of the lyrics is obviously a native speaker of German. It is a parody of a French veteran soldier speaking to German ladies. (An actual Frenchmen will have more problems with German syntax and grammar, or, if he has overcome these, fewer with vocabulary.)

A very mild satire, given the ferocious wars.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ick Bin Ein Franzose (Holzerne Bein)
From: keberoxu
Date: 12 Aug 19 - 06:10 PM

Here is the tune for "Ich Bin Ein Franzose Mesdames"
Folk Tune Finder.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ick Bin Ein Franzose (Holzerne Bein)
From: keberoxu
Date: 12 Aug 19 - 04:56 PM

"Hoelzerne Bein," of course, is German for
"wooden leg."
Thus, this military veteran lost one foot, and part of one leg, while serving in the war. He walks with a wooden prosthesis.

Some brief remarks of mine summarizing
the Yves Keler quote in the preceding post.

This lyric falls into the category of written letters, and occasionally poems, written by soldiers to their families during the Napoleonic war while stationed in Germany.

Such lyrics are characterized by a mixture of German and French, along with Alsatian dialect or other dialects according to the soldier's origin.

The many written gaffes/mistakes in the writing occur as often in the French words as they do in the German words.

Many of these surviving letters from soldiers of French ancestry demonstrate that
the author learned his French in his childhood, got as far as elementary school in his formal education.
After finishing elementary school, this French-speaking author did nothing to refresh or maintain his formal learning.
As for his command of German, such a soldier's writing shows that he learned his German on duty.

The author of our poem does not speak the Alsatian dialect, rather he speaks German,
which he could well have picked up in Germany while stationed in the country at a garrison.
This soldier is presumed to be from France.

The next-to-last verse
expresses the dark humor typical of
young men who are,
as the poet Apollinaire phrased it,
better acquainted with death than they are with life.
And that penultimate verse contains, I fear, a typo of some kind.
I copied it exactly as I found it in the Weckerlin edition.

However, "gittig" is a non-existent word, I now find.
I suspect the word is supposed to be the German adjective "giftig."

Here is my attempt at the ninth verse:

What a nasty surprise for the worms who arrive, with joy,
when the battles of my life are over,
expecting to feast on my remains,
when the worms try to devour my wooden leg!

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: Ick Bin Ein Franzose (Holzerne Bein)
From: keberoxu
Date: 12 Aug 19 - 03:12 PM

The following quotes are extracted -- should you want to look at the entire page --
from "J'etais soldat français, mesdames" -- bilingual commentary (French and German, no English)
Yves Keler identifies himself at the top of this page
as the Author of the commentary on this folksong lyric.

Keler's commentary includes:
the original lyrics (some extra/additional verses),
his own translation of the song into French,

and generous quotes from previously-published folksong editors
along with Keler's own observations.

A series of posts to this thread will quote from the above page.

This post will stick to some remarks by Yves Keler.

Le text entre dans la catégorie des lettres (et parfois poésies) écrites par les soldats de l'Empire napoléonien stationnés en Allemagne à leurs familles.

Elles se caractérisent par un mélange d'allemand et de français, et d'alsacien, ou encore d'autres dialectes [...] selon l'origine des hommes.
Le plus souvent les fautes concernent autant le français que l'allemand.
Beaucoup de ces lettres de soldats français de souche montrent que l'écrivain a une culture français tout juste d'école primaire, non renouvelée et entretenue après la sortie de l'école, et que son allemand a été appris sur le tas.

L'auteur de notre poème ne parle pas l'alsacien, mais l'allemand, qu'il pourrait donc avoir appris en Allemagne au cours de ses séjours en garnison dans le pays. Il est censé d'être un français.

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Subject: Ick Bin Ein Franzose (Holzerne Bein)
From: keberoxu
Date: 11 Aug 19 - 06:02 PM

What do our historians have to say about
the effect of the Napoleonic Wars upon
the region known as Alsace (sometimes, "Elsass")?

The veteran who introduces himself in this song
(the author is not known)
says he is a "Franzose," in truth he is from Alsace.


Ick bin ein Franzose, Mesdames,
Voll Muth wie der Löw' und der Wein,
Sans chagrin ist jetzo mein Name,
Mein Stolz sind die 'ölzerne Bein.
(repeat every last line of each verse)

En Italie gab's für Bravuren
Das Kreutz die Couronne de fer,
En Espagne für die Blessuren
Der Stern von der Légion d'Honneur.

Wir haben gar vieles gelitten,
Bei Hitze und Stürme marschiert,
Mit allen Nationen gestritten,
Und niemal courage verliert.

Ick laufe, ick springe, ick kose,
Comm' ça mit dem 'ölzernen Bein,
Und überall bleib ick Franzose,
Und wär ick auck unter dem Stein.

Kann ick gleick nit lauf' wie die Hase
Mit die maudit 'ölzernen Bein,
Fall ick dock niht gleick auf die Nase,
Und geb' mick geduldig darein.

Ick bin dock nock fröhlick passable,
Mesdames, dondaine dondon,
Und wenn gleick mein Fuss ist au diable,
Bin dock nock ä joli garçon.

Glaubet ihr das Küsse nit gebe
Trompieret euk wahrlik die Schein,
Zum küssen, so wahr ick nock lebe,
Gebraukt's nur die Maul, nit die Bein.

Luft, Wasser, und pommes de terre,
Mehr brauk's nit um fröhlick zu sein,
Die Place wo ich steh und der Ehre
Es braven Soldaten zu sein.

Mit Freud kriegt mein Leben einst Pause,
Wie gittig die Grabwurm wurd sein,
Sie will dann do reckt an mick schmausen,
Und findet die 'ölzerne Bein.

Und sterb' ick, und wär' es auck heute,
Marschier' ick zur Himmelsport ein,
Saint-Pierre commandirt dann die Leute:
"Mack Place für die 'ölzerne Bein."

-- from Chansons populaires de l'Alsace, tome II, edited by Jean-Baptiste Weckerlin, Paris: Maisonneuve et Cie, 1883. Included in Les Littératures Populaires des toutes les Nations, tome XVIII. Appears in Chansons à boire, chansons satiriques, bouffonnes, melody on page 352, lyrics on pages 354 - 356.

(Earlier versions were printed in earlier publications; they average seven stanzas each.)

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