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Students of musicology smile or laugh when they hear the onomatopoeic effects of Clément Janequin‘s Le Chant des oyseaulx.

composer: Clément Janequin (c. 1485  – 1558)
work: Le Chant des oyseaulx
performers: Ensemble Clément Janequin
director: Dominique Visse
Dominique Visse (countertenor), Michel Laplénie (tenor), Philippe Cantor (baritone), Antoine Sicot (bass), Claude Debôves (lute)
Reveillez vous, cueurs endormis/ Le dieu d’amour vous sonne.
À ce premier jour de may/ Oyseaulx feront merveilles/ Pour vous mettre hors d’esmay. / Destoupez vos oreilles./ Et farirariron, Et farirariron, Et farirarison,/
ferely, ioly, ioly, ioly, ioly, ioly,/ Et farirariron, farirariron, ferely, ioly/ Vous serez tous en joye mis,/ Car la saison est bonne. 

Awake, sleepy hearts,/ The god of love calls you./ On this first day of May,/ The birds will make you marvel./ To lift yourself from dismay,/ Unclog your ears./ And fa la la la la (etc…)/ You will be moved to joy,/ For the season is good.

Vous orrez, à mon advis,/ Une doulce musique,/ Que fera le roy mauvis,/ D’une voix authentique :/Ti, ti, pi-ti (etc…)/ Rire et gaudir c’est mon devis,/ Chacun s’i habandonne.

You will hear, I advise you,/ A sweet music/ That the royal blackbird will sing/ In a pure voice./ Ti, ti, pi-ti (etc…)/ To laugh and rejoice is my device,/ Each with abandon.

Rossignol du boys joly,/ À qui la voix resonne,/ Pour vous mettre hors d’ennuy
Votre gorge iargonne:/ Fuyez, regretz, pleurs et soucy,/ Car la saison l’ordonne.

Nightingale of the pretty woods,/ Whose voice resounds,/ So you don’t become bored,/ Your throat jabbers away:/ Frian, frian (etc…)/ Flee, regrets, tears and worries,/ For the season commands it.

Arrière; maistre coucou,/ Sortez de no chapitre,/ Chacun vous donne au hibou /
Car vous n’estes qu’un traistre,/ Car vous n’estes qu’un traistre,
Coucou, coucou, coucou, coucou,/ Par tra-i-son,/ en chacun nid,/ Pondez sans qu’on vous sonne,/ Reveillez vous, cueurs endormiz, reveillez vous, / Le dieu d’amours vous sonne.

Turn around, master cuckoo/  Get out of our company./  Each of us gives you a ‘bye-bye’/  For you are nothing but a traitor./  Cuckoo, cuckoo (etc…) / Treacherously in others’ nests,/  You lay without being called./  Awake, sleepy hearts,/ The god of love is calling you.


There are several versions of Le Chant des oyseaulx. I used the lyrics provided by l’Ensemble Clément Janequin on YouTube. I believe our version has four stanzas. In order to look at various versions of Le Chant des oyseaulx, and translations into English, simply click on lyrics.*

* Retrieved from http://www1.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php?title=Le_Chant_des_Oiseaux_(Cl%C3%A9ment_Janequin)&oldid=378489

Clément Janequin

Clément Janequin (c. 1485  – 1558) was born in Châtellerault, near Poitiers, and was a French composer of the Renaissance. Clément Janequin’s music is programmatic[i] in that it has an extra-musical narrative, the singing of birds. Janequin’s main musical challenge was polyphony, mixing voices, an art that was developing in his era and was a challenge to all composers. At times, Le Chant des oyseaulx sounds like a canon and is just that, a canon.

By and large, Janequin held positions that earned him a meagre income, a matter he mentions in his will. He was a clerk to Lancelot du Fau the future Bishop of Luçon until the bishop’s death in 1523. He then held a similar position with the Bishop of Bordeaux. During that period of his life, he also became a priest and held appointments in Anjou.

His lifestyle improved after he met Jean de Guise and Charles de Ronsard, Pierre de Ronsard‘s brother. Pierre de Ronsard (11 September 1542 – 28 December 1585), the “Prince of Poets,” was the leader of an informal académie known as La Pléiade, named after the Alexandrian Pleiad3rd century BCE.

Clément Janequin was a very prolific songwriter. Guise and Ronsard helped him secure a position as curate at Unverre, near Chartres. At that point, he started to live in Paris and his chansons were extremely popular. In fact, Pierre Attaingnant[ii] (c. 1494 – late 1551 or 1552) printed five volumes of Janequin’s chansons. In Paris, Janequin also became “singer ordinary” of the King’s Chapel and later “composer ordinary.” Janequin composed very few sacred works.

Clément Janequin is best-known for Le Chant des oyseaulx and La Bataille, but also composed love songs, some of which are quite explicit. In fact, Le Chant des oyseaulx is a love song.


Sources and Resources

As noted above, other versions of Le Chant des oyseaulx, and translations into English, can be found at http://www1.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php?title=Le_Chant_des_Oiseaux_(Cl%C3%A9ment_Janequin)&oldid=378489


[i] As opposed to “absolute” music, which is self-referential.
 Significant figures in music printing are Ottaviano PetrucciPierre Attaingnant and, it would appear, John Rastell. In 1591, Petrucci  (18 June 1466 – 7 May 1539) published a book of chansons entitled Harmonice Musices Odhecaton.
Grigory Sokolov – Jean-Philippe Rameau ‘Le Rappel des oiseaux’ – YouTube

John James Audubon 1785 – 1851
Passenger Pidgeon
Musée de la Civilisation 2003 (QC) 
© Micheline Walker
6 October 2012