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Le Combat de la Danaé (The Battle of Quebec) (arr. S. Bergeron)
interprète: Meredith Hall
album: La Traverse miraculeuse / Le Combat de Québec [1]

La Nef [The Nave]: Sylvain Bergeron, Lisa Ornstein, David Greenberg, Patrick Graham, Amanda Keesmat, Pierre-Yves Martel, Seàn Dagher

Old French Songs (cont’d)

—ooo—

Come, all you old men all, let this delight you; (a)
Come, all you young men all, let affright you;
Nor let your courage fail when comes the trial.
Nor do not be afraid at the first denial.

C’est le 27 de mars, sans attendre plus tard / qu’est le départ
Bart, ce grand guerrier, / nous a tous commandé.
Nous sommes partis de la France, / confiants dans la Providence,
priant Dieu de nous secourir / dans le danger de périr.
Le premier jour partant / nous aperçûmes sous vent / un bâtiment
Trois autres au vent de nous / qui poussaient droit sur nous.
Nous leur avons fait reconnaître / que nous en serions les maîtres,
nous tenant tous les deux d’accord, / nous avons viré de bord.
La Danaé!

Brave Wolfe drew up his men in a line so pretty. (b)
On the Plains of Abraham,[1] before the city.
The French came marching down, arrayed to meet them.
In double numbers round, resolved to beat them.

L’Anglais tout d’un courroux [wrath]/ arrive au bord de nous
et tout d’un coup tire un coup de canon / sur notre pavillon;
C’est son petit mât de misaine [small mast] / qui est tombé à la traîne [dragging]
et son grand mât d’artimon [large mast] / qui est tombé sur le pont.
Bart, voyant cela / au milieu du combat / et du fracas
en rejoignant les mains / prit le Ciel à témoin.
Bart dit à son équipage: / « allons mes enfants courage,
faisons voir à ces Anglais / la valeur de nous, Français. »
La Danaé!

The drums did loudly beat, with colors flying (c)
The purple gore did stream and men lay dying
Then shot from off his horse fell that brave hero
We’ll long lament his loss that day in sorrow

Le feu de tous côtés / par trois vaisseaux armés / sans relâcher [relentlessly]
a mis hors de combat [taken out of combat] / ce valeureux soldat.
Ce fut su’l’gaillard d’arrière [at the back of the ship] / qu’il tomba par en arrière
et par un boulet [bullet] de canon, / il tomba mort sur le pont.
Grand Dieu quelle misère / de voir la Dan / tout démantée, [dismantled]
ses voiles [sails] et ses haubans [ropes]/ ne battre plus au vent!
Hélas grand Dieu quelle misère / de voir devant à l’arrière
cent cinquante hommes étendus / et les autres n’en pouvant plus
La Danaé!

He raised up his head where the guns did rattle, (d)
And to his aide he said, “How goes the battle?”
“Quebec is all our own, they can’t prevent it”
He said without a groan, “I die contented.”

Vous autres Français, Flamands / qui voyez nos tourments / qui sont si grands,
apprenez la misère / que nous avons souffert
pour sauver l’honneur de la France; / vous Anglais pleins d’impudence,
à moins de nous laisser aller, / nous vous aurons prisonniers!
La Danaé!

—ooo—

A translation

Come, all you old men all, let this delight you; (a)
Come, all you young men all, let affright you;
Nor let your courage fail when comes the trial.
Nor do not be afraid at the first denial.

We left on 27th March, without further delay.
Bart, that great warrior, was in command.
We left France trusting Providence and praying to God
to rescue us, should our lives be endangered.
On the first day, we saw beneath the wind a bâtiment (?)
and three other ships, headed in our direction.
Both of us agreeing, we decided to turn around.
La Danaé!

Brave Wolfe drew up his men in a line so pretty. (b)
On the Plains of Abraham, before the city.
The French came marching down, arrayed to meet them.
In double numbers round, resolved to beat them.

The angry English sailed up to the side of our ship.
All of a sudden they shot at us.
Our ship’s mizzen mast fell dangling
and its larger mast tumbled down to the deck.
Bart seeing this, still fighting as everything was crashing down,
joined his hands, taking God as his witness
and told his crew: Let’s go boys,
let us show the English a Frenchman’s worth.
La Danaé!

The drums did loudly beat, with colors flying (c)
The purple gore did stream and men lay dying
Then shot from off his horse fell that brave hero
We’ll long lament his loss that day in sorrow.

Shots were fired everywhere and relentlessly,
taking out of combat this valiant soldier.
He fell backwards at the back of the ship,
hit by a bullet. He fell dead on the deck.
It was awful to see the remains of our ship,
its sails and ropes [haubans] blowing in the wind,
and, at the back, a hundred and fifty men lying down.
The others were exhausted.
La Danaé!

He raised up his head where the guns did rattle, (d)
And to his aide he said, “How goes the battle?”
“Quebec is all our own, they can’t prevent it”
He said without a groan, “I die contented.”

You, the French and the Flemish, who see our torment, that are so great,
Learn the hardship we have suffered
to save France’s honour. And you impudent Englishmen
unless you let us go, you will be prisoners.
La Danaé!

Comments

Nous vous aurons prisonniers means: we will have you as prisoners. The context would suggest that the French would be the prisoners of the English. This sentence is ambiguous.

In both French and English we find rhymes. Some verses are shortened by singing rapidly. This is a difficult folksong. The length of the lines varies and it could be that French stanzas consist of eight lines. This would give us a total of four long (eight lines) stanzas in French ending with the word Danaé, and four short (4 lines) English

In this folksong, one can hear the braggart soldier. Such language may have stimulated sailors. On the one hand, it is as though we were hearing boys playing, but we are not hearing boys, but frightened sailors who may die. It’s not a game.

Ironically, if we listened to the English, we would hear them call the sailors of New France  “impudent.” We find fault with the enemy we kill.

RELATED ARTICLES

Nouvelle-France’s Last and Lost Battle: The Battle of the Plains of Abraham
The Battle of Fort William Henry & Cooper’s Last of the Mohicans

Louis-Joseph de Montcalm-Gozon, Marquis de Saint-Veran

Sources

See The Battle of Quebec, History
Poet’s Collective Multi Site Network
Borduas and Leduc

____________________
[1] The final defeat (13 September 1759). Both generals died.

Love to everyone 

eglise_de_st_hilaire-st_hilaire_church

Paul-Émile BorduasÉglise de Saint-Hilaire, c. 1933,
huile sur contreplaqué.  Collection Renée Borduas.
Photo MBAM, Brian Merrett.
© Succession Paul-Émile Borduas / SODRAC (2013)

© Micheline Walker
8 August 2018
(updated 10 August 2018)
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