or-lay-ah, bo-zhah-see… Click at the bottom of the post, below, to hear the song.
Speaking of bells, here’s an old, old French song. Some have called it the oldest French folk song. It’s known as Le Carillon de Vendôme, and is intended to imitate the sound of church bells.
Why? To understand the song, we have to go back to the 15th century and read a little history. In a nutshell, King Charles VI dies, leaving his succession uncertain. England, in the meantime, governs much of what is now France. Charles’s oldest son, later to become Charles VII, lacks confidence and holes up south of the Loire River. Jeanne d’Arc (pronounced zhahn daark in French), or Joan of Arc, leads his forces to victory and bolsters his confidence. He gets crowned king, she gets burned at the stake for heresy.
Jeanne called Charles “gentil Dauphin” (good Dauphin, the title of the king’s eldest son and heir presumptive to the throne). The fragmented kingdom of which Charles was crowned king in Reims in 1429 consisted of only a cluster of cities, not even including Paris. These towns were represented by the steeples of the folk song:
Mes amis, que reste-t-il
À ce Dauphin si gentil?
Notre-Dame de Cléry,
My friends, what remains
For this good prince?
Try singing along as a round, with the second part coming in on the second line.