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Ah! vous dirai-je, maman facts for kids

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"Ah! vous dirai-je, maman" (French: [a vu diʁeʒ(ə) mamɑ̃], English: Oh! Shall I tell you, Mama) is a popular children's song in France, which has had numerous lyrics on different themes since its composition in the 18th century. This song was popularized in Twelve Variations on "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Nursery rhyme

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The French lyrics of the nursery rhyme exist in several variations, of which the following one is one of the most common versions.

Ah ! Vous dirai-je maman
Ce qui cause mon tourment?
Papa veut que je raisonne
Comme une grande personne
Moi je dis que les bonbons
Valent mieux que la raison.

Oh! Shall I tell you, Mama,
What is causing my torment?
Daddy wants me to reason
Like a big, big person,
But I say that candies,
Are worth more than the reason!

"La Confidence naïve"

The lyrics of the nursery rhyme are a parody of the original lyrics, an anonymous love poem, "La Confidence naïve" ("The naive Confidence").

Ah ! vous dirai-je, maman,
Ce qui cause mon tourment ?
Depuis que j'ai vu Silvandre,
Me regarder d'un air tendre ;
Mon cœur dit à chaque instant :
« Peut-on vivre sans amant ? »

L'autre jour, dans un bosquet,
De fleurs il fit un bouquet ;
Il en para ma houlette
Me disant : « Belle brunette,
Flore est moins belle que toi ;
L'amour moins épris que moi.

Étant faite pour charmer,
Il faut plaire, il faut aimer ;
C'est au printemps de son âge,
Qu'il est dit que l'on s'engage.
Si vous tardez plus longtemps,
On regrette ces moments. »

Je rougis et par malheur
Un soupir trahit mon cœur.
Le cruel avec adresse,
Profita de ma faiblesse :
Hélas, maman ! un faux pas
Me fit tomber dans ses bras.

Je n'avais pour tout soutien
Que ma houlette et mon chien.
L'amour, voulant ma défaite,
Écarta chien et houlette ;
Ah ! qu'on goûte de douceur,
Quand l'amour prend soin d'un cœur !

Ah! Shall I tell you, Mama,
What causes my torment?
Ever since I saw Silvandre,
Look at me so tenderly;
My heart says every time:
"Can we live without loving?"

The other day, in a grove,
With flowers, he made a bouquet,
He adorned my crook with it
Telling me: "Beautiful brunette,
Flora is less beautiful than you;
Love less enamoured than me.

Being made to charm,
You must please, you must love;
It's in spring that at his age,
That it is said one should commit.
If you tarry any longer,
One will regrets these moments."

I blushed and unfortunately,
A sigh betrayed my heart.
The cruel one skillfully
Profited of my weakness:
Alas, Mama! a misstep
Made me fall into his arms.

I did not have any support
Than my crook and my dog.
Love, wanting my defeat,
Put aside my dog and crook;
Ah! That we taste sweetness,
When love takes care of a heart!

Variations of the male lover's name found around the same time are Sylvandre, Lysandre, and Clitandre.

Appearances of the melody

Many songs in various languages have been based on the "Ah! vous dirai-je, maman" melody. In English, "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", the "Alphabet Song" and "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" are all based on this melody.

The German Christmas carol "Morgen kommt der Weihnachtsmann [de]" with words by Hoffmann von Fallersleben, also uses the melody, as does the Hungarian Christmas carol "Hull a pelyhes fehér hó [hu]", the Dutch "Altijd is Kortjakje ziek [nl]", the Spanish "Campanita del lugar [es]", the Greek "Φεγγαράκι μου λαμπρό" and the Turkish "Daha Dün Annemizin".

Several classical compositions have been inspired by this tune:

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Twelve Variations on "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman" (K. 265 / K. 300e) (1781 or 1782)
  • Michel Corrette (Variations on) "Ah! Vous dirais-je, maman" from La Belle Vielleuse (1783)
  • Joseph Haydn, Symphony No. 94 (Surprise Symphony), second movement (andante) (1792)
  • Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach, Variations on "Ah vous dirai-je maman" in G major (Wf XII: 2) (BR A 45) (1st publ. ca. 1880)
  • Jean-Baptiste Cardon [hu] (1760–1803), Variations for harp on "Ah! vous dirai-je, maman"
  • Theodor von Schacht (1748–1823), 3rd movement (Allegretto con variazioni) of his clarinet concerto in B flat major
  • Franz Liszt, Album Leaf: "Ah! vous dirai-je, maman" (1833) (S.163b)
  • Christian Heinrich Rinck, Variations and finale for organ on "Ah! vous dirai-je, maman", op. 90 (pub. 1828)
  • Adolphe Adam, Bravura Variations from the opera Le toréador (1849)
  • Camille Saint-Saëns, The Carnival of the Animals (1886), 12th movement (Fossiles) quotes the tune
  • Ernst von Dohnányi, Variations on a Nursery Tune, Op. 25 (1914)
  • Erwin Schulhoff, Ten Variations on "Ah! vous dirai-je, maman" and Fugue, Op. 16 (1914)
  • Harl McDonald, Children's Symphony, 2nd theme of 1st movement ("Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" variant) (1948)
  • Xavier Montsalvatge, 3rd movement (Allegretto) of Sonatine pour Yvette (1962)
  • John Corigliano, The Mannheim Rocket (2000)
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