6 February


Gentil coquelicot (also known as J'ai descendu dans mon jardin) is a traditional French song that first appeared in the mid-19th century.

Gentil Coquelicot Red poppy © French Moments

Coquelicot (Red poppy) © French Moments

The story of the song

The poppy is the star in the chorus of an old song J'ai descendu dans mon jardin which first appeared in Marion Théophile Dumersan's 1846 collection "Chansons et rondes enfantines".

Beware the bad boys!

Under the guise of a naive pastoral song, the nursery rhyme is a moralising fable for young girls. The nightingale (le rossignol), the symbol of love par excellence, warns them against the bad boys who want to take advantage of them.

Is 'J'ai descendu' a mistake?

It is the auxiliary avoir (to have) and not the auxiliary être (to be) that is used in the song, contrary to contemporary usage.

Nowadays, it is correct to say:

  • "Je suis descendu dans mon jardin" (I went down to my garden), used without a direct object complement = COD)
  • "J'ai descendu les marches" (I went down the steps), used with a COD, here the steps.

One explanation among others is that Old French syntax was less rigorous than modern syntax.

Red poppy field in Burgundy © French Moments

Red poppy field in Burgundy © French Moments

Gentil coquelicot

Lyrics, music, free download... let's learn more about the popular song:

Gentil coquelicot

Gentil coquelicot © French Moments

The lyrics in French

The original song of Gentil coquelicot has 5 verses and a chorus.

Couplet 1

J’ai descendu dans mon jardin
J’ai descendu dans mon jardin
Pour y cueillir du romarin.


Gentil coquelicot, Mesdames,
Gentil coquelicot, nouveau.

Couplet 2

J'en avais pas cueilli trois brins
J'en avais pas cueilli trois brins
Qu'un rossignol vint sur ma main.

Couplet 3

Il me dit trois mots en latin
Il me dit trois mots en latin
Que les hommes ne valent rien.

Couplet 4

Et les garçons encore bien moins
Et les garçons encore bien moins
Des dames, il ne me dit rien.

Couplet 5

Des dames, il ne me dit rien
Des dames, il ne me dit rien
Mais des demoiselles beaucoup de bien.

Translation of the lyrics into English

Here is an approximative translation into English:

Verse 1

I went down to my garden
I went down to my garden
To pick rosemary.


Sweet poppy, ladies,
Sweet poppy, brand new.

Verse 2

I had not picked three sprigs
I had not picked three sprigs
That a nightingale came on my hand.

Verse 3

He said three words to me in Latin
He told me three words in Latin
That men are worthless.

Verse 4

And boys much less so
And boys much less so
Of ladies he tells me nothing.

Verse 5

Of the ladies, he tells me nothing
Of ladies he tells me nothing
But of the ladies much good.

Download the Lyrics for FREE!

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Gentil coquelicot © French Moments

French Nursery Rhymes

My challenge for the year 2023 is to publish 80 French Nursery Rhymes lyrics and descriptions (list below). Come back as time goes by to discover the new articles:

French Nursery Rhymes Cover by French Moments
French Nursery Rhymes
A la claire fontaine © French Moments
Ah ! dis-moi donc bergère © French Moments
Ah ! Les crocodiles © French Moments
Ah ! vous dirai-je, maman © French Moments
Ainsi font, font, font © French Moments
Alouette gentille alouette © French Moments
Au clair de la lune © French Moments
Au feu les pompiers © French Moments
Au royaume de Diguedondaine © French Moments
Auprès de ma blonde © French Moments
Aux marches du palais © French Moments
Blanc Blanc Blanc belle rose © French Moments
Bon voyage Monsieur Dumollet © French Moments
Buvons un coup ma serpette est perdue © French Moments
C'est la mère Michel © French Moments
C'était Anne de Bretagne © French Moments
Cadet Rousselle © French Moments
Car c’est un bon camarade © French Moments
Chère Élise © French Moments
Chevaliers de la table ronde © French Moments
Colchiques dans les prés © French Moments
Compagnons de la Marjolaine © French Moments
Dame Tartine © French Moments
Dans les prisons de Nantes © French Moments
Dansons la capucine © French Moments
Dodo, l'enfant do © French Moments
En passant par la Lorraine © French Moments
Fais dodo © French Moments
Fleur d’épine © French Moments
Frère Jacques © French Moments
Gentil coquelicot © French Moments
Il court, il court, le furet © French Moments
Il était un petit cordonnier © French Moments
Il était un petit navire © French Moments
Il était une bergère © French Moments
Il pleut, il pleut, bergère © French Moments
J'ai du bon tabac © French Moments
J'ai un gros nez rouge © French Moments
J'fais pipi sur le gazon © French Moments
Je te tiens par la barbichette © French Moments
Joyeux anniversaire © French Moments
La bonne aventure ô gué © French Moments
La danse des canards © French Moments
La légende de saint Nicolas © French Moments
Le bon roi Dagobert © French Moments
Le carillon de Vendôme © French Moments
Le coucou © French Moments
Le facteur n'est pas passé © French Moments
Le fermier dans son pré © French Moments
Le temps des cerises © French Moments
Le temps du muguet © French Moments
Le vieux MacDonald © French Moments
Les filles de La Rochelle © French Moments
Maman les p'tits bateaux © French Moments
Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre © French Moments
Meunier, tu dors © French Moments
Mignonne allons voir si la rose © French Moments
Mon âne © French Moments
Mon père m'a donné un mari © French Moments
Ne pleure pas Jeannette © French Moments
Nous n'irons plus au bois © French Moments
Ô gai, vive la rose © French Moments
Passe passe passera © French Moments
Pirouette Cacahuète © French Moments
Plantons la vigne © French Moments
Pomme de reinette et pomme d'api © French Moments
Pomme, pêche, poire, abricot © French Moments
Promenons-nous dans les bois © French Moments
Savez-vous planter les choux ? © French Moments
Sur la route de Dijon © French Moments
Sur la route de Louviers © French Moments
Sur le pont d'Avignon © French Moments
Sur le pont du nord © French Moments
Tout va très bien madame la marquise © French Moments
Trois jeunes tambours © French Moments
Un éléphant ça trompe énormément © French Moments
Un kilomètre à pied © French Moments
Un, deux, trois, nous irons au bois © French Moments
Une chanson douce © French Moments
Une poule sur un mur © French Moments
Une souris verte © French Moments
V'la le bon vent © French Moments
Voici le mois de mai © French Moments
Y avait dix filles dans un pré © French Moments
About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

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