1 February


À la claire fontaine is a traditional French song that comes from an anonymous poem written between the 15th and 18th centuries.

This children's song, very popular in France, has also been a favourite in New France/Quebec since the 18th century.

The story of the song

The origin of the song is not precisely known.

It seems that the song appeared as early as 1604 when the first permanent French settlement was established in Canada.

According to the Canadian ethnomusicologist Marius Barbeau (1883-1969), the song was composed by a juggler in the 15th or 16th century.

James Huston (1820-1854), a Canadian journalist, wrote that "the tune and lyrics appear to have been composed by an early Canadian traveller."

A la claire fontaine. Photo pinanny2552 via Envato Elements

Photo pinanny2552 via Envato Elements

It was not a nursery rhyme

A la claire fontaine shares a characteristic with another famous children's song, "Au clair de la lune".

Both songs have their origin in an adult theme. In the case of "A la claire fontaine", it is about lost love.

Thus, the song is about a lover who is bathing in a fountain, hears a nightingale singing and thinks of her lover whom she lost long ago after she failed to give him a rosebud. The nightingale's heart laughs but hers cries.

The Medici Fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens © French Moments

The Medici Fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens © French Moments

A song dear to French Canadians

The song also has a hidden political meaning of resistance to the British invasion of Quebec.

It was sung by French Canadians as a sign of resistance. The rose represented the British, the clear fountain the St. Lawrence River, and the chorus "Je t'aime depuis longtemps, je ne t'oublierai jamais" (I love you for a long time, I'll never forget you) was intended for France and the French territory of Quebec.

New France in 1719

New France in 1719 (pink)

In the nineteenth century, this song was known to have been sung by Canadian patriots during the Troubles of 1837-1838 in Lower Canada.

In 1878, the Association Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal adopted a national tune for French Canadians: À la claire fontaine.

Excerpts of the verses were also used by 20th-century French-Canadian novelists and poets, including Louis Hémon (Maria Chapdelaine, 1914) and Alfred Desrochers (À l'ombre de l'Orford, 1929).

A la claire fontaine. Photo Malisunshine via Envato Elements

Photo Malisunshine via Envato Elements

Many versions

There are many versions of the music and lyrics. Thus, the versions known in France, Belgium and Switzerland vary from those known in Canada.

Click here to read the oldest lyrics known to the song.

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse © French Moments

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse ! © French Moments

A la claire fontaine

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

A la claire fontaine

The lyrics in French

The original song of A la claire fontaine has 5 verses and a chorus. The first verse and the chorus are the best known parts of the song.

Couplet 1

À la claire fontaine
M’en allant promener
J’ai trouvé l’eau si belle
Que je m’y suis baigné


Il y a longtemps que je t’aime,
Jamais je ne t’oublierai

Couplet 2

Sous les feuilles d’un chêne,
Je me suis fait sécher.
Sur la plus haute branche,
Un rossignol chantait.

Couplet 3

Chante, rossignol, chante,
Toi qui as le cœur gai.
Tu as le cœur à rire…
Moi je l’ai à pleurer.

Couplet 4

J'ai perdu mon amie
Sans l'avoir mérité.
Pour un bouquet de roses
Que je lui refusai…

Couplet 5

Je voudrais que la rose
Fût encore au rosier,
Et que ma douce amie
Fût encore à m'aimer.

Translation of the lyrics into English

Here is an approximative translation into English:

Verse 1

At the clear fountain
As I went for a walk
I found the water so beautiful
That I bathed in it


I have loved you for a long time,
I'll never forget you

Verse 2

Under the leaves of an oak tree,
I dried myself.
On the highest branch,
A nightingale sang.

Verse 3

Sing, nightingale, sing,
You who have a cheerful heart.
You have a heart to laugh...
I have it to cry.

Verse 4

I lost my lover
Without having deserved it.
For a bunch of roses
That I refused her...

Verse 5

I wish the rose
Was still in the rosebush,
And that my sweet lover
Was still loving me.

Download the Lyrics for FREE!

No need to type name or email 😀

A la claire fontaine © French Moments

Adaptations of the song

The Argentinean singer Jairo sang the song in Spanish, under the title La Clara Fuente, in his album Liberté (1978).

French singer Claude François sang an adaptation, C'est pour vous que je chante, released in 1979.

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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