C'est la mère Michel (also known as Le chat de la mère Michel or La mère Michel) is a traditional French song that features a verbal exchange between an old woman (mère Michel) and her neighbour Lustucru about a lost cat.
The story of the song
The oldest tune is attested as early as 1721 and it was originally a military song. The song was originally used to sing the praises of Marshal Nicolas de Catinat (1637–1712), a French military officer who took part in major conflicts during the reign of Louis XIV.
We know that the song with the lyrics we are familiar with was already popular in the 1820s.
Who is old man Lustucru?
Lustucru, who answers to Mother Michel, could be an allusion to two types of characters:
An imaginary satirical character whose name would come from the expression "l'eusses-tu cru" (in English, Would you have believed it?).
The inhabitants of the Boulonnais (the region of Boulogne-sur-Mer, called Lustucru) who revolted against taxes and were quickly put down by King Louis XIV in 1662.
Who is mère Michel?
In fact, the song is doubly ambiguous.
"Une mère", in French slang, meant a woman of a certain age. The song makes fun of an older woman who is single and behaves like a young girl.
C'est la mère Michel
Lyrics, music, free download... let's learn more about the popular song:
The lyrics in French
The original song of C'est la mère Michel has 3 verses and a chorus.
C'est la mère Michel qui a perdu son chat
Qui crie par la fenêtre à qui le lui rendra.
C'est le père Lustucru qui lui a répondu :
Allez, la mère Michel, vot' chat n'est pas perdu
Sur l'air du tralalala,
Sur l'air du tralalala
Sur l'air du tradéridéra,
C'est la mère Michel qui lui a demandé :
Mon chat n'est pas perdu, vous l'avez donc trouvé ?
Et l'compère Lustucru qui lui a répondu :
Donnez une récompense, il vous sera rendu.
Et la mère Michel lui dit : C'est décidé,
Si vous rendez mon chat, vous aurez un baiser.
Et l'compère Lustucru, qui n'en a pas voulu,
Lui dit : « Pour un lapin votre chat est vendu ! »
Translation of the lyrics into English
Here is an approximative translation into English:
Old ma Michel who has lost her cat
Who shouts out the window to whoever will give it back to her.
It was old man Lustucru who answered her:
Come on, old ma Michel, your cat is not lost
On the tune of the tralalala,
On the air of the tralalala
On the air of the tradayreeda,
Old ma Michel who asked him:
My cat is not lost, have you found it?
And old man Lustucru replied:
Give a reward, it will be returned to you.
And old ma Michel said to him: It's decided,
If you return my cat, you'll get a kiss.
And old man Lustucru, who did not want it,
Says: "For a rabbit your cat is sold!"
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