Frère Jacques is a traditional French children's song with lyrics dating from the 18th century.
The story of the song
Frère Jacques is arguably the most famous French children's song. it is known throughout the world and has been translated into many languages.
According to the historian and musicologist Sylvie Bouissou, the song was long considered anonymous, but recent research argued it was written by Jean-Philippe Rameau in the 18th century.
For Francesca Draughon and Raymond Knapp, "Frère Jacques" was originally a song to ridicule Jews, Protestants or Martin Luther.
Other scholars, such as Martine David and A. Marie Delrieu, suggest that "Frère Jacques" might have been created to mock the Dominican friars. They were known in France for their sloth and comfortable lifestyles.
The song was first published in the Recueil de Capelle, a collection of songs from 1811.
What is the song about?
The lyrics of the song refer to "les matines".
For Catholics, the first prayer of the liturgical day was called "les matines". The first morning prayer was intended to sanctify the time of night.
A monk had to ring the bells in the middle or end of the night - hence the mention of a sleepy friar Jacques who overslept!
But why is the monk sleeping peacefully instead of ringing the bells calling for morning prayer?
Some believe that he may have had a little too much wine from the mass the night before!
True or not, you can use your imagination to guess why Friar Jacques doesn't wake up so much!
Lyrics, music, free download... let's learn more about the popular song:
The lyrics in French
The original song of Frère Jacques has one verse. The rhyme is traditionally sung in a round (canon in French).
Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques
Dormez-vous ? Dormez-vous ?
Sonnez les matines. Sonnez les matines.
Ding, daing, dong ! Ding, daing, dong !
Translation of the lyrics into English
Here is an approximative translation into English:
Brother Jacques, Brother Jacques,
Are you asleep? Are you asleep?
Ring out matins! Ring out matins!
Ding, daing, dong! Ding, daing, dong!
Other adaptations of the song
The French nursery rhyme has the distinction of having been translated into many languages. English, German, Italian and even Chinese, learn more about the different versions of the song.
The song is known in English as Brother John or Are you sleeping:
Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
Brother John, Brother John,
Morning bells are ringing! Morning bells are ringing!
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.
The song is known in German as Bruder Jakob:
Bruder Jakob, Bruder Jakob,
Schläfst du noch? Schläfst du noch?
Hörst du nicht die Glocken? Hörst du nicht die Glocken?
Ding dang dong. Ding dang dong.
The song is known in Italian as Fra Martino:
Fra Martino, campanaro,
Dormi tu? Dormi tu?
Suona le campane! Suona le campane!
Din, don, dan! Din, don, dan!
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