9 February

Pierre

Le bon roi Dagobert is a French parody song from the second half of the 18th century that still greatly amuses children.

The story of the song

This song is said to be inspired by a much older hunting tune, La Fanfare du grand cerf.

The verses were written over time. Some of the lyrics date from the French Revolution.

Two historical figures

The parody song evokes two historical figures:

  • the Merovingian king Dagobert I (c. 600-639), and
  • his main adviser, Saint Eloi (c. 588-660), bishop of Noyon.
Dagobert I

Dagobert was born in 600. In 623, his father appointed him king of Austrasia, as the Austrasian throne had been unoccupied since the death of Brunehaut and the people were demanding a king.

Upon the death of his father, he attempted to rule the entire kingdom. He left Metz and settled in Paris, which he wanted to make his capital.

He turned Neustria and Burgundy into provinces and traveled around them constantly, striving for justice and listening to everyone's requests while judging fairly, disregarding gifts and the importance of the person.

Dagobert I by Emile Signol

Dagobert I by Emile Signol

Although he did not win any major victories, Dagobert, who was more of a politician than a warrior, preserved and strengthened the peace of his kingdom. He was able to assemble competent and efficient advisors, such as:

Didier

Didier became bishop of Cahors in order to face the Visigothic danger.

Saint Ouen

Ouen, whose real name was Dadon, was born near Soissons and became head of the Chancellery. When Dagobert died in 639, Ouen, who was to become Saint Ouen, was consecrated bishop of Rouen.

He is remembered in many churches in Normandy that bear his name, such as the Saint-Ouen abbey in Rouen.

Chevet of Saint Ouen Abbey Church, Rouen © French Moments

Chevet of Saint Ouen Abbey Church, Rouen © French Moments

Saint Eloi

Eloi, whom his parents called Elligius - the Chosen One, was born near Limoges in 588. He was such a skilled goldsmith that he was sent to the king's court. An intimate of Dagobert, he acted as an ambassador, notably to the Breton king Judicael, and then founded monasteries. He was appointed bishop of Noyon in 641, after Dagobert's death.

Noyon Cathedral © Rolf Kranz  licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Noyon Cathedral © Rolf Kranz licence [CC BY-SA 4.0] from Wikimedia Commons

Mocking King Louis XVI

This song, written to a dance tune called Fanfare du Cerf, is not intended to transcribe a historical truth.

It was rather intended to ridicule King Louis XVI, known among other things for his distracted personality (and for being nonchalant and indecisive), through Dagobert I, an ancient and little known king.

Louis XVI by Antoine-François Callet in 1779

Louis XVI by Antoine-François Callet in 1779

By referring to a distant king, clever authors put themselves beyond the reach of censors!

Two elements show that the song is original to 1787 (and not in Dagobert's time).

  • Eloi was not yet a saint in Dagobert's time. He would become one after the death of the king.
  • Dagobert did not wear culottes (breeches). There were no such things yet in the 7th century.

Sans-culottes: without underpants?

The term "Sans-culottes" was coined in 1789 to mockingly refer to popular demonstrators who chose to wear striped trousers as opposed to the breeches which were a symbol of the Anciengime aristocracy.

It refers to the lower-class status: culottes were the fashionable silk knee-breeches of the 18th-century nobility and bourgeoisie, and the working class wore long trousers, instead.

Sans-Culottes in 1794

A "Sans-Culottes" with striped trousers in 1794

Le bon roi Dagobert

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

Le Bon Roi Dagobert

The lyrics in French

The original song of Le bon roi Dagobert has 24 verses (read them all here). Here are the 8 most popular verses:

Couplet 1

Le bon roi Dagobert

Avait sa culotte à l'envers*.

Le grand saint Éloi

Lui dit : « Ô mon roi !

Votre Majesté

Est mal culottée.

C'est vrai, lui dit le roi,

Je vais la remettre à l'endroit. »


Couplet 2

Le bon roi Dagobert

Chassait dans la plaine d'Anvers.

Le grand saint Éloi

Lui dit : « Ô mon roi !

Votre Majesté

Est bien essoufflée.

C'est vrai, lui dit le roi,

Un lapin courait après moi. »


Couplet 3

Le bon roi Dagobert

Voulait s'embarquer sur la mer.

Le grand saint Éloi

Lui dit : « Ô mon roi !

Votre Majesté

Se fera noyer.

C'est vrai, lui dit le roi,

On pourra crier : le roi boit ! »


Couplet 4

Le bon roi Dagobert

Mangeait en glouton du dessert.

Le grand saint Éloi

Lui dit : « Ô mon roi !

Vous êtes gourmand,

Ne mangez pas tant.

C'est vrai, lui dit le roi,

Je ne le suis pas tant que toi. »


Couplet 5

Le bon roi Dagobert

Avait un grand sabre de fer.

Le grand saint Éloi

Lui dit : « Ô mon roi !

Votre Majesté

Pourrait se blesser.

C'est vrai, lui dit le roi,

Qu'on me donne un sabre de bois. »


Couplet 6

Le bon roi Dagobert

Se battait à tort, à travers.

Le grand saint Éloi

Lui dit : « Ô mon roi !

Votre Majesté

Se fera tuer.

C'est vrai, lui dit le roi,

Alors, mets-toi bien vite devant moi. »


Couplet 7

Le bon roi Dagobert

Craignait fort d'aller en enfer

Le grand saint Eloi
Lui dit : « Ô mon roi !

Je crois bien,

Ma foi qu'vous irez tout droit

C'est vrai lui dit le roi,

Ne peux-tu pas prier pour moi ? »


Couplet 8

Quand Dagobert mourut,

Le diable aussitôt accourut.

Le grand saint Éloi

Lui dit : « Ô mon roi !

Satan va passer,

Faut vous confesser.

Hélas ! lui dit le roi,

Ne pourrais-tu mourir pour moi ? »

*Verse 1: Another version has:

a mis sa culotte à l'envers

Translation of the lyrics into English

Here is an approximative translation into English:

Verse 1

The good King Dagobert
Had his underpants on backwards.
The great Saint Eloi
Said to him: O my king!
Your Majesty
Is badly dressed.
It's true, said the king,
I'll put it right.


Verse 2

The good King Dagobert
Was hunting on the plain of Antwerp.
The great Saint Eloi
Said to him: O my king!
Your Majesty
Is quite out of breath.
It is true, said the king,
A rabbit was running after me.


Verse 3

The good King Dagobert
Wanted to set sail on the sea.
The great Saint Eloi
Said to him: O my king!
Your Majesty
Will be drowned.
It is true, said the king,
People may shout: The king drinks!


Verse 4

The good King Dagobert
Ate like a glutton for dessert.
The great Saint Eloi
Said to him: O my king!
You are greedy,
Don't eat so much.
It is true, said the king,
I'm not as greedy as you are.


Verse 5

The good King Dagobert
Had a great iron sword.
The great Saint Eloi
Said to him: O my king!
Your Majesty
Could hurt himself.
That is true, said the king,
Give me a wooden sword.


Verse 6

The good King Dagobert
Fought like crazy.
The great Saint Eloi
Said to him: O my king!
Your Majesty
Will be killed.
It is true, said the king,
Then stand before me quickly.


Verse 7

The good King Dagobert
Was afraid of going to hell
The great Saint Eloi
Said to him: O my king!
I think so,
My goodness that you will go straight
The king said to him, It is true,
Can you not pray for me?


Verse 8

When Dagobert died,
The devil came at once.
The great Saint Eloi
Said to him: O my king!
Satan is going to pass,
You must confess.
Alas! said the king,
Could you not die for me?

Download the Lyrics for FREE!

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Le bon roi Dagobert © 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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