St. Nicholas

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Lament of the Children in the Salting Tub
or Complainte des Enfants au Saloir

French children have been singing this song for more than 400 years!
Hoping for coins or sweets, choir boys sang it in the streets through the 1800s. 
The song is from the 1600s in Champagne, France and was especially popular in Villevenard where St. Nicolas Day used to be more popular than Christmas.

Translated by Daniel Police, La Flèche, France

Three little children they were,
In the fields three little gleaners.
They gleaned and gleaned
Until the sun disappeared.
Il était trois petits enfants,
Qui s'en allaient glaner aux champs.
Ils sont tant allés et venus
Que le soleil on n'a plus vu.
They knocked at the door of a butcher.
"Butcher, will you give us shelter?"
"Not here, my little darlings,
We offer no lodging."
S'en sont allés chez un boucher,
"Boucher, voudrais-tu nous loger?"
—"Allez, allez, mes beaux enfants,
Nous avons trop d'empêchement."
His wife, standing behind him,
Slyly whispered in his ear,
"They have," she said, "gold and silver,
You will become a rich merchant."
Sa femme, qu'était derrière lui,
Bien vitement le conseillit,
"Ils ont, dit-elle, de l'argent,
Nous en serons riches marchands."
"Do come in, my little darlings,
For sure you can have lodgings.
You can have a good supper,
And sleep under a warm cover."
Entrez, entrez, mes beaux enfants!
Y a de la place assurément.
Nous vous ferons fort bien souper,
Aussi bien blanchement coucher."
No sooner did they enter, then
They were slaughtered by the butcher,
Who cut them up and threw their parts
Into a salting tub, just as pork pieces.
Ils n'étaient pas sitôt entrés,
Que le boucher les a tués,
Les a coupés tout par morceaux,
Mis au saloir comme pourceaux.
Seven long years had passed,
When St. Nicholas visited here.
As he was tired, he went to the butcher,
"Butcher, would you have shelter?"
Quand ce fut au bout de sept ans,
Saint Nicolas vint dans ce champ.
Il s'en alla chez le boucher,
"Boucher, voudrais-tu me loger?"
"Pray, come in, Saint Nicholas,
I will not leave a holy man homeless."
No sooner did he enter,
When he asked for some supper.
"Entrez, entrez, Saint Nicolas!
De la place, il n'en manque pas."
Il n'était pas sitôt entré,
Qu'il a demandé à souper.
"D'you want a slice of ham?"
"I won't eat ham, no matter how hungry I am."
"D'you want a nice piece of veal?"
"I do not want, it is not real."
Voul'ous un morceau de jambon?"
—"Je n'en veux pas, il n'est pas bon."
—"Voulez-vous un morceau de veau?"
—"Je n'en veux pas, il n'est pas beau."
"How about salted meat in this tub?
This I would gladly eat."
As the butcher heard the Saint speaking,
He took to his heels, to run afar.
"De ce salé je veux avoir,
Qu'y a sept ans qu'est dans le saloir."
Quand le boucher entendit ça,
Hors de sa porte il s'enfuya.
"Butcher, butcher, don't try to flee—
Repent and God will forgive thee."
Then, Saint Nicholas placed fingers three
On the rim of the salting tub.
"Boucher, boucher, ne t'enfuis pas!
Repens-toi, Dieu te pardonn'ra."
Saint Nicolas posa trois doigts
Dessus le bord de ce saloir.
The first child said,"I had a good sleep!"
The second said, "Mine was so deep!"
The youngest one opened his eyes,
"I thought I was in Paradise!"
Le premier dit, "J'ai bien dormi!
" Le second dit, "Et moi aussi!"
A ajouté le plus petit,
"Je croyais être en paradis!"


Another version with pictures and music

Translation by Daniel Police, La Flèche, France. Used by permission.

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