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Author Topic: Can anyone help me with a translation?  (Read 2490 times)


  • Older than Moses
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Can anyone help me with a translation?
« on: 12 Jan 2015, 13:41 »

This is rather a big ask, but this has been puzzling me for years. There is a song, "Le prise de Saint-Hélier" (The Taking of Saint Helier), that I have been trying to find a translation for, in particular one verse which I will point out below. The lyrics that I have in French are as follows, with my attempts at translation in green (red for bits I don't understand or get no help from Google for). From what I can make out (and is given away by the title), it is about a quick and stealthy capture of the parish of Saint Hélier.

Monsieur de Rullecourt dit à Regnier
Allons qu'on guinde les huniers
Vite qu'on charge nos bisquine
De tromblons et de carabines
Et mettons le cap sur Saint-Hélier - l'île de Jersey

Monsier de Rulecourt (an officer/nobleman, perhaps, if giving military orders) said to Regnier (don't know who this, could only find
Henri de Régnier)
Let us raise sail
[and] quickly load our something
with blunderbusses and shotguns
and head for Saint Helier, Jersey

Voilà que c'est la marée du soir
Pour la surprise faut qu'il fasse noir
Vite qu'on aiguise les haches
Et bonsoir le plancher des vaches
Et mettons le cap sur Saint-Hélier - l'île de Jersey

Here is the evening tide (possibly better translated as "we will take the evening tide"?)
To surprise them in darkness
Quickly sharpen your axe (To cut a rope and cast off? I don't understand)
and good evening floor of cows (Google tells me that 'plancher des vaches' is 'dry land')
and head for Saint Helier, Jersey

Nous voilà partis toutes voiles dehors
Nous n'avions qu'un canon à bord
Monsieur de Rullecourt dit pourquoi faire ?
Les canons c'est pas notre affaire
Sans ça nous prendrons Saint-Hélier - l'île de Jersey

We loosed all sail
We had no gun (shipboard cannon?) aboard
Monsieur de Rullecourt asked why
Guns are not our business (we do not need guns?)
We can take Saint Helier without them

Près de Saint-Aubin vers les minuit
Nous arrivâmes sans faire de bruit
Nous débarquâmes sur la plage
A deux cents gars comme un orage
Et nous voilà dans Saint-Hélier - l'île de Jersey

At Saint Aubin near midnight
We arrived without noise
We landed on the beach
Two hundred people like a storm
And were in Saint Helier (presumably after a brisk march around the bay)

Les Anglais étaient dans leurs draps
On fit chez eux le branle-bas
Leur drapeau était leur drap rouge
Du sang coulait dedans leur bouche
Sans un cri on prit Saint-Hélier - l'île de Jersey

The English were in their beds
They made home the commotion/They saw them in a commotion (The English on the mainland saw the attack on Jersey?)
Their flag was their red cloth
Blood ran in their mouths
Without a cry (noise?), we captured Saint Helier

Et puis comme on apercevait
De la lumière en un palais
On se dit c'est la résidence
Entrons leur y flanquer une danse
On était maîtres dans Saint-Hélier - L'île de Jersey

And then we saw
a light in the palace
We said "It is the residence" (governor's house?)
"Enter their flank to dance" ("sneak in and cause mayhem?")
We were masters of Saint Helier

Bonsoir Monsieur le gouverneur
Je suis votre humble serviteur
Si vous bougez vous êtes malade
Et je vous fiche dans la limonade
Si vous ne cédez pas Saint-Hélier - Au père Regnier

Good Evening, Mister Governor
I am your humble servant
If you move then you are ill (seems to be "don't move, or else")
And I will plug you in the lemonade (This is the bit I mentioned above. What does this even mean? Presumably it's some kind of threat.)
If you do not hand over Saint Helier - To father Regnier

L'Anglais le prit dur et de travers
Remit sa culotte à l'envers
Et perdant la moitié de sa chemise
Il s'en fut jusqu'à la Tamise
C'est comme ça qu'on prit Saint-Hélier - l'île de Jersey

The Englishman took it hard (took fright?) and ran away
with his underwear/drawers/panties on inside out
and half his shirt missing (half his shirt un-buttoned? only half-wearing his shirt?)
He went up the Thames (At a guess "ran off back to London", because that's where the ruler was)
And that's how we captured Saint Helier

Les gars de Blainville et d'Agon
Vous pouvez chanter ma chanson
Et quand vous voudrez qu'on recommence
A faire entrer l'Anglais en danse
Rappelez-vous de prendre Saint-Hélier - l'île de Jersey

People (lit. "guys") from Blainville and Agon
You can sing my song
And if you want to start again
To lead the English a dance (Google says "To bring the English dance")
Remember to capture Saint Helier
Piglet wondered how it was that every conversation with Eeyore seemed to go wrong.


  • Older than Moses
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Re: Can anyone help me with a translation?
« Reply #1 on: 13 Jan 2015, 13:48 »

Shortly after I posted here, I thought to ask on StackExchange. The response was:

Quote from: Gilles, StackExchange
It's a variation on the 19th century slang expressions “être dans la limonade” or “tomber dans la limonade”, in which limonade means a difficult situation (pretty much like “in a pickle” in English). I don't think I've ever heard this, it seems out of fashion. The Trésor de la langue française gives a 1880 citation. The synonym “être dans la panade” is more common today.

I don't know what the etymology of this expression is. It may be loosely related to the use of limonade to mean something cheap, worthless (also outmoded slang).

The use of limonade here could be a pun inasmuch as it could also be a metaphor for water (i.e. the sea — Saint-Hélier is on an island).
Piglet wondered how it was that every conversation with Eeyore seemed to go wrong.
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