This song dates back to around 1650. It takes place in Paris.

Compagnons de la Marjolaine - French Children's Songs - France - Mama Lisa's World: Children's Songs and Rhymes from Around the World  - Intro Image
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Note about the 1st Line:

The first line "Qu'est-ce qui passe ici si tard ? " translates literally to "What is passing by so late?" Another version of the 1st line is: "Qu'est-ce qui s' passe ici si tard" (What is happening here so late?) as you can hear in our mp3. Yet another version is "Qui est-ce qui passe ici si tard" (Who is passing by so late?).

Note about the meaning of the term "Compagnons de la Marjolaine":

Monique wrote: "Looking for information on the phrase, 'compagnons de la marjolaine', I came across a couple of websites. One explained that marjoram used to be used in love songs just like the rose or the lily of the valley. The other site explained how young men going out partying would put some sprigs of marjoram sticking out of the top of their boots. Hence forming an informal 'Fellowship of the Marjoram'. Both sites said that these men were 'charmers'.

The book, 'Trésors des plus belles mélodies de tous les temps et de tous les pays' (Delfolie, Editions Edsco, Chambéry, 1947) states that in the 15th century people wouldn't say 'to serenade someone'. Instead they would say, 'to wake up the pots of marjoram'.

The Brotherhood of the Marjoram (Confrérie de la Marjolaine) was the guild of perfumers. It was a very powerful guild because the king's court, and certain people in the city -good society I suppose- made very intense use of perfumes.

According to Du Mersan (Chants et chansons populaires de France, t. 2), the phrase 'compagnons de la marjolaine' was 'the meeting of young men and girls who go to dance in the meadow where the marjoram blooms'.

To sum it up, it seems that they were jolly good fellows!"

Note about the translation of the phrase "Compagnons de la Marjolaine":

"Compagnons de la Marjolaine" translates literally to "Companions of the Marjoram". Monique and I went back and forth for a good week discussing what would be the best way to translate it into English to make it understandable to today's audience. The meaning is close to "Fellowship of the Marjoram" or "Fellows of the Marjoram". "Company of the Marjoram" has a similar meaning to "Fellowship of the Marjoram", but it keeps the sound of the French "Compagnons de la Marjolaine" that's such an important part of the song. That's why we finally chose to translate it this way.

-Mama Lisa, January 2011

Note about the Translation of the term "Chevalier du guet":

A "Chevalier du guet" was a knight, and a nobleman, who was part of the city Watch. It's important to note that he was also the Captain of the Watch.

We had a hard time determining a translation of it into English that would get the meaning across.

Here's what Monique wrote about the meaning, "About 'Le chevalier du guet'... The historical fact is that he wasn't an ordinary Captain of the Watch. He was the Captain of the Paris watch and a nobleman -to use 'watchman' would make him an ordinary watchman which he wasn't. This guy was very important, he could go and find the king without being announced at any time...

I think that your suggestion "Knight Captain of the Watch" sounds good because you keep both meaning of knight and police officer included in 'le chevalier du guet'."


Edit' sings a different version of this song in the mp3.


Many thanks to Edit' Dupont for contributing and singing this song for Mama Lisa's World.


Many thanks to Monique Palomares for singing this song for us!

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Translated by Monique Palomares and Lisa Yannucci.

Image: "Le petit français illustré: journal des écoliers et des écolières", Volume 15, Issue 2 (1903).

Merci beaucoup!