LA DESTINEE, LA ROSE AU BOIS

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La Destinee, La Rose au Bois



A song takes hold of the mind,
an old song in a root-bound tongue
erupting like infection, testing
hard-won, built immunity
against diseases of a childhood gone.

Mon père, aussi ma mère
n’avaient que moi d’enfants…
la destinée, la rose au bois….

A song of no voice, yet belonging to many
soundless singers in the night
or hummed by day in my own throat
as I work or walk about
putting things away, taking things out.

…et c’est comme ça que ça se passe,
du moins dans notre canton….
la destinée, la rose au bois…

Once it starts there is no getting from its grip
any more than you can kill dead ancestors
or grow your baby self again.

du moins dans notre canton..
la destinee, la rose au bois

A good friend told me that it happens
to him also now and then.  He said

to get rid of it try substitution.
Singing Home On The Range works well.

O give me a home
where the buffalo roam
and the deer and the antelope play…
where seldom is heard
a discouraging word
and the skies are not cloudy all day…

And so it does. It takes the spell away to
where seldom is heard a discouraging word
and the skies are not cloudy all day.


This traditional folksong is what is known as a response song–a single voice sings a line, and his audience sings it back to him. There are innumerable verses and variations. Recent performances of it by Quebecois artists can be seen/heard on YouTube.

31 responses »

  1. Cynthia this is so clever and so very different! But most of your postings are such a lovely surprise! I listened to a couple of these in YouTube and if Id understood the words or grasped them quickly I think I might find myself having to go to Home, home on the range! I love rhis post! So ver unusual and also gave me a big smile! 😊 And my french is improving too!

    • Glad you liked this, Christine. It’s just as well, if you didn’t get all the French verses on YouTube…especially the one that says
      ……ce n’est pas l’affaire des filles d’embrasser les garçons……
      ……mais c’est l’affaire des filles de balayer la maison!
      (It’s not the business of girls to embrace boys/ it’s the business of girls to sweep the house).
      These days, when that verse comes along in performance, all the women stop singing and boo the male singer and give him thumbs down, as you may have noticed on the Garou video. Now this is becoming the tradition with younger women.. What fun!

  2. Oh so much fun Cynthia – love this. You are so right, how many times a little verse sticks in my mind hearing it over and over . . . the solution is a perfectly good way to substitute with another, ah and the process then goes on. Great reply to Christine, by the way.

    • It used to be the jingles from TV that stuck in my head, but now I watch very little television, and even at that it’s usually a station without commercials so now I have only to deal with what pops up from memory……and there’s a whole lot of singing going on there! Thanks, Mary.

  3. Oh, I really enjoyed this, Cynthia–though I skipped over the French, not having more than a few words at my disposal. The phrases in your first stanza suggest bitter unpleasant aspects of the “childhood gone”–and what a wonderful substitution song to chase them away. You’ll likely think me wackier than than you did previously, but most week days between 4 and 5 pm, you might hear me singing the theme song to the old western program, “The Legend of Wyatt Earp”….

  4. This is an interesting remedy although I suspect that there could be times when the cure is worse than the malaise. I don’t know ‘La rose au bois” among others my stickler is “Sur le Pont d’Avignion’ which, I suspect, is much more plebian. When I get home I need to try to listen to ‘La Rose”, but then again, maybe not. Anyway, you did it again, Cynthia, a delightful piece and, as usual quite different. Cheerio, Jane

    • Sur Le Pont d’Avignon is a nice lady-like song, compared to the more raucous versions of La Destinée, La Rose au Bois, which is a very folksy folksong. I am happy to have discovered the YouTube version of it, that I mention at the end of my post, because I always thought of it as old and outdated, but here it is, being belted-out by the current younger generation..which stops singing and vetoes the misogynist parts…anyway, this was fun, especially with audio—which I’m getting used to, and will probably stop playing with, soon. Hope you’re enjoying your “summer vacation”!

  5. Hello Cynthia. I’m not sure if it’s in your poem or just in my interpretation of it, but I enjoy the way the song (in French) sneaks and snakes its way through the English which I see as your conscious mind struggling with the song, or the memory that it evokes. And the ending is satisfying, too, as you find something to replace it with, but almost too sweet, the oblivion — where skies are not cloudy all day.

    • Very astute observation, Anna. This poem was without the French song lyrics originally. When I decided to add audio here, I thought it would be fun to have myself singing a bit of it—as the voice of the poem says she is doing. It makes for a lighter touch, because it’s a silly folksong however fraught with memories it is for me. When I discovered the rendition on YouTube, I thought that would add another layer, so I recommend it to readers. But you are quite correct in your reading of the conclusion as “almost too sweet,” for my intention was toward irony, and the implication that even the substitute might begin to wear out its welcome at some point. Thanks for a great comment!

  6. Oh very good Cynthia, you’ve described that circling of a song so aptly, and singing so well in French too!! I don’t think you will ever hear me daring to sing or speak in French either, I’m ok at identifying the sound of a language, but pretty useless at speaking any!

    Those songs that won’t leave your mind, they are so annoying, and it’s true, the best trick is to crowd out the repetition with another song – hopefully that won’t take grip and do the same! 😀

    I looked the song up you mentioned on You Tube, and I can see what you mean, definitely one of those that go endlessly round in the mind. It reminded me of a song I remember from the 80’s called Tell Me Ma by Sham Rock. I’m sure it’s an old folk song and was previously made famous again by the Dubliners, called I’ll Tell Me Ma. Don’t know if you’ve ever heard of that one? I was going to say to look it up on You Tube, but maybe not – it might just circle in your mind!! 😉

    • That’s okay, Suzy. We never spoke French at home, but I was lucky to have French Canadian nuns as my teachers the first nine years of school. Of course for a time I thought God spoke only French because that was the language in which we learned to address him in prayers and catechism. I learned to read and write in English and French simultaneously and didn’t have any problem with that at six years of age—just proves what spongy minds the young have.
      I’ve checked out your YouTube suggestion and enjoyed it. Of course the melody, if not all the words, is still with me, because I listened to several renditions, including the one by Disney. Can’t resist a good folksong……so thanks, I think 🙂

      P.S. I’ve given a friend (with problem skin) your recipe for parsnip and cashew soup..we’ll see how it works for her!

      • The thought of God speaking French was very funny, but it makes sense if that’s the language you heard prayers in – and maybe he does!! 😉

        Oh, I didn’t know Disney did a version of the song, that sounds hilarious, I shall check that out a bit later!

        Thank you for passing the recipe on, that’s what I hoped people would do, tell the world, especially those with sore skin! I wouldn’t normally do recipes on here but that one was a lot more than just a nice soup. I discovered recently that adding black pepper to any recipe with parsnips in reduces the strong flavour of the parsnip. Useful to know, if someone doesn’t like the flavour of parsnips. But not so good I guess if you don’t like black pepper!! I hope the recipe helps your friend, I’d love to know if it does. 🙂

  7. What a wonderful treat to hear your singing voice. “Once it starts, there’s no getting from its grip” is a wonderful line with the “s” and the “g’ sounds (the sounds that make up “sing” and “song”).
    I need to work on substitution myself–but the power of my dead ancestors might be too strong. They will fend off any substitutes.

    Thank you!

    • No need to apologize, Jalal…..my keyboard always types Jamal for your name if I’m not careful to go back and check it! It’s the good thought that counts, not the typing 🙂

  8. Wow! This is a very different post compared to all other posts, and in a way it is better. Oh, and you do have a sweet voice.

    I find these lines beautiful:

    “O give me a home
    where the buffalo roam
    and the deer and the antelope play…
    where seldom is heard
    a discouraging word
    and the skies are not cloudy all day…”

    • Thank you for the compliment, Ramu. I agree those lines are beautiful in their simplicity. They are from a well-known cowboy folk song here in the USA called “Home on the Range” which just about everyone here knows.

  9. I.Love.This. I sang “Oh give me a home” along with you. Now, that song will be stuck in my head for a while until I substitute it. Perhaps, I’ll learn “La destinee”. 🙂

    • Oh no! You don’t want that one…maybe the old and lovely waltz: “Sidewalks of New York”…which, now that I’ve typed it here, is probably going to take up residence for the rest of this afternoon…wish I could have heard the duet! 🙂

      • LOL! I used to sing “Give me a Home”, as a kid in Africa. When I get tired, I’ll switch to “Sidewalks of New York”. LOL! This is fun! ;-).

        • That’s great …you sang it as a child in Africa! I always think of it as a song of the American West, but there are plenty of movies and cartoons that feature it, so it gets around the globe. It’s actually the state anthem of Kansas, and each year on Jan. 29 their Senate and House of Representative members sing it a capella to commemorate their entry into the union. It also has many and varied verses, about cattle herding, native Americans, the stars at night, poisonous herbs, etc. etc.. Another crazy fact is that there aren’t any species of antelope native to this country!….Sing on!

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