(French) Falcon’s Song

FalconsSong

A portion of this song is quoted on page 16 of the printed Heritage Songbook.

French:
Voulez-vouz écouter chanter
Une chanson de vérité?
Le dixneuf de juin la bande des Bois-Brûlés
Sont arrivés comme des braves guerriers.

En arrivant à la Grenouillère
Nous avons pris trois prisonniers;
Trois prisinneiers des Arkanays
Qui sont ici pour piller notr’ pays.

Étant sur le point de débarquer
Deux de nos gens se sont mis à crier:
Deux de nos gens se sont mis à crier:
Voilà l’ Anglais qui vient nous attacquer!

Tout aussitôt bous avons déviré
Nous a ons été les rencontrer:
J’avons cerné le bande des grenadiers,
Ils sont immobiles, ils sont démontés.

J’avons agi comme des gens d’honneur,
J’avons envoyé un ambassaderu,
“Le Geuverneur, voulez-vous arrêter
Un petit mment, nous voulons bous parler?”

Le Gouverneur qui était enragé
Il dit à ses soldats, “Tirez!”
Le premier coup, c’est l’ Anglais qu’a tiré,
L’ambassadeur a manqué de teur.

Le Gouverneur qui se croit empereur,
Il veut agir avec rigueur;
Étant parti pour nous épouvanter;
Il s’est trompé, il s’est fait tuer.

Il s’est trompé, il s’est fait tuer
Un’ quantité de ses grenadiers,
J’avons tué presque tout son armée,
Rien qu’ quatre ou cinq se sont sauvés.

Si vous aviez vo tous ces Anglais
Et tous ces Bois-Brûlés après
De butte en butte les Anglais culbutaient,
Les Bois-Brûlés jetaient des cris de joie!

Qui en a composé la chanson?
C’est Pierre Falcon, poète du canton.
Elle a été faite et composée.
Chantons la gloire de ces Bois-Brûlés.

English:
Come and you will hear me sing
A song of a true and a brave thing.
The nineteenth of June our band of Brule Boys,
Arrived like soldiers full of joy.

When we arrived upon Frog Plain,
Three Orkney men we did detain —
Three Orkney men who’d come from over the sea
Come for to steal our fair country.

We were about to ride away,
When the Englishmen upon us came.
We soon had encircled their band of grenadiers
Which caused them all to halt in fear.

An envoy then we did send
To the governor of those Englishmen,
But the governor, being a proud and angry man,
Attacked him as he came along.

The governor thinks he’s an emperor,
Thinks he can act like a great lord.
He thought he could scare off the Brule Boys,
But when we killed him it stopped his noise.

For his mistake with his life he paid;
Most of his grenadiers they were slain.
Four or five at most escaped that day,
While all the rest to our guns fell prey.

You should have seen those Englishmen
With our Brule Boys coming after them
Till one by one we did them all destroy,
Leaving our hearts so full of joy.

Who is the singer of this song?
My name it is Pierre Falcon.
I was the one who sat and wrote this song
About the Brule Boys so strong.

(Click here for a PDF version of the music) * (Play instrumental MP3)

This is a song of the Métis — the French-speaking people who arose from the interbreeding of French and Indians in Canada. They were largely outcast from the society of English Canada, and tried to make their own way in the western part of Canada — first in what is now called Manitoba, later in Saskatchewan.

Unfortunately, the English were always pushing them — first with the establishment of Winnipeg, then as railroads let farmers move into the lands of Saskatchewan and Alberta. At one stage of the conflict, quite a few Métis ended up in the upper Red River Valley area of Minnesota.

English: The beginning of the Battle of Batoch...

English: The beginning of the Battle of Batoche during the North-West Rebellion of 1885. Fish Creek, Saskatchewan, Canada. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes the Métis yielded ground; sometimes they fought back. In the end, the fighting would destroy them; they were slaughtered at the Battle of Batoche (May 12, 1885) and their leader, Louis Riel, was executed. Bill Gallaher wrote a very beautiful song about this, “The Last Battle,” recorded by Gordon Bok on his CD “In the Kind Land” (Timberhead Records, THD CD11). But that song is not traditional, and it dates from a time when the Métis were no longer in Manitoba and Minnesota.

This song comes from an earlier stage of the conflict between English Canadians and Métis; it comes from a time when western Canada was still ruled by the two great British trading companies, the Hudson’s Bay Company and the Northwest Company. Neither was above using the Métis to raid the others’ outposts — which is what happened here: the song refers to a conflict that took place June 19, 1816 near Fort Douglas on the Red River. The Métis soldiers of the Northwest Company (who called themselves Bois-Brûlés after their relatively dark skins) fought a force from the Hudson’s Bay company and defeated it completely.

Hudson's Bay Company coat of arms, photographe...

Hudson’s Bay Company coat of arms, photographed on the wall of the HBC building in downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pierre Falcon, the author of this piece, was a witness to the conflict, and reportedly wrote it on the night of the battle. The Métis name is Chanson de la Genouillère, the “Song of Frog Plain.” It is known as Falcon’s Song because it became famous — probably the most famous of all the Métis songs. Although it refers to an inter-company conflict (soon to be cleared up when the companies merged), it became a song of Métis pride and independence.

Source: The French words and tune are from Edith Fowke, Alan Mills, and Helmut Blume, Canada’s Story in Song, p. 122. The translation combines portions of several verses to reduce the song from ten verses to eight.

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