Au Clair de la Lune (By the Pale Moonlight)
DESCRIPTION: French. A man (Harlequin?) asks his friend Pierrot to lend him a pen and open the door, Pierrot suggests he ask the brunette next door. "Someone looked for a pen,... I don't know what was found / But I do know that those two shut the door behind them"
EARLIEST DATE: 1860 (recording, Leon Scott de Martinville), but the song is usually dated to the 18th century or before
LONG DESCRIPTION: French. A man (Harlequin?) asks his friend Pierrot to lend him a pen and open the door, that he may write a note by moonlight. Pierrot responds that he's in bed and doesn't have a pen; he suggests that his friend ask the brunette next door. He does, and "in the light of the moon you can barely see anything / Someone looked for a pen, someone looked for a flame / ...I don't know what was found / But I do know that those two shut the door behind them". (In one version, there's also a verse about not opening the door to a baker or a cobbler.)
KEYWORDS: foreignlanguage sex nightvisit friend
FOUND IN: US(MW) Canada France
REFERENCES (2 citations):
BerryVin, p. 52, "Au clair de la lune (In the Glow of Moonlight)" (1 text + translation, 1 tune)
Fireside, p. 74, "Au Clair de la Lune (By the Pale Moonlight)" (1 text with translation, 1 tune)
Leon Scott de Martinville, 1860
NOTES: The first line of the song's second verse appears as the first known sound recording that has been reproduced, Leon Scott de Martinville's 1860 phonautograph record. Because it was extensively used as a child's beginning piano piece, "Au Clair de la Lune" is widely known in the USA. In some versions, the song references the French version of Commedia Dell'Arte via the names (Harlequin, Pierrot, and presumably Columbine), but it's not known whether these were oiriginally part of the song, or later graftings.
The Fireside Book credits "Verses 1 and 2 by Charles Fonteyn Manney, music by J. B. Lully." Since Manney was born in 1872, twelve years after the Phonautograph recording of "Au Clair de la Lune," this attribution seems unlikely. - PJS
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