Monday, 8 July 2013

Métis poets: Pierre Falcon, poète du canton

Pierre Falcon
Pierre Falcon was the first known Métis to compose songs. After personally witnessing many of the key events of early Métis history, his tunes—particularly “The Battle of Frog Plain” or “la gournouillère,” the first patriotic song created in Canada—take us back to the birth of the Métis Nation. These passionate, humourous, and ironic songs also speak to the Métis Nation’s resolute desire to be independent and self-determining.
see source/order collection:  

Pierriche Falcon: The Michif Rhymester

Falcon was famous as a composer and singer of chansons. The best known, Chanson de la Grenouillère, is a narrative of the massacre at Seven Oaks, written from the Métis viewpoint, and is published in the Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, 1939 and in Songs of Old Manitoba by Margaret Arnett Macleod. Other mocking songs about local events included Lord Selkirk’s capture of Fort William (Le Lord Selkirk au Fort William) and the expedition of General Dickson (Le General Dickson). He described himself as “poète du canton” and was later known as “le barde des plaines.” 


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.
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.****

* (Play instrumental MP3)  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.

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. [will add corrected translation when available]

Fur trader. Foot soldier. Family man. Justice of the Peace. 
Poet of the people: composer of songs.

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