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Le Navire de Bayonne

Traditional French sailor's song

Le navire de Bayonne ("The ship of Bayonne") is a traditional French sailor’s song. It tells the story of a ship that finds itself in the middle of a terrible storm. The ship’s crew is overcome with fear – half begin to cry, and the other half sing songs of praise to God, asking Him to have mercy on their souls since death is surely near.

Seeing this, the brave captain steps forward and addresses the crew, assuring them that they will live and to have courage. The storm passes, and the crew fall on their knees in thanksgiving to Our Lady, who saved their lives. They all promise to have a great Mass said in honor of this event and to redouble their devotion to God. The captain composed this song warning all future sailors to sail prudently, particularly in winter.

Le navire de Bayonne is here interpreted by Michel Bordeleau.

Listen to Le navire de Bayonne

French lyrics:

1. C'était par un bon vendredi,
Nous avons parti de Lisbonne,
C'est pour en France revenir,
Dans le grand navire de Bayonne.
Nous n'eûmes pas doublé les pointes,
Qu'un vent du nord s'est levé,
A fallu carguer la grand-voile
Pour y courir au quart noroît.

2. Il a venté d'un si gros vent,
Grand Dieu, quelle horrible tourmente!
La moitié de nos gens pleuraient,
Les autres chantaient des louanges, (2x)
Louanges, louanges à haute voix:
"Que Dieu ait pitié de nos âmes,
Puisque la mort il faut avoir!"

3. J'avons reçu un coup de mer,
Sur le fond de notre navire,
Les dalots ne pouvaient plus fournir.
"Coupez le grand mât, je vous prie! (2x)
Et jetez les chaloupes dehors!
Gardez les restes de nos voiles
Pour retrouver tous un bon port!"

4. Le capitaine s'est avancé,
Étant le maître du navire
"Honneur,” dit-il, “à qui vivra!
Le grand mât, c'est ma compagnie!
Courage, mes enfants, courage!
Un vaillant homme nous gouverne
Et là! Tenez- vous bien de garde
Que le navire vienne en travers"

5. Ils se sont jetés à genoux,
Priant la divine Marie,
Priant le Sauveur tout puissant,
Qui leur ont préservé la vie.
“Une grande messe nous ferons dire
À notre bon rassemblement,
Dans la chapelle de Notre-Dame,
Nous prierons Dieu devotement!”

6. Qu' en a composé la chanson
C'est le pilote du navire,
Il l'a composé tout au long,
C'est en traversant ces îles,
C'est à vous autres gens de France
Qui naviguez dessus la mer,
Naviguez-y avec prudence,
Surtout dans le temps de l'hiver!...

English translation:

1. It was on a good Friday,
We had just left from Lisbon,
In order to return to France,
In the great ship of Bayonne.
We had not yet cleared land
When a north wind had risen
Risking to destroy the mainsail,
Necessary to run in the northwestern wind.

2. Such a heavy wind was blowing,
Great God, what a horrible storm!
Half of our people were crying,
The others were singing praises, (2x)
Praises, praises, in full voice:
"May God have mercy on our souls,
Since death must surely come!"

3. We entered into a violent wave,
Shaking us at the bottom of our ship
The scuppers could not drain all the water.
[the sailors said:]"Cut the mainmast, we beg you! (2x)
And throw the rowboats out!
Keep the remains of our sails,
So we can reach a good port!"

4. But, the captain stepped forward,
Being the master of the ship.
"Honor," he said, "to those who will live!
Leave the mainmast, I will respond for it!
Courage, my children, courage!
A brave man governs us,
And you [who complain] do your job well,
So that the ship may pass this trial."

5. [After it was over,] they fell to their knees,
Praying to the Most Holy Mary,
Praying to the Almighty Savior,
Who had preserved their life.
“We will have a great Mass said,
When we will be back together,
In the chapel of Notre-Dame,
We will pray to God devoutly!”

6. He who has composed this song
Is the pilot of the ship,
He composed it all along,
While crossing these islands,
It is up to you, fellow men of France
Who sail on the sea,
Navigate with caution,
Especially in the winter time! ...

lyrics and music Le navire de Bayonne

For a PDF version, click here.

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ship in storm

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