Monthly Archives: February 2013

Horses in Song and Tale


As you may know, I’m helping lead a discussion on GoodReads about The Time of White Horses by Ibrahim Nasrallah. Then my husband recently introduced me to the music of Nolwenn Leroy, a French singer inspired by Breton and Celtic culture. I enjoyed this song so much, that I ended up translating it (video also embedded below). It’s a 15th century song from Brittany, in northwest France.


The mare of Michao

In 10 years I will go

I hear the wolf and the fox singing

I hear the wolf, the fox, and the weasel

I hear the wolf and the fox singing

In 9 years I will go

The mare of Michao passed through the meadow

The mare of Michao and her young colt

Passed through the meadow eating all the hay

Winter is coming guys, winter is coming

The mare of Michao, she’s going to miss it [the weather]

The song repeats, each verse decreasing in the number of years until our anonymous singer goes…where? Why? To war? To sea? Into exile? Hunting? It’s very mysterious!

Some interpret this folksong as a parody of the Latin Dies irae because the repeating line about going sounds like it. That idea made me chuckle because it reminds me of Monty Python singing “Requiem” or Animaniacs chanting “Lamma lamma lamma.” I can see that as inspiring a song about setting out.

But its meaning has changed over time as it has been re-performed by many artists, and no one associates it with Latin anymore. So why do people like it today? It’s cheerful, old-fashioned, reminds us of a way of life that was closer to nature, recalls how time passes and things change…

What do you think??

Original French Text: La jument de Michao

C’est dans dix ans je m’en irai

J’entends le loup et le renard chanter

J’entends le loup, le renard et la belette

J’entends le loup et le renard chanter

C’est dans neuf ans je m’en irai

La jument de Michao a passé dans le pré

La jument de Michao et son petit poulain

A passé dans le pré et mangé tout le foin

L’hiver viendra les gars, l’hiver viendra

La jument de Michao, elle s’en repentira

Note: The horse carving is from 11th century Egypt.