It was my friend Brigitte who first told me about “Le P’tit Quinquin” many years ago.
We were coming back from a walk. After doing a tour of Lille citadel, we passed by Quai du Wault and walked through Foch Dutilleul Square, and at the end of the square, where it joins Nationale Street, there was this marvellous statue of a mother with her baby. That’s when Brigitte told me about this lullaby and the story behind it.
It was an interesting story which – I assure you – I listened to with attention and enthusiasm, but which unfortunately I can’t remember for the life of me. That’s why I now have to cheat and quote Wikipedia:
“P’tit Quinquin” is a song by Alexandre Desrousseaux which was written in the Picard language in 1853. Picard is closely related to French, and is spoken in two regions in the north of France – Nord-Pas-de-Calais, Picardy and in parts of the Belgian region of Wallonia.
This simple lullaby (P’tit quinquin means “little child”) demonstrates the revival of Picard in the area, to the extent that it became the marching song of the northern soldiers leaving for the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.
Today it could be called the unofficial anthem of the French city of Lille, and more generally of the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France…
Here’s how the song begins, in Picard:
Dors, min p’tit quinquin,
Min p’tit pouchin, min gros rojin
Te m’fras du chagrin
Si te n’dors point ch’qu’à d’main…
Dors, mon petit enfant,
Mon petit poussin, mon gros raisin,
Tu me feras du chagrin
Si tu ne dors pas jusqu’à demain…
And in English (again thanks to Wikipedia):
Sleep, my little child,
My little chick, my plump grape,
You will cause me grief
If you don’t sleep until tomorrow…
And to wrap it up, here is an old rendition by Louis Lynel: