Fraire Jacques: Morning Bells?

In the song “Fraire Jacques”, specifically the last line, where does the word “bell” appear in the French lyrics? Also, does the correct French word for “morning” appear in the last line, too?

  • Jinx

“Matine” means “morning bell”.

I always figured that Brother Jack was a monk, and it was his turn to ring the bells calling the other monks to morning mass.

But, la clache, la clashe, or la clushe (sp?) means bells, correct? And, doesn’t “martin” mean morning? I’m rusty, but I don’t get the last line of this little ditty on the Monk Top 40!

Explique, ce vous plait!

  • Jinx

Matins” specifically refers to the morning’s prayers. Those same bells ring for vespers and all other orisons.

“Cloche” means “bell”, any kind of bell. “Matine” specifically means the bells that are rung in the morning (obviously comes from “matin”, the word for “morning”). The lyric is “sonnez les matines”, i.e. “ring the morning bells”. And by the way, it’s “frere” (sorry, didn’t mean to sound like a stereotypically snooty French guy there, as I am not snooty and only somewhat French).

It might also be noted here that the French (Latinate?) word cloche for bell, or the associated bell tower, is also where we got our English word for clock, as those same morning bells Brother John was ringing were the same ones which the first European clocks were built from in medieval Europe.

Not actually a part of your question, but I’m bored, so I thought I’d annoy with some more useless trivia.

Back in the days, monks were required to pray eight times a day, in theory every three hours, outside mass. Monastery bells were rung to remind everyone that it was prayer time. Those bells were, for most people, the only form of clock they had and thus the names of the prayers came to signify the time of day. In older litterature you often read things like aux matines… or aux vêpres… The eight times of day were:

0:00 matines
3:00 laudes
6:00 prime
9:00 tierce
12:00 sexte
15:00 none
18:00 vêpres
21:00 complies

Note that the English “noon” comes from “none” (ninth) and that in practice the time at which these bells were rung varied greatly. However, the time at which frêre Jacques was supposed to ring his bells was midnight.

le matin is the morning
they have synonyms in other languages too, you know.

Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les matines, sonnez les matines
Ding ding dong, ding ding dong.

English Version:
Are you sleeping, are you sleeping?
Brother John, Brother John?
Morning bells are ringing, morning bells are ringing
Ding ding dong, ding ding dong.

“Sonnez les matines” is more like a command, and might be better translated as “ring the morning bells”.

I’m off to do 99 luftballoons now…

Approximately how should I pronounce:

“Sonnez les matines”?

saw nay la ma teen uh

Is Jacques translated as John to make the song more phonetically fluid, since James is the correct English equivalent?

Of course I screwed that up. It should be:

saw nay lay ma teen uh

Doesn’t Jacques translate to Jake which is a variant of John?

Not according to this site, or this one, or this one.

Duh … of course John is Jean! What was I thinking?

I guess I’ve just been watching too much F1 racing where the British announcers call Jacques Villeneuve ‘Jack’