When I Took My Horse to Water

This is our translation of the traditional song ‘Quand je menai mes chevaux boire’ which we have taken from the repertoire of French folk maestro, Gabriel Yacoub. Elements of magic realism and the communication with loved ones through the veil of death make it a remarkable song. With its fine melody and relentless drive, it is always a great favourite when we play it around the clubs.

When I Took my Horse to Water (Quand je menai mes chevaux boire)
Trad. Breton, Arr. na-mara, Translation: P McNamara

Quand je menai mes chevaux boire,
Ilaire ilaire itou ilaire ilaire oh ma nanette
Quand je menai mes chevaux boire
J’entendis le coucou chanter
J’entendis le coucou chanter

When I took my horse to water
Ilaire ilaire itou ilaire ilaire, oh ma nanette
When I took my horse to water
I heard the cuckoo sing
I heard the cuckoo sing

And she told me in her language
Ilaire ilaire itou ilaire ilaire, oh ma nanette
She told me in her language
That my own dear love was gone
That my own dear love was gone

Oh, what foolishness is this?
Ilaire ilaire itou ilaire ilaire, oh ma nanette
What foolishness is this?
For we danced just yesterday
We danced just yesterday

But when I rode out on the moor
Ilaire ilaire itou ilaire ilaire, oh ma nanette
But when I rode out on the moor
I heard the church bells ring
I heard the church bells ring

And when I raced into the churchyard
Ilaire ilaire itou ilaire ilaire, oh ma nanette
And when I raced into the churchyard
I heard the young priests sing
I heard the young priests sing

And when I lay down by your graveside
Ilaire ilaire itou ilaire ilaire, oh ma nanette
And when I lay down by your graveside
Awake my love and rise!
Awake my love and rise!

My love I neither sleep nor dream
Ilaire ilaire itou ilaire ilaire,oh ma nanette
My love I neither sleep nor dream
But wait here below for you
But wait here below for you

I have a place here next to me
Ilaire ilaire itou ilaire ilaire, oh ma nanette
I have a place here next to me
That I will keep safe by for you
That I will keep safe by for you

Quand je menai mes chevaux boire,
Ilaire ilaire itou ilaire ilaire oh ma nanette
Quand je menai mes chevaux boire
J’entendis le coucou chanter
J’entendis le coucou chanter

Trad. French, Arr. na-mara
track number: 
8