Three Matelots (Tri Martolod)

Trad. Breton / Arr. na-mara

Three Matelots is a translated and truncated version of the well known Breton sea shanty Tri Martolod. This is a popular song amongst the many Breton choirs like Les Gabiers d’Artimon who sing Chansons de Matelot at festivals around the coast of Brittany and beyond. We first heard it performed by the great Alan Stivell back in the early 1970s and it has been a favourite ever since.

Given the extended nature of the original, we hope we have adequately captured this tale of love re-discovered in just six short verses. Not speaking Breton, this translation is a ‘double’, having been taken from a French translation of the original Breton.

Three Matelots (Tri Martolod)
Trad. Breton, Arr. na-mara, Translation: P McNamara

Three matelots, brisk and bold, fa la la la lee la dee da
Three matelots brisk and bold, went a sailing on the sea
And the wind took their sails, fa la la la lee la dee da
The wind took their sails and pushed them on to Port Launay
On to Port Launay, pushed them on to Port Launay
On to Port Launay, pushed them on to Port Launay

At Mein-ar-veilh they hove to, fa la la la lee la dee da
At Mein-ar-veilh they hove to, and their anchor it was laid
As they strolled down by the mill, fa la la la lee la dee da
As they strolled down by the mill, they met a serving maid
Met a serving maid, they met a serving maiden
Met a serving maid, they met a serving maiden

And unto one she did say, fa la la la lee la dee da
And unto one she did say, “We were lovers you and I!
One market day in Nantes, fa la la la lee la dee da
One market day in Nantes, a gold ring we did buy
A gold ring we did buy, oh a gold ring we did buy,
A gold ring we did buy, oh a gold ring we did buy,

And with that ring, bright and gold, fa la la la lee la dee da
With that ring bright and gold, I gave my love to thee
So my love, though we be poor, fa la la la lee la dee da
(And) so my love though we be poor, it is married we shall be
Married we shall be, oh, its married we shall be,
Married we shall be, oh its married we shall be”

“Ah love, such comforts you enjoy, fa la la la lee la dee da
Ah love, such comforts you enjoy, how could you bear too live instead?
For I’ve no house nor land, fa la la la lee la dee da
No house nor land, nor yet a pillow for your head
A pillow for your head, nor yet a pillow for your head
A pillow for your head, nor yet a pillow for your head

Nor yet a bowl nor a spoon, fa la la la lee la dee da
Nor yet a bowl nor a spoon, nor even flour for our bread!”
“Why, then like partridge we will be, fa la la la lee la dee da
Then like partridge we will be and sleep upon the ground
Sleep upon the cold ground, we will sleep upon the cold ground
Sleep upon the cold ground, we will sleep upon the cold ground

Tri martolod yaouank, fa la la la lee la dee da
Tri martolod yaouank, O voned da veaji
Tri martolod yaouank, fa la la la lee la dee da
Tri martolod yaouank, O voned da veaji
O voned da veaji, ge, O voned da veaji
O voned da veaji, ge, O voned da veaji

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