The Child Mother (La Fille Mère)

The Child Mother (La Fille Mère)
Trad. French, Arr. na-mara, Translation: P McNamara

I was my father’s only child,
And upon me he always smiled,
Constantly he implored me to wed,
Ah! but a single life I led.

And one day as I was walking abroad,
I lay with the boy that I adored,
(But) at the rising of the sun,
I was abandoned and he was gone.

And when I found I was with child,
I could think on naught and my mind ran wild,
“(Oh) when this child arrives here on earth,
What will my poor life then be worth?”

And so it was when the child gained life,
Into its wee heart I plunged my knife,
From breast to chin, the knife it did go,
And blood from this poor wee soul did flow.

A sheet of white linen I then did take,
And for this poor form a shroud did make,
And then with silent tears did I weep,
As I buried my son in the wild woods deep.

Alas to the woods that evening did go,
Three large white hounds – as pale as snow,
They scraped and they pawed and the body they found,
And all were aroused by their terrible sound.

The very next day the inquest began,
With girls from the village called one by one,
And the good mothers of the town did agree,
That they should lead this worthy deed.

My innocent father when he heard the decree,
He woke me with news most gently,
“Rise up my darling daughter dear,
Haste to the court and speak without fear” .

So, quickly I rose and I made my way,
And unto the court I repaired straightway,
Though in the line stayed to the rear,
To all the good mothers my guilt it was clear.

And so the judge he has made his decree,
That I must die on the gallows tree,
Wrists to be pared and my head shaven bare,
Hanged will I be in the village square.

Trad. French / Arr. na-mara

The Child Mother is our translation of the harrowing French song La Fille Mère. We have taken the song from the 1970s album La Saison des Amours by the French band La Bamboche, fronted, at least when they recorded this song, by Evelyne Girardon, alongside Jean Blanchard who arranged the original version of this song.
In fear and desperation a young pregnant unmarried girl kills her new born son and buries him, only for the crime to be discovered in the most discomforting way. The punishment that follows is as inevitable as it is dreadful. The Child Mother is reminiscent of many English songs of the same vintage. However, unlike the subsequent hauntings that often ensue in the English tradition, retribution here is quicker and more corporeal.
We are grateful to Chris Leslie from Fairport Convention for his beautiful accompaniment to this saddest of tales.