la gloire + la guerre

The current political climate makes particularly relevant Combeferre's little anti-imperial staircase-ditty at the end of Les Misérables III.V*, which goes like:
Si César m'avait donné
la gloire et la guerre,
et qu'il me fallût quitter
l'amour de ma mère;
Je dirais au grand César,
"Reprends ton sceptre et ton char!
J'aime mieux ma mère, o gué!
J'aime mieux ma mère!"**
 Vincent van Gogh quotes this song (in quite an apolitical context -- indeed in hardly any context whatsoever besides that he'd nearly finished the brick) in an 1883 letter to his younger brother, Theo ("Don't you like this little poem? It is from Les Misérables"), adding that "love for my mother" = "love for the republic."

The 1934 film of Les Mis clarifies that Ma mère, c'est la République -- though bizarrely, despite being French through and through, it invents its own tune, making the song more of a raucous drinking number than you'd usually find on a Mother Goose CD. (It doesn't exactly hew close to the description in the brick, either; there, it's Combeferre alone, on a staircase, singing in a manner "at once tender and wild," and the fact that he's poking fun at Marius, who waxes lyrical about the emperor, is only implied. Here, as you can see, all the boys are wild, only wild, and definitely making fun of Marius.)

Why bizarrely, why a Mother Goose CD? Well, from the notes on this Soundcloud recording of Si César m'avait donné, we learn that the song was likely intended to be sung to the tune of Si le roi m'avait donné...

...the first line of which, when googled, shows up on multiple sites that list exclusively chansons enfantines and the like. The first verse is cute, and this is presumably the one that French parents and teachers sing (or more likely sang, at one point) to French children. It's also found (as below***) in Molière's Le Misanthrope and in Le Monde's quote dictionary (because it's found in Le Misanthrope?), and you can listen to it here.

What appears to be the (tragique) second verse is below. Both verses together can be heard here -- and possibly only there. I've been scouring the Internet for a good while.
Or le roi n'm'a pas donné
Paris sa grande-ville,
Mais il m'a fallût quitter
L'amour de ma mie;
Je dirais au roi Henri,
"Laissez-moi mourir ici!
J'ai perdu ma mie, o gué!
J'ai perdu ma mie!"****
The lyrics (or at least those of the first verse) may date from about 1550 (according to Paris le nez en l'air), which would put them smack in the middle of the reign of Henri II. (This Henri's known mainly for further pursuing and persecuting the Huguenots. I cannot find any evidence that indicates the level of seriousness with which this little ditty is to be taken. Did the people hate Henri? did they mock him? or were they simply comfortable enough with his rule that they could joke about refusing him?) If we accept this date for the lyrics, the tune presumably arrived a couple of decades later (it's attributed to Eustache du Caurroy, sometime appointed composer of Henri IV's chamber and chapel, who wasn't born until 1549).

However, the rest of the Paris le nez en l'air article contradicts this date for the lyrics; if le roi Henri is in fact Henri IV, as some of the article claims, the lyrics could not have been written until at least 1589. Now, IV (the first of the Bourbons, Good King Henry, restorer of Paris &c.) was a halfway decent monarch by all accounts, so I'm more inclined to believe that the people (or rather, the person -- the lyricist himself, another Bourbon, Antoine, the King of Navarre post-Henri) sang this to poke good-natured fun at him, nothing deeper.

Henri IV also restored to the French monarchy the concept of divine right and a sense of absolutism (lost thanks to his weak-willed predecessors) which makes all the more remarkable Hugo's spin on Si le roi m'avait donné. Both verses of Si le roi are kind to the king, as utterly undemocratic as his rule is; Combeferre's Si César, by changing "girlfriend" to "mother" (regardless of whether "mother" is interpreted literally or as la République) ups the hypothetical stakes significantly and turns a sweet little chanson enfantine into a song worthy of fiery young revolutionaries (who perhaps spit too much fire and set too few fires, but that's a story for another day).

* Context, briefly: What could be better than all the glory attached to an imperialist France? asks Marius, an imperialist (obviously), after waxing lyrical about Napoleonic possibilities for paragraphs on end. To be free, replies Combeferre (in so many words, être libre), dropping the proverbial mic and exiting with all his revolutionary brothers-in-arms save Enjolras, their leader. On his way out, Combeferre sings just loud enough for the still-stunned Marius to hear. My mother? asks the motherless Marius at the song's conclusion. Citizen, my mother is the republic, says Enjolras. End scene.

** If Caesar had given me / glory and war / and he made me leave / the love of my mother / I'd say to grand Caesar / "Take back your scepter and your chariot! / I prefer my mother, oh! / I prefer my mother!"

*** If the king had given me / Paris, his capital / and if he made me leave / the love of my girl / I'd say to King Henry / "Take back your Paris / I prefer my girl, oh! / I prefer my girl!"

**** The king didn't give me / Paris, his capital / but he made me leave / the love of my girl / I'd say to King Henry / "Let me die here / I've lost my girl, oh! / I've lost my girl!"

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