George Métivier and the Crapauds

Into the Guille-Allès Library at St Peter Port a couple of days ago, to photocopy a few poems by George Métivier.

The Guernseyman George Métivier (1790-1881) was apparently known as the “Guernsey Burns”, and was the ‘national poet’ of the island. He also prepared the first Dictionnaire Franco-Normand, the first dictionary of Guernsey French. He wrote fluently in Guernesiaise, French and English. One of his poems which caught my eye was Aux Crapuads. For channel island folks, a poem addressed to the Crapauds can be inflammatory, as it is what Guernsey people call Jersey folk.

Aux Crapuads

Salut, nos chers cousins, honorables crapauds!
Lentement vous rampez ; en êtes-vous moins beaux?
Que d’amis indulgents, ce n’est pas qu’ils vous flattent,
Admirent vos grands yeux ! ils brillent, ils éclatent,
Et votre robe humide aux reflets enchanteurs
Plaìt à l’homme éclairé, séduit les amateurs.
Même dans vos crachats, âme sublime et pure,
L’heureux naturaliste admire la nature,
Et l’altière Jersey, mère qui vous nourrit,
Balance en main, vous pèse ; ah ! comme elle sourit !
D’allégresse les mains à St. Laurens on frotte,
Et l’île boit rogomme à l’honneur de CHARLOTTE.
Que de baudets chez nous ! que de jolis badauds !
Vive à CÆSAREA la danse des crapauds !

I gave the text to a good friend Ken Goodwin, who specialises in translation of old French texts, including lately works by Mably. I took his version and made a few tweaks for flow, and produced this first version.

To the Crapauds!

Greetings to our dear cousins, the honourable toads!
Slow you crawl, though are you any less beautiful?
Don’t indulgent friends always flatter you?
Admire your great eyes ! they sparkle,
And your sodden clothes have an enchanting shiny sheen,
To delight the enlightened man, and seduce lovers.
And even when you’re gobbing, soul sublime and pure,
The naturalist will admire you as wildlife,
And haughty Jersey, the mother feeds you,
Balance in hand, weighs you; Ah! How she smiles!
With lightness of touch, one strokes St. Laurence’s hands,
And the isle drinks itself silly in CHARLOTTE’s honour.
What donkeys there are here ! What lovely loafers !
Long live the dance of the toads in CÆSAREA !

The original text had the word bandets, which Ken didn’t recognise, and thought was a misprint for baudets which means asses or donkeys, which makes sense as this is what the Crapauds call Guernsey people. But I have to check if it is a Guernsey French word. Also I still have to find out about St.Laurence’s hands, and why Jersey folk would drink to Charlotte’s honour.

By Peter Kenny

I lead a double life. Identity #1. A writer of poems, comedy plays, dark fiction and the odd libretto. Identity #2: A marketing outlier, working with London creative agencies and my own clients as a copywriter and creative consultant.

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