Brother John

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Brother John Image

Brother John (Frenche: “Frère Jacques”), is a nursery rhyme of French origin. The rhyme is traditionally sung in a round.

The song is about a friar who has overslept and is urged to wake up and sound the bell for the matins, the midnight or very early morning prayers for which a monk would be expected to wake

 

"Brother John" Lyrics


The original French version of the song is as follows:

Frère Jacques, frère Jacques,
Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous?
Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.

The song is traditionally translated into English as:

Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
Brother John, Brother John,
Morning bells are ringing! Morning bells are ringing!
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.

This translation completely distorts the meaning: the whole point is that the bells are not ringing, because brother John, who is supposed to ring them, is sleeping.

A more adequate translation of the French lyrics would be:

Friar James, Friar James
Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?
Sound the matins chimes! Sound the matins chimes!
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.

The song concerns a monk’s duty to ring the bell for matines . Frère Jacques has apparently overslept, it is time to ring the bell for matines, and someone wakes him up with this song.

In English, the word Friar is derived from the French word frère (“brother” in English), as French was still widely used in official circles in England during the 13th century when the four great orders of Friars started. The French word frère in turn comes from the Latin word frater (which also means “brother”).

"Brother John" Chords


G   D   G         G   D   G
Are you sleeping, are you sleeping?
G  C    D     G  C    D
Brother John, Brother John?
D7                G        D7                G
Morning bells are ringing, morning bells are ringing
C    D    G     C    D    G
Ding ding dong, ding ding dong.

(repeat as desired)

"Brother John" Youtube Videos


 

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