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A Dictionary of Music and Musicians/Henri Quatre (Vive)

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HENRI QUATRE (VIVE). This historical song consists of three couplets, which we append in the order in which they should be sung.

J'aimons les filles
Et j'aimons le bon vin;
De nos bons drilles
Voila tout le refrain:
J'aimons les filles
Et j'aimons le bon vin.

Moins de soudrilles
Eussent troublé le sein
De nos familles,
Si l'ligueux, plus humain,
Eut aimé les filles,
Eut aime le bon vin.

{ \time 4/4 \key d \minor \relative d'' {d2 d4 d c2\prall c4 c d f c d a1 | f'2 e4 d e2 cis4\prall cis d d cis d a a8 bes c4 c f,2 f4 d g g a4. a8 d,1 }
\addlyrics { Vive Hen -- ri qua -- tre, Vi -- ve ce roi vail -- lant! Ce diable à qua -- tre A le tri -- ple ta -- lent De boire et de bat -- tre, Et d'être un vert ga -- lant! } }

The authorship of the words and the date of their composition are disputed points, although the first two couplets have been very generally attributed to Collé (1709–83). We are disposed from internal evidence to assign all three verses to the second period of the reign of Henri IV (1589–1610), i. e. the early part of the 17th century. People plunged in all the horrors of civil war, and in continual terror for their lives and their families, are scarcely in the mood to sing of women and wine. The second verse implies that the League is an affair of the past; and it was not till 1598 that the League was terminated by the submission of Mercœur. In the third stanza the King is represented as victorious over his enemies at home and abroad; and it was not till 1601 that the treaty of peace with the Duke of Savoy was signed. Finally it was not till after he had remitted 20,000,000 frs. of taxes in arrear, and reduced the income-tax by 4,000,000 frs. annually, that Henri IV became the idol of France, and especially of the peasantry; and these reductions were in progress from 1601 to 1610.

We ascribe the song then to the first decade of the 17th century; and are also inclined to believe that the couplet 'J'aimons les filles' is older than the other two, and was taken from a 'chanson de table' or drinking-song, of the time of Henri III. In the 2nd and 3rd stanzas the last line but one contains five syllables, whereas in the 1st there are only four. This slight change may have arisen insensibly, either from the author not having at hand a copy of his predecessor's lines, or because he improvised his words as he sang to some well-known air, and naturally gave a separate syllable to each note of the melody. He has also involuntarily, or from intentional imitation, repeated in the second verse the rhymes of the first.

If Collé had been the author of these lines, he would certainly have told us the fact in his 'Mémoires.' He records the minutest particulars concerning the metamorphoses of 'Le Roi et le Fermier,' and the performances of 'La Partie de chasse de Henri IV'; puts down unimportant improvisations, and the most insignificant rhymes; and it is impossible to suppose that he would not have mentioned having added two verses to 'Vive Henri IV,' if such had been the case. The supposition is rendered still more inadmissible by the fact that he gives the other refrains in 'La Partie de chasse de Henri IV' word for word. We may assume that Collé quoted this historical song in its traditional form, and is no more to be accredited with additions to it than to 'La belle Jardinière,' the three couplets of which he also transcribed, (See Collé, 'La Partie de chasse de Henri IV,' Scène xi.)

The air has been often said to resemble one of the themes of the contredanse called 'Les Tricotets,' the title and the notes of which are to be found in 'Les Parodies nouvelles et les Vaudevilles inconnus' (vol. i. p. 32); and 'Rondes et Chansons à danser' (vol. ii. p. 191) only. Now, not only do neither of these two airs bear any resemblance to 'Vive Henri IV,' but they differ from each other, and thus either 'Les Tricotets' has not survived in a complete form, and the best subject in that 'suite d'airs de danse' is the very one that the collections have not noted down; or the melody of 'Vive Henri IV' is original, and has no connection with 'Les Tricotets.' We adopt the latter conclusion.

One thing is certain; these couplets have been handed down from generation to generation without losing anything of their spirit or freshness; and were spontaneously adopted by the people as the national anthem of royalty at the Bourbon Restoration. On the day when the Allied Armies entered Paris, April 1, 1814, crowds flocked to the Opera to see the Emperor Alexander and the King of Prussia. The opera was Spontini's 'Vestale,' as an overture to which the band performed 'Vive Henri IV' amid a perfect storm of bravos; and at the close of the opera the air was again called for, sung by Lays with the whole power of his magnificent voice, and received with rapturous applause. On July 14, 1815, Lays had a similar success when repeating the air at a performance of 'Iphigénie en Aulide' and 'La Dansomanie' before Louis XVIII, the Emperor of Russia, and the King of Prussia. On the opening of the new theatre of the 'Academie royale de Musique' in the Rue le Peletier, the first words sung in that area, the loss of which is so much to be regretted on acoustical grounds, were those of 'Vive Henri IV.' Paer wrote some brilliant variations on this air. They were engraved in full score and deserve to be rescued from the oblivion into which they have fallen. Grétry also introduced the air into the Overture in 'Le Magnifique' (1773).

[ G. C. ]