I recently listening to a song (Marie Myriam - L'Oiseau et L'Enfant) and I heard these:

Beau le bateau, dansant sur les vagues


Belle la chanson naissante des vagues


Blanc l'innocent, le sang du poète


Noire la misère, les hommes et la guerre

I noticed that those adjectives placed before la or le. I wonder, what is the difference with if I place the adjective after la or le (for example: le beau bateau, la belle chanson, or la misère noire)?

1 Answer 1


It's not equivalent to a noun phrase with an adjective, but to a copular sentence.

In other words:

Beau le bateau, dansant sur les vagues (Beautiful the boat, dancing on the waves)

= Beau est le bateau, dansant sur les vagues (Beautiful is the boat dancing on the waves)

= Le bateau dansant sur les vagues est beau (the boat dancing on the waves is beautiful)

This is an example of archaic syntax, mostly used in poetry, although it can be used in speech, with a slightly different prosodic pattern, when giving an opinion about something:

Pas mal, ce bateau (Quite nice, that boat)

  • So, it's like The boat dancing on the waves is beautiful in English?
    – srifqi
    Nov 13, 2016 at 2:20
  • @srifqi Yes. I've added in English translations Nov 13, 2016 at 9:54
  • Does this good analysis also apply to the last two lines where no present participles are there to connect the clauses (especially the last one which perhaps could be seen simply as a series of three dark things)?
    – Papa Poule
    Nov 13, 2016 at 15:54
  • 1
    @PapaPoule The 3rd and 4th sentences strike me as having weird agreement (I'd have written blancs and noirs) but otherwise fit the pattern: la misère, les hommes et la guerre sont noirs.The participle is irrelevant, the first sentence would function grammatically without it, but would be a bit idiomatic.The structure under discussion is generally used with a qualifying clause (either participal or a subordinate clause introduced by que) or an enumeration (like example 3 & 4) Nov 15, 2016 at 10:42

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