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Ô Canada!
Terre de nos aïeux,
Ton front est ceint de fleurons glorieux!
Car ton bras sait porter l'épée,
Il sait porter la croix!
Ton histoire est une épopée
Des plus brillants exploits.
Et ta valeur, de foi trempée,
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.
Protégera nos foyers et nos droits.

There are three things that I don't understand in the lyrics. First of all, what does fleurons mean? I looked it up in two dictionaries, but the meanings they gave me were jewels and flagships. So, I'm not really sure how to make sense out of this with these two words substituted for fleurons. My second question is how exactly do you understand the phrase de foi trempée? And my third question is in the line des plus brillants exploits, why do we need to say plus (more)? Are we comparing the brilliant deeds to something?

Merci beaucoup d'avance pour votre aide précieuse.

  • Meanwhile, in another sense of the word, what I don't understand about the French lyrics is why in English "we stand on guard for thee" but in French thou standest on guard for us... :) – Luke Sawczak Dec 10 '17 at 18:02
  • I'm sorry. I don't think I'm following you. – user69786 Dec 10 '17 at 18:33
  • In English, we say "O Canada, we stand on guard for thee," but in French one says, "Your valour (Ô Canada) will protect our homes and our rights" — who defends whom is reversed. But I'm being tongue-in-cheek when I imply that there's any meaning to be drawn from it. – Luke Sawczak Dec 10 '17 at 18:58
  • I see now. I thought that but wasn't sure. Why would you say that in King James language though? – user69786 Dec 10 '17 at 19:12
  • In imitation of "we stand on guard for thee". – Luke Sawczak Dec 10 '17 at 19:35
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Fleurons means here the ornament in form of flower located on a crown, like a laurel wreath.

De foi trempée is a poetical inversion. Standard French would be trempée dans la foi, i.e. steeped in faith.

...épopée des plus brillants exploits is more a superlative than a comparative. The deeds are not compared to anything particular. That just means something like "...an epic made of the brightest achievements".

You might also have trouble with ceint which is a very rare verb in modern French (ceindre), meaning encircled. Derived words like ceinture (belt) are common though.

Finally, the word valeur has a meaning mostly forgotten in modern French: ta bravoure, ton courage, i.e. your bravery/valor (not value.)

  • 2
    My first idea was to write soaked in faith but steeped looks better indeed. Answer updated. – jlliagre Dec 9 '17 at 10:12
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    To add a note to this good answer: An English speaker may be surprised not only by the inversion in de foi trempée but also by de — note that @jlliagre defaulted to a more common wording when uninverting. It's more or less instrumental: trempée by using foi. – Luke Sawczak Dec 9 '17 at 23:42
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You found jewels and flagships because fleurons is often used metaphorically to designate the most precious item of a collection (of jewels) or the best ship in a navy fleet. De foi trempée could refer to the phrase "une épée à l'acier bien trempé", i.e. a strong blade: their soul was plunged into faith like red-hot steel is plunged into water to cool it.

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    I really like your take on "de foi trempée," which I could see leading to "Your bravery, reinforced/fortified/bolstered by [your] faith, will protect our homes and liberty." – Papa Poule Dec 9 '17 at 23:26

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