I'm trying to learn French by listening to classical music and searching for translations, and I came across a song by Jacques Brel, titled J'arrive, when he says:

De chrysanthème en chrysanthème nos amitiés sont en partance

I assume that the word "chrysanthème" is a flower, but does it mean anything else in French Culture so?

3 Answers 3


Chrysanthème is indeed a flower (see it here).

In France, On November 1st, there is the "Toussaint". It started off as a religious celebration but now it's more or less for everyone. To sum up, this celebration is for the Dead, and the Chrysanthème is the flower associated with it since the 19th. So while "De Chrysanthème en Chrysanthème" isn't a phrase, it still has meaning.

enter image description here

La Toussaint (1886), par Émile Friant

  • 10
    Just to complete this already good answer, the author refers to these flowers associated to funerals, alluding to the recurring and tragic event of seeing loved ones (here, more precisely friends) die and be burried. Commented May 7, 2014 at 11:15
  • 1
    Agree with you @RomainVALERI, I just realized that the main subject of the song is Death, when he says "J'arrive", he means : " Death I'm Coming ", so the funerals interpretation is good in this case ... Commented May 7, 2014 at 11:52
  • La Toussaint is la Fête de tous les saints, All saints'Day. It is celebrated on November 1st. All Hallows'Eve (All Saints'Eve) being October 31st, known as Hallowe'en. In France, the Chrysanthème is associated with death and every October 1st, people go visit the graves of their loved ones and adorn them with chrysanthemum.
    – Iside
    Commented Feb 8, 2015 at 11:05
  • @Iside: You made a little mistake: November 1st, not October 1st...
    – BBBreiz
    Commented Nov 20, 2019 at 9:30

It is a figure of speech, in which the "chrysanthèmes", flowers of death, represent a burial.

"De chrysanthèmes en chrysanthèmes" = "From one burial to another burial"

This figure of speech is called a "metonymy", in which a word is replaced by another one somehow linked with it.

Common examples:

  • "The crown" for "the monarchy"
  • "Downing Street" for "the prime minister"
  • "The bottle" for "the alcohol"
  • Idiomatic expression "Le sabre et le goupillon" : The traditional alliance between the Catholic Church and the French army ("le sabre" = the sword; "le goupillon" = a kind of brush used by the priest to sprinkle holy water on people)

This is a flower equivalent to the Chysanthemum.

As seen in a English to French Dictionary chrysanthemum
n chrysanthème m


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