Corneille, perché sur les Racines de La Bruyère, Boileau de La Fontaine Molière.

A memnonic phrase attributed to Victor Hugo as a device to remind himself of his favorite authors, some of the most important figures in seventeenth century French literature. Loosely translated, it reads,

The crow (Corneille), perched on the roots (Racine) of the heather (La Bruyère), drinks the water (Boileau) of the Molière fountain (La Fontaine).

In translation, it looses much of the rhyme, rhythm, pun, and meaning. Say it in French, out loud. It's fun.

I came across this phrase while reading a rather obscure (in America, that is) book called L'Etrange Desti de Wangrin, by Francophone Sudanese author Amadou Hampate Ba.

I've searched for this phrase repeatedly on the internet, but have failed to find any mentions whatsoever. It's really a shame, as I'd hate to see such an interesting and witty turn of phrase disappear.

A distillation of history and associations of literature in one damn cool sentence.

The usual form of this phrase is:

La corneille, perchée sur la racine de la bruyère, boit l'eau de la fontaine Molière.

Read the links (or Jennifer's previous writeup) to see the names of the most famous 17th-century French writers. It's used sometimes in French schools, mostly for fun because you don't really need these mnemonics to remember these names when you are French...

As Jennifer said, the meaning is: The crow, perched on the heather root, drinks the water of the Molière fountain.

There really is a "fontaine Molière" in Paris, at the corner of rue de Richelieu and rue Molière in the 1st district. It's located one block away from the Comédie Française which mission is to play Molière's repertoire. At you will see the fountain, but no crow on a heather root.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.