Oubliette? Qu’est que c’est?

In olden days, in castles and in prisons, a most gruesome CUBE existed called an oubliette. Oubliette means “dungeon” in English (its from the French verb oublier – “to forget”).

I love the romance of word origins.

A trap door in the ceiling was the only means of escape from the oubliette. My foam-padded CUBE pictured above invites entry through a rectangular opening cut out of its side. But the square panel of light in the ceiling sort of acts as a fantasy trap door. My lonely, drab entrapment delivers a brand of misery all its own.

The oubliette played a role in the French penal colony located on Devil’s Island, infamously known as the incarcerator of Papillon. Maybe you’ve heard of or seen the 1970s eponymous movie starring Dustin Hoffman.

Trivia: Papillon was so-named from the butterfly tattoo imprinted on his chest.

Convicted of murder, he spent a solitary two years in an oubliette, up until he choreographed a very daring escape.

Papillon and I could have been soulmates. Both of us liking music. Both confined in cubical structures seemingly for a lifetime. In fact, while doing time in the oubliette, Papillon often broke into song. It helped pass the time. One of of his favorites was the French children’s song, Alouette.

I sing it in the CUBE, too. But in my version, I substitute Alouette with the word Oubliette. Because it rhymes, and also adds relevance.

Singing staves off the energy drain of hebetude. Too much day-after-day-ness in the CUBE sucks the swivel right out of my chair.

I first learned the lyrics of this strange song in my high school French class. The melody itself, I learned earlier on watching cartoons on TV.

The song is on YouTube😊

It goes like this:

Alouette, gentille Alouette

An Alouette is a lark (a bird, not a frolic). This line translates as “Lark, nice lark.”

Mild enough. But after that it gets weird.

Lark, nice lark (Alouette, gentille Alouette)

I will pluck you (je te plumerai)

I will pluck your head (je te plumerai la tete)

I will pluck your beak (le bec)

Your eyes (les yeux)

Your neck (le cou)

Your wings (les ailes)

Your feet (les pattes)

Your tail (le queue)

Your back (le doc)

Each verse echoes the refrain:

And your back (Et le doc)

And your tail (Et le queue)

And your feet (Et les pattes)

And your wings (Et les ailes)

And your neck (Et le cou)

And your eyes (Et les yeux)

And your beak (Et le bec)

Oh- oh- oh- oh…

Oubliette, gentille Oubliette

Oubliette, je te plumerai.

In my CUBE version of the song, I sing the French word putain in place of plumerai.

(To translate this into English, simply exchange the “pl” in pluck for an “f” and…voila!)

Oubliette gentille oubliette

Je te putain!

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