Acadian Tradition: La Vie Aux Cachots
Joseph Larade. Photograph by Ronald Caplan. Cape Breton's Magazine, Issue 63: 41. © 1972/2010 Ronald Caplan.
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About This Song

A prisoner-of-war cuts himself with a knife to draw blood with which to write a letter to his mother. The mother, receiving the letter written in blood, gathers her other children around her to pray for their brother whom she presumes is dead.

This song is also known as La Lettre De Sang and is sung and played here by Joseph Larade.

This field recording was collected by Ronnie MacEachern in 1978.

La Vie Au Cachots, 1978. Joseph A. Larade. T-1067. Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

About The Artist

Joseph A. Larade of Chéticamp made immeasurable contributions to the music and culture of Cape Breton during his life. He is considered to have been among the best fiddlers of his time.

Joseph Larade adopted a unique way of entertaining, playing the fiddle and singing old French songs at the same time. He was always generous with his talent, making his fiddle available for dances, weddings and whatever functions called for a soundtrack from his instrument.

He was influenced from an early age by the songs and music that surrounded him throughout his childhood; his love and passion for music started with the house parties in the community.

Father Anselme Chiasson, one of the foremost folklorists in Canada, recorded Joseph A. Larade's music onto cassette in the early 1960s.

Lyrics

La vie la plus esclave;
C'est la vie des cachots.
Coucher dessus la paille,
Ça fait frémir le coeur.
Mais plutôt qu'y rester esclave,
J'aime mieux mourir un jour,
Mourir sur le champ de bataille.
Chacun meurt à son tour.

J'ai reçus une lettre
De ma chère maman.
J'avais ni encre ni plume
Pour pouvoir lui répondre.
Alors, je pris mon canif,
Je le trempai dans mon sang
Pour pouvoir lui répondre
A ma chère maman.

Quand elle a reçu cette lettre
Toute couverte de sang,
Ses yeux baignent de larmes,
Son coeur s'en va mourant.
Elle se jette à genoux par terre,
Appelant tous ses enfants:
«Prions pour votre frère
Qui est mort au régiment.»