la Grande Ours


Welcome to Sunday morning in the French wine-making town of Rasteau, a smile around every corner... Read on, in today's story column. All photos © Kristin Espinasse

un sourire (soo-reer) noun, masculine

    : smile

Just a smile for you today. For more about the French word "sourire" visit the smile post.


On a photographic escapade through the town of Rasteau, I ...

...met a foul-mouthed French dog (photos, below)
...watched an immigrant scrub her tiny window sill with soap and water--
...made a mental note for once and for all to plant a vine of passion fruit!
...gazed at a stone Virgin Mary, wrapped in ivy, high on a hilltop
...heard a scream (the cranky dog's owner, calling the latter home?)--
...observed a moment of silence before a WWI memorial statue--
...wondered what all the dormant, flower-bare window boxes might look like in springtime, summer, autumn... anytime but winter--
...and glimpsed this sunshiny reminder to smile (taped to the window of an inconnu*; see it below)

But you know the saying: it is those things that you've left undone that you'll regret one day. And so:

On a photographic escapade through the town of Rasteau... I failed to:

...skip to the other side of the street to say hello to the lady washing her window sill--
...wander into the café, where the locals were playing cards, and saluer* BONJOUR Messieurs!*
Snap a photo of the charming, chipped iron gate beyond which a window dressed with lacy curtainettes screamed, "I am Provence, hear me roar!" (I couldn't imagine who might be watching me back, through the fine veil of *privacy*: it seemed right to respect the other's). out to the man behind the open garage door and say "In America, we open our garage doors on Sundays, too!"
...climb onto the rail and slide down two flights of cobbled stairs: wheeee!

...steal the Valerian growing out of the stone walls, sporting raspberry red flowerettes even in wintertime!
...take a minute to rest--on the bench facing the hilltop church--and confess my sins which mostly stem from impatience, impatience even to sit down and smile for a while.

I leave you with that message that I saw stuck to this window framed in green, my favorite color. If you would like to help translate it, please do so in the comments box, for all to see and enjoy:

DSC_0048 Un Sourire
(listen to this text: mp3 or wave)

Un sourire ne coûte rien et produit beaucoup,
Il enrichit ceux qui le reçoivent,
Sans appauvrir ceux qui le donnent.
Il ne dure qu'un instant,
Mais son souvenir est parfois éternel.
Personne n'est assez pauvre pour ne pas le mériter.
Il crée le bonheur au foyer, soutient les affaires,
Il est le signe sensible de l'amitié.
Un sourire donne du repos à l'être fatigué,
Il ne peut ni s'acheter, ni se prêter, ni se voler,
Car c'est une chose qui n'a de valeur
Qu'à partir du moment où il se donne.
Et si quelquefois vous rencontrez une personne
Qui ne sait plus avoir le sourire,
Soyez généreux, donnez-lui le vôtre
Car nul n'a autant besoin d'un sourire
Que celui qui ne peut en donner aux autres.

PS: One last regret: I didn't stand there before the sourire sign, scratching my head like Columbo, reciting the lines of the Sourire poem
aloud (for the secret benefit of passers-by). How else to call attention to the wonderful words therein, so as not to keep them to oneself?


Comments, corrections...and stories of your own... always welcome in the comments box. Merci beaucoup!

*French Vocabulary: saluer = to say hello; bonjour, messieurs = hello, gentlemen!

Archive Pics
If you follow this word journal on Twitter or Facebook, then you might have seen these articles posted over the weekend.
Over a dozen ways to say "Darling" in French
"To be going down hill" and more pente idioms and photos from 2005

Cartes-postales Cartes Postales: an album--with vintage flair--for post cards

SmartFrench Audio CD : beginner level

Berlingot Featured product:
Les Berlingots

The Berlingot is a tiny sweet in the shape of a cube, or dice. Its name is said to come from the game of jacks, or osselets which was called berlingaù in Provençal.


I just loved this green house... with the upside down green wheelbarrow and overall chaotic feel. I could have photographed it from another angle--if the little yippy-yap yowler in the front hadn't chased me off his terroir.

(c) Kristin Espinasse
And yet another passion fruit vine, draping itself across France.

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Not sure of all, but here is my attempt at translation:

A smile costs nothing and yields much.
It enriches those who receive it,
Without impoverishing those who give it.
It lasts but an instant
But its memory is sometimes eternal.
None is so wanting as to not deserve it.
It creates happiness in hearth and home,
It sustains us in our daily affairs,
It is the delicate sign of friendship,
It gives respite to the weary,
It cannot be bought nor lent nor stolen
For it is a thing of no value,
It is gone the moment it is given.
And if sometime you meet a person
Who no longer knows how to smile,
Be generous; give him yours.
For no one is so in need of a smile
As he who cannot give it to others.


Merci, Jina! Seeing this text in English brings a smile (plus, now my Mom can read & enjoy it!)

PS: thanks, David. I just saw your translation; the more the merrier :-)

David Gr

I thought it might be this:

A smile costs nothing, and produces many
It enriches those who receive,
Without impoverishing those who give.
It only lasts a moment,
But sometimes its memory is eternal.
No one is poor enough to not deserve it.
It creates happiness in the home, supports the business
It is the sensitive sign of friendship.
A smile gives rest to the tired,
It can neither buy nor afford, nor steal,
Because it is something that has value
Only when it gives itself.
And sometimes if you meet a person
Who does not know how to smile,
Be generous, give him yours
Because no one is as much in need of a smile
Whoever can give it to others.

What nice words, and it is so right, a smile costs nothing and makes everything sunny, even on a wet and cold day here in Durham, England.


Here is my try:
A smile costs nothing but yields a lot.
It enriches those who receive it
without impoverishing those who give it.
It only lasts a moment, but the memory of it sometimes lasts forever.
No one is too poor to deserve it.
It creates happiness at home,
it helps business.
It is the obvious sign of friendship.
A smile puts the tired to rest.
It can neither be bought, nor borrowed, nor stolen,
Since it is something which only has value the moment when it is given.
And if sometimes you meet someone who no longer knows how to smile,
Be generous, give him yours,
because no one is as much in need of a smile as he who cannot give one to the others.

Robyn Daniels

Your poem reminded me of one I wrote at school aged 15 and won a prize of a Roget Thesaurus for it; it goes like this:

"I lay me down on a mountain top
To feel the air accept me
In soft, swirling mists of blue,
Blue as the sky that is above me
Echoing the Song of Infinity.

I dream of One who comes
With gaze as soft as starlight
That ingrains itself in my very soul.

A smile absorbed
Locks love away for eternity."

copyright: Robyn Daniels 1965

I am still happy with it as an expression of my romantic creative self but am still waiting for 'the one'.


Un sourire
A smile

Un sourire ne coûte rien et produit beaucoup,
A smile does not cost anything but produces so much*,

Il enrichit ceux qui* le reçoivent,
It enriches the person who receives it

Sans appauvrir ceux qui le donnent.
without impoverishing the one who gives it.

Il ne dure qu'un instant,
It lasts only a few moments,

Mais son souvenir* est parfois éternel.
But its memory may sometimes last for ever.

Personne n'est assez pauvre pour ne pas le mériter.
Nobody is poor enough not to deserve it.

Il crée le bonheur au foyer, soutient les affaires,
It creates happiness at home and sustains businesses,

Il est le signe sensible de l'amitié.
It is the visible sign of friendship.

Un sourire donne du repos à l'être* fatigué.
A smile brings rest to the weary soul.

Il ne peut ni s'acheter, ni se prêter, ni se voler,
It cannot be bought, nor can it be loaned or even stolen,

Car c'est une chose qui n'a de valeur
For it is something which has value

Qu'à partir du moment où il se donne.
Only from the very moment it is given.

Et si quelquefois vous rencontrez une personne
And if sometimes you meet someone

Qui ne sait plus avoir le sourire,
Who no longer knows how to smile,

Soyez généreux, donnez-lui le vôtre
Be generous, give him yours

Car nul n'a autant besoin d'un sourire
As no one is more desperate for a smile

Que celui qui ne peut en donner aux autres.
Than the one who is unable to give a smile to others.

* (but produces) so much* - or: 'but produces a great deal'

* “ceux qui” = 'the people who', but I left it singular: the one who)

* "l'être" = the human being – here, I translated by -> 'the soul'

* "son souvenir est parfois éternel". I could have said: 'its memory may be eternal' but I decided to repeat the verb to last, so here is my choice: its presence may sometimes last for ever.


Beautiful poem and thanks for the translation. The photo of the laundry blowing in the breeze reminds me of one of my favorite restaurants in Aix-en-Provence, Le Patio, on 16 rue Victor Leydet; owners - Chef Didier Nollet and his lovely wife Sophie. In the room where the ceiling can be opened in good weather there is a line of petite blanche clothes hanging across the room. The walls are decorated with collections of all sorts--clocks, birdcages, mailboxes. When I returned to Virginia last October, I mailed Sophie an antique mailbox which had been hanging in my potting shed for years. I look forward to more excellent meals there in 2009...that is, if I can make my way back to France so quickly. (Oh, why not!)


Sourient et les sourires des mondes avec vous, le cri et vous seul cri.

Not sure about this translation, but I used to hear this when I was a little girl:
Smile and the world smiles with you; cry and you cry alone. I try to pass along a few sourirs every day and greatly appreciate the ones received. I keep losing posts! Posted earlier but don't see it.


I enjoyed all of these translations, but Jina, I thought yours was particularly lovely. Thanks!


It would appear that everyone else has beaten me to the translation. :-o

poppy fields

I like the green house, too. Thanks for the reminder to smile :)


That is one tres sassy petit chien in the photo...sooo brave and fluffy and full of itself. Perhaps protecting the great mystery that waits in the dark, arched passageway (in the top right corner of photo). Grrrrrr.....arretez tous! ou je chew your foot et nip at vos ankles....ha ha ha.


Thanks for your photos, Kristin.

I am looking again at the green house you found so attractive with its 'upside down wheelbarrow and overall chaotic feel'. Lovely shadows on the walls!
Is there something missing?
Il n'y a pas de volets à “la fenêtre du bas”!
Judging from the various photos you posted, isn't it unusual to see a 'downstairs window' without shutters? No space available for them!
I can sense an unusual complicity between window & front door, united by what seems to be a gingerish terra cotta painted 'frame' – matching the design around the first floor window! As for the simulated corner stones on each side of the house, I guess one day someone got an idea... knew how to paint red lines … and got on with the job! Interesting!

The green house dwellers love GREEN - no doubt about that. I am wondering whether they have ever felt under threat. Looking more carefully at the downstairs window, the four strong vertical iron bars against it are puzzling me. Is there a lack of safety in that peaceful little town?
The iron gate a metre away from the front door, with the railings on one side, protecting pots and wheelbarrow, and the mesh fencing on the other side (galvanised welded type!) … all this tells me their dear little strip of pavement is 'strictly private'! Have they also trained their 'little yippy-yap yowler' to frighten away intruders and chase them off its masters' territory?

I'd like to think the sturdy climber with its gently arched trunk and bare stems is a 'wisteria' ('wisteria' = une “glycine”) that will produce spectacular cascading flowers in May, followed by a graceful and abundant foliage, all supported by the four brackets sticking out of the wall. I can only think of a wisteria, but another trip in April/May might prove me wrong!

When looking in more details at the climbing vine, I discovered, above the front door, a little roof standing on two graceful green brackets. Is the canopy made of plastic? Or is it a proper 'glass canopy'...? Anyway, even if it looks a bit flimsy & scruffy and whatever it's made of, in French, its name is ---> “une marquise” (a word that sounds nicer than: “un petit auvent vitré”)

Thanks for the reminder to smile.
I was amazed to feel the power of its very ordinary everyday words, conveying so simply such a clear message about the human side of “un sourire”.

PS Ooooh! Valerian flowers growing out of the stone walls? How delightful! Did you have time to take a couple of photos? No veil of privacy for flowers!


It was nice to see the poem Un Sourire in this one. We use it at my High School for French National Honor Society iniation. I absolutely love it! I couldn't find my version of the translation though.


I like to think about origins of words and their associations, and I also collect confusing double meanings. So first I wondered if sourire came from 2 words, rire = to laugh, and sous meaning under or sub- so sous-rire to 'nearly laugh' or smile. Maybe... But then, 'I smile' is je souris, and une souris is a mouse. Perhaps the last thing a lot of people do when they see a mouse is to smile (one of my friends stood on the sofa until a friend chased the poor little animal away). But it's also the computer mouse, so Kristin used her souris to write about smiles. Hmmm...

All the best


Doris H. Dunham

Thank you for sharing the story and pictures of your beautiful grandmother. That was my first day on this wonderful list. May you always keep her memory alive in your hearts and minds by speaking of her often...the fun times, the embarrassing times, the frustrating times, and even the sad times. There is an old African legend (The Cow-Tail Switch) which ends with the moral,"No one is truly dead until they have been forgotten."

May your grandmother live forever.


I love this poem. I discovered tonight that the author is Raoul Follereau “Le Livre d’amour” (1920). French author 1903-1977
Founder of la Fondation Raoul-Follereau which since 1967 helps and defends lepers, especially in the countries of Africa

I'm casting my vote for your translation, Newforest24.

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