In France the chanson paillarde or bawdy song is intimately linked with the medical profession, more precisely the world of the hospital. They are commonly called chansons de salles de garde or duty-room songs, the duty-room being the common room where young interns rested when on call. It also served as a refectory where they took their meals together, and sometimes staged boisterous parties. It was for many years a predominantly male preserve, though more recently the duty-room has become increasingly inclusive, and female interns these days are usually willing participants in such revels rather than coerced nursing staff. Here the interns sang about drinking and loose women, the heightened joie de vivre helping them to accommodate themselves with the closeness of illness, suffering and death. In these songs there are constant references to every form and deviation of the act of sex, as well as prostitution, venereal diseases, and scatology.
Many collections of these songs exist, many crudely illustrated by anonymous artists; this is Hémard’s contribution, published ‘Au Quartier Latin’ (in the Latin Quarter) with no other publishing details beyond the warning ‘Le tirage, très limité, n'est pas mis dans le commerce’ (This edition, very limited, is not available for sale). There is not even a publication date, so our suggestion is a guess. In addition to twelve colourful pochoir prints, Hémard contributed small two-colour headers for each of the 53 songs; we have only included the ones that border on the mildly erotic.