The autograph of this song was recovered from the files of the publisher Salabert and it is highly unlikely that Poulenc intended to publish it. The poet Théodore de Banville (1823–1891), the highly skilled precursor of the Parnassians, was completely outside Poulenc’s area of literary interest. Banville had been set some dozen times by the young Claude Debussy; it was almost certainly Debussy’s skittish setting of this Pierrot
(composed in 1882 but posthumously published only in 1926 as one of Quatre chansons de jeunesse
) that drew Poulenc’s attention to the poem—written as one of twenty-four Caprices in the manner of the sixteenth-century poet Clémont Marot. Jean Gaspard Deburau was a famous Czech-born mime of the 1830s who created the character of Pierrot as his trademark. Poulenc’s madcap and unsubstantial song, perhaps written for some party event involving the work’s socialite dedicatee, Marie Laure de Noailles, takes its cue from the Debussy using an updated and more jazzy harmonic idiom.
from notes by Graham Johnson © 2013