Although it dates only from the 18th Century, "Au Claire De La Lune" is one of the most famous of French folk songs, including in England where it is particularly well known in primary schools as an elementary tune for descant recorder. Where it is sung, the French lyrics are universally preferred.
The opening lines are especially well known:
Au clair de la lune Mon ami Pierrot Prête-moi ta plume Pour écrire un mot
The provenance of the song is not known, nor is it known if the words and music came together, or if one preceded the other. There are of course variants, especially on the words.
Unlike many folk songs, it appears to have no particular regional, national, political or moral significance or message, but it does have one particular significance; on April 9, 1860, the Parisian inventor Edouard-Leon Scott de Martinville made what is believed to be the first-ever recording of the human voice. It was discovered in February 2008 hidden away in the archives of the French Academy Of Sciences, and the following month the 10-second clip was retrieved from the original soot-covered paper phonoautograph recording by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. The voice was originally thought to be an unknown woman's due to a miscalculation of the playback speed that pitched the sound higher and faster. The revised version renders a male voice, possibly the inventor's, slowly singing a snippet of the song.
Among the many published versions is a 1925 arrangement issued by Boston Music (of Boston!) in 1925, "Variations on a French Folk Song" by Mark Wessel.
Suggestion credit: Alexander Baron - London, England, for above 2
This features prominently in the 1956 thriller The Bad Seed. The murderous child, played by Patty McCormack, incessantly practices the tune on the piano.