Thursday, January 1, 2009

On Translations and Christmas Hymns

Translations, as anyone who's studied a language at more than a very basic level knows, nearly always fall short of the original, and doubly so with poetry. Last Christmas, I happened upon the words to the old French carol Cantique de Noël (which you Anglophones may recognize as O Holy Night), and fell immediately in love with it. In honor of this, the eighth day in the Octave of Christmas, here is my direct translation of the original French:
(*I didn't translate Noël, French for Nativity/Christmas, because the poetry would have been completely ruined. But you get the idea.)

Midnight, Christians, is the solemn hour
When the Man-God descended among us
For purpose of erasing the original stain
And stopping the wrath of His Father.
The whole world trembles in hope
In this night which gives them a Savior.

People on your knees, await your deliverance.
Noël, Noël, here is the Redeemer,
Noël, Noël, here is the Redeemer!

The Redeemer has broken (overcome) all obstacles:
The earth is free, and heaven is open.
He sees a brother who was naught but a slave,
Love unites those who were chained by iron.
Who will tell Him of our gratitude?
It's for us all that He was born,
That he suffered and died.

People standing, sing of your deliverance.
Noël, Noël, sing of the Redeemer,
Noël, Noël, sing of the Redeemer!

That last verse reminds me of an incredible gem that Fr. H spoke in his homily today: A good lover not only desires his beloved, but is eager for opportunity to sacrifice for her. Just so, the Infant King could not wait for Calvary, but rushed to shed for us already, a mere eight days after his birth as man, blood enough to satisfy the divine Justice and accomplish our redemption. Wow.

Joyeux Noël à tout !

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