The Fifth Carol of Christmas

       Heinrich Suese, the supposed author of In Dulci Jubilo, according to foklore is said to have heard angels singing the words and "joined them in a dance of worship." Whether or not this is actually the case, I am in no position to speculate, however, when sung by a choir the song really does sound like it is being sung by angels.

   In my case I first knew this song as John Mason Neale's translation "Good Christian men Rejoice." But many feel that Neale was too free with his translation and lost the feel of the song. I also feel this way the more I listen to Robert Lucas de Pearsall's version, a closer adaption with keeps the macaronic nature of the original lyrics.

  Macaronic, my friends, does not have anything to do with pasta. The term simply refers to a song which has been written in two different languages; in this case, German and Latin.

 Neale made a very loose translation of the song entirely into English while de Pearsall translated only the German, much more closely I might add, while leaving the Latin intact. To see what I mean, take a look at the different versions below.

 First, the original text of the first verse. The Latin is italicized:

In dulci jubilo,
Nun singet und seid froh!
Unsers Herzens Wonne
 Leit in praesepio;
Und leuchtet wie die Sonne
Matris in gremio.
Alpha es et O!

Next the literal English translation. It was when I first read this that I began to dislike Neale's translation. His words are not only not even close to this, but they are so shallow in comparison:


In sweet rejoicing,
now sing and be glad!
Our hearts' joy
lies in the manger;
And it shines like the sun
in the mother's lap.
You are the alpha and omega.

For those of you who are not familiar with Good Christian Men rejoice, or haven't heard it in a while, allow me to refresh your memory:

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart, and soul, and voice;
Give ye heed to what we say:
News! News!
Jesus Christ was born to-day:
Ox and ass before Him bow,
And He is in the manger now.
Christ is born today! Christ is born today.

And then compare that with de Pearsall's work:

In dulci jubilo,
Let us our homage show!
Our heart's joy reclineth
In praesepio;
And like a bright star shineth
Matris in gremio.
Alpha es et O!

       Do you all see what I mean now? Seriously. Neale basically wrote his own song and to the tune. And though decent, doesn't even begin to compare with the depth of the original text.

 Alright, enjoy this lovely rendition of Pearsall's verses sung by the King's College Choir. I don't have a translation of the Latin for the rest of the verses...feel free to google it if you're curious. Or, if you know Latin, that can be helpful as well. For those of you who are familiar with Good Christian men Rejoice, notice the that in instead of going down the three notes we have come to expect in the tune at the word "shineth" the choir skips the middle note and hesitates on the first just a little longer which actually appeals to me more....I'd love hear what all of you think about this in comparison to what you grew up with! :)


 In dulci jubilo
Let us our homage shew:
Our heart's joy reclineth
In praesepio;
And like a bright star shineth
Matris in gremio,
Alpha es et O!

O Jesu parvule,
My heart is sore for Thee!
Hear me, I beseech Thee,
O puer optime;
My praying let it reach Thee,
O princeps gloriae.
Trahe me post te.

 O patris caritas!
O Nati lenitas!
Deeply were we stained.
Per nostra crimina:
But Thou for us hast gained
Coelorum gaudia,
Qualis gloria!

 Ubi sunt gaudia,
If that they be not there?
There are Angels singing
Nova cantica;
And there the bells are ringing
In Regis curia.
O that we were there!

Indeed my friends. Bells are ringing in the King's court, and someday we'll be there!

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