Thursday, December 22, 2011

♬ ’Twas in the Moon of Wintertime ♬

Have courage, you who are human beings: Jesus, he is born
The okie spirit who enslaved us has fled
Don't listen to him for he corrupts the spirits of our thoughts
Jesus, he is born


The okie spirits who live in the sky are coming with a message
They're coming to say, "Rejoice!
Mary has given birth. Rejoice!"
Jesus, he is born
"Huron Carol", music and lyrics by Jean de Brébeuf, Jesuit missionary (1593-1649)

A long, long time ago when I was in grade school -- at a time when music and art were considered important subjects for producing thoughtful citizens -- I learned a truly Canadian carol and the homeland's oldest Christmas song: "'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime" or "Huron Carol".  A Jesuit missionary living among the Huron/Wendat people on Georgian Bay, Jean de Brébeuf, composed a carol that set the Nativity within their culture and wrote the lyrics in their language. Some 300 years later, in 1926, Jesse Edgar Middleton wrote the English lyrics that I learned in school. Some critics label the carol 'patronizing' but that is certainly not how it was taught to me. The carol is imbued with reverence for the Nativity and the Native culture.

Notwithstanding the policies of our national government, I believe most Canadians also revere nature and enjoy being in her embrace. Several hundred people came out tonight for a walk in the woods to see Tiffany Falls illuminated by the City of Waterfalls volunteers.

It was a spectacular sight, full of Christmas spirit(s).

Actor and singer Tom Jackson, a Canadian Métis, sings "'Twas in the Moon of Wintertime" in his annual Christmas fund-raising concerts:


’Twas in the Moon of Wintertime (Huron Carol)
Lyrics by Jesse Edgar Middleton (1926)

’Twas in the moon of wintertime,
When all the birds had fled,
That mighty Gitchi Manitou
Sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim,
And wondering hunters heard the hymn:
Refrain:
Jesus your King is born,
Jesus is born,
In excelsis gloria.
Within a lodge of broken bark
The tender babe was found,
A ragged robe of rabbit skin
Enwrapped His beauty round;
But as the hunter braves drew nigh,
The angel song rang loud and high:
Refrain
The earliest moon of wintertime
Is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on
The helpless Infant there.
The chiefs from far before Him knelt
With gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Refrain
O children of the forest free,
O seed of Manitou,
The holy Child of earth and Heav’n
Is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant Boy,
Who brings you beauty, peace and joy.
Refrain
It seems that Middleton took some (OK, a lot of) liberty in his translation of Brébeuf's original lyrics. Here Bruce Cockburn sings the carol as Brébeuf wrote it, in the now near-extinct Huron language, thanks to help of University of Sudbury linguist John Steckley who also provided an accurate English translation below.


Iesus Ahatonnia ("Jesus, He is Born")
Lyrics translated by John Steckley (2009)

Have courage, you who are human beings: Jesus, he is born
The okie spirit who enslaved us has fled
Don't listen to him for he corrupts the spirits of our thoughts
Jesus, he is born


The okie spirits who live in the sky are coming with a message
They're coming to say, "Rejoice!
Mary has given birth. Rejoice!"
Jesus, he is born


Three men of great authority have left for the place of his birth
Tiscient, the star appearing over the horizon leads them there
That star will walk first on the bath to guide them
Jesus, he is born


The star stopped not far from where Jesus was born
Having found the place it said,
"Come this way"
Jesus, he is born


As they entered and saw Jesus they praised his name
They oiled his scalp many times, anointing his head
with the oil of the sunflower
Jesus, he is born


They say, "Let us place his name in a position of honour
Let us act reverently towards him for he comes to show us mercy
It is the will of the spirits that you love us, Jesus,
and we wish that we may be adopted into your family
Jesus, he is born

Source: http://cockburnproject.net/songs&music/ia.html

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