‘O Holy Night’ revisited

There is something to be said for the fact that when something is translated from another language that something doesn’t quite transfer.  And there are other times when you look at two different translations and you think to yourself, “Methinks something stinks with one of these.”  Well, it was recently pointed out to me in Touchstone Magazine that one of my holy-days favorites, “O Holy Night”, is just such a situation.  Originally written in French in the mid-1800’s by an amateur poet, it was translated into English by a Unitarian minister. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I had four years of French (Hooray for you, Mrs. Byrd!).  But that was almost 20 years ago, so my French skills have dwindled to where about the only thing I can do is pronounce hors d’oeuvres correctly … I think (sorry, Mrs. Byrd).  [If anyone is interested in the original French text, you can go here.]

When God as man descended among us
To expunge the stain of original sin
And to put an end to the wrath of his father.
The entire world thrills with hope
On this night which gives us a savior.
People, on your knees, attend your deliverance.
Christmas! Christmas! Here is the Redeemer!
Christmas! Christmas! Here is the Redeemer!
 
The ardent light of our Faith,
Guides us all to the cradle of the infant,
As in ancient times a brilliant star
Conducted the Magi there from the orient.
The King of kings was born in a humble manger;
O mighty ones of today, proud of your grandeur,
It is to your pride that God preaches.
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
Bow your heads before the Redeemer!
 
The Redeemer has broken all shackles.
The earth is free and heaven is open.
He sees a brother were there was once but a slave;
Love unites those who restrain the sword.
Who will tell him our gratitude?
It is for us all that he was born, that he suffered and died.
People, stand up, sing your deliverance!
Christmas! Christmas! Let us sing the Redeemer!
Christmas! Christmas! Let us sing the Redeemer!

Now let it be said, I will sing “O Holy Night” with much gusto and enjoy it deeply this Christmas season.  But how much better could this great song be if fidelity to the original had been maintained?!  Oh how I would love to sing those first few phrases of verse three: “The Redeemer has broken all shackles.  The earth is free and heaven is open.  He sees a brother were there was once but a slave

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1 Comment

Filed under The Church, Vision and Devotion

One response to “‘O Holy Night’ revisited

  1. Richard Jones

    I think we should sing the original words. wow what meaning!

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