Traditional French, 19th Century
Ah! Quel grand mystère!
Dieu se fait enfant.
Il descend sur terre,
Lui, le tout-puissant!
C’est bien le Messie,
Roi de l’univers,
Qui nous rend la vie
En brisant nos fers.
Le grand Roi des anges,
Des bergers sans crainte,
L’univers en fête
Ah! What a great mystery!
God makes himself a child.
He comes down to the earth,
He, the all-powerful.
He is the Messiah indeed,
King of the universe,
Who gives us back life
By breaking our chains.
The great King of Angels,
Shepherds without fear
Blessing the dawn
The universe in festivity
This and three other carols were generously provided by Michael Johnson, who wrote:
I am attaching the texts for four additional French Christmas carols:
1. Ça, Bergers, assemblons nous
2. Dans cette étable
3. Ah! Quel grand mystère
4. En cette nuit
The texts are taken from the public domain. The first carol is generally sung to a melody which dates from at least the 16th Century and, in fact, it is reported that the tune (but not these words) was sung by the crew of Jacques Cartier`s ship La Grande Hermine anchored off Stadaconé (the Algonkian name of what became Québec City) on Christmas Day, 1535. (Québec historian, Ernest Myrand).
The other three are all 19th Century hymns, popular both in France and Québec.
The four carols as well as many of the others which you already have on the site, are on the NAXOS CD: En la Fête de Noël/O Holy Night issued in 1999 and sung by La Petite Bande de Montréal. It's really a very wonderful recording (I had nothing to do with it), but the jewel case liner, as is so often the case now, does not have the words in French or in English. Since I give the CD often as a Christmas present, it will be helpful to be able to tell people to look at your site for the words. NAXOS now has the CD on line, but still do not have the words or any translation!
I have provided translations for these four carols. They are very literal as is my habit and I have phrased them so that each line of the English translates the words in the corresponding line of the French. This makes the word order somewhat awkward at times in English, but people are forever asking me, when the translation is freer, "Yes, but what exactly does the French mean?" By translating it this way, they can now know. Frankly, it's fairly pedestrian, but it is more poetic in French, where it rhymes.
The music for Ça, bergers and for Ah! Quel Grand Mystère is particularly lovely.
In Québec (as on the CD) the arrangements used are generally by the Québecois composer/organist Raymond Daveluy. The four-part settings, with organ accompaniment and basic registration for Swell and Positive organ with pedal notation can be obtained from Les Entreprises Culturelles, 399, rue des Conseillers, La Prairie, Québec J5R 4H6 Canada (514-659-1282) and are available from Archambault Booksellers in Montréal and Québec (where I bought them).
That collection does not have En cette nuit, but has seven carols in addition to the ones I am passing along to you:
Amour, honneur, louange
Les Anges Dan Nos Campagnes
Il Est Ne Le Divin Enfant
Le Sommeil de l'Enfant Jésus (The Sleep of the Child Jesus)
this last being the official title of Entre le boeuf et l'âne gris.
You already have most of these on your site.
So, thanks once again for your very lovely site.