The Hymns and Carols of Christmas

The Bells Of Bethlehem

Words: Les cloches de Bethleem, French Noël

MIDI / Noteworthy Composer / PDF

1. Angels three with gifts for the King;
    Ring out, wild bells, in far Judee!
A branch of myrrh and a golden ring,
And incense to burn for the worshipping!
    Ring out, wild bells,
    Ring out, ring out, wild bells
    In a far city.

2. Gold and crown of life they bend;
    Ring out, wild bells, in far Judee!
Incense for pray'rs that ever ascent,
And myrrh for the rest that comes at the end.
    Ring out, wild bells,
    Ring out, ring out, wild bells
    In a far city.

The Mother
3. Child and King, these gifts for thee;
    Ring out, wild bells, in far Judee!
Gifts of the noblest, fair to see.
But has Thou none for to give to me?
    Ring out, wild bells,
    Ring out, ring out, wild bells
    In a far city.

The Child
4. Mother sweet, O look not there,
    Ring out, wild bells, in far Judee!
For thee from the Star comes a Lily fair,
Far better than all the jewels rare.
    Ring out, wild bells,
    Ring out, ring out, wild bells
    In a far city.

Notes:

My thanks to Jim from Albuquerque, who wrote in early January, 2014, asking about this carol. Unfortunately, I have lost the original source from which I got this carol, although, as is too often the case, the French title of the song wasn't given in that source. Prompted by Jim's question about the original French Carol, I did some research, and I can now share with you the results.

A caveat: Almost all "translations" are new carols that are inspired by the original (more or less). In this case, the French lyrics don't really relate to the English words above, but, fortunately, the title was a direct translation from French to English.

I spent all of one Sunday afternoon trying to track down this carol, but had no luck. The next morning, I asked myself this question: "What is the French translation of this English title, and will it lead us back to the original Noël?" Accordingly, I went to Google Translator to get the title translated. "The Bells of Bethlehem" is translated as "Les cloches de Bethleem."

From the title, I performed a search, and got links to several web pages that provided a lot of information about this song. First was the CD "Noël autour du monde" by Sonia Maheux. At that web page, track 4-13 has an MP3 of the song: "Les Clothes de Bethléem."

This same CD is seen on another page, "Noël autour du monde." It includes both the French text and Spanish texts, "Campanas de Bélen." There is a cute video of school children from Villancicos en Quito, Ecuador, doing a very good job of singing the Spanish-language version of this song, "Campanas de Bélen."

A third web page for this CD, "Noël autour du monde," has a PDF of "Les Clothes de Bethléem," with the the French and Spanish lyrics displayed (a much better job than either of the other pages).

From that page we have the French lyrics to this song:

Toutes les cloches résonnent
En écho les cloches sonnent
Si tu regardes tout au loin là-bas
L’enfant dans son berceau tu verras

Les cloches, les cloches de Bethléem
Que font sonner les anges
Pour chanter ses louanges

«Tout ton troupeau est rassemblé
Que fais-tu donc petit berger ? »
« Je vais porter à l'étable
Du pain, du vin sur la table »

Toutes les cloches résonnent
En écho les cloches sonnent
Si tu regardes tout au loin là-bas
L’enfant dans son berceau tu verras

« Pourquoi marches-tu seul dans la nuit ?
Où vas-tu donc petit berger ? »
« Je m’en vais voir le petit enfant
pour l’aimer et pour le réchauffer »

To get an idea of the idea behind the French lyrics, I went back to Google Translator, and got this literal English translation:

All the bells resound
Echoing the bells
If you look away while there
The child in the cradle you will see
 
The bells, the bells of Bethlehem
That are ringing Angels
To sing his praises
 
"All thy flock gathered
So that little shepherd you doing? "
"I'll bring it to the barn
Bread and wine on the table "
 
All the bells resound
Echoing the bells
If you look away while there
The child in the cradle you will see
 
"Why are you walking alone at night?
Where are you going little shepherd? "
"I'm going to see the child
to love and warm "

As noted above, literal translations will not give us an exact English song, but does give us the idea behind the lyrics. From that, you or I could create an English lyric that would reflect the spirit of the French noël, with varying results.

Finally, at Amazon there's another CD, "Les Plus Beaux Chants de Noël - Messe de minuit à Bethléem," with this song, and a music sampler link. Head down to Disk 1, Track 1, "Les cloches de bethléem," and click on the "Listen" link. Note: it wouldn't open on my computer.

There we have it, a mystery solved. Again, my thanks to Jim for the question.

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