Monday, January 02, 2006

Christmas Schmissmas

As we head into the second week of Christmas (keep those decorations up and those candles lit!), and we continue to sing Christmas hymns and carols in church (yay for the Catholics!) do we notice that there are many Christmas favorites whose lyrics DON'T RHYME?

Doesn't it seem unusual? I know that some are the result of close translations of lyrics in other languages, but surely there are better rhymes than these:

Silent Night, verse 2:

Silent Night, Holy Night,
Shepherds quake at the sight,
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing alleluia;
Christ the Savior, is born!
Christ the Savior, is born!

(admit it, you have occasionally happily sung "allelui-yar"....)

Hark the Herald Angels Sing, verse 2:

Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the Virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell;
Jesus, our Emmanuel!

(so do you sing "coom and womb" and "come and wumb?")

For that matter, there's also verse 1:

Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!
Joyful, all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With the angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem!
Hark! the herald angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!

("proclaim" and "Bethlehem" might rhyme, depending on your regional accent, perhaps)

Wait! There's more - Joy to the World, verse 4:

He rules the world with truth and grace,
and makes the nations prove
the glories of His righteousness,
and wonders of His love,
and wonders of His love,
and wonders, wonders of His love.

(Christmas lyrics seem strangely spiritless when printed out this way, don't they?)

The big winner is The Holly and the Ivy, whose first THREE verses AND the chorus itself don't rhyme:

The holly and the ivy,
When they are both full grown,
Of all trees that are in the wood,
The holly bears the crown!

O, the rising of the sun,
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ,
Sweet singing in the choir.

The holly bears a blossom,
As white as lily flow'r,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
To be our dear Saviour!

The holly bears a berry,
As red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ,
To do poor sinners good.

(This song gets Ye Olde Englishe Passe on differences in rhyme caused by the age of the song, but it's interesting that so many words have changed in their sound since this composition.)

I wonder if this phenomenon happens in Easter hymns?


Henry Dieterich said...

I think the others get the (not-so)-olde English pass too. Pronunciation has changed since the 18th century, when both "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" and "Joy to the World" were written. And in England, the "r" in afar is not pronounced (although people from Boston have been heard to pronounce "Alleluia" as "Alleluyer"). Who needs rhyme anyway? I just sing 'em like I say 'em.



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