I suppose some Christmas carols shouldn’t be interrogated too deeply…
…because otherwise we would never get past the first line. I mean, who are Jeannette and Isabella, why are there French women (or girls) in Bethlehem, and what good will a torch be if Mary’s trying to get the baby to sleep?
Yeah, let’s let all of that go, and celebrate this sweet, light French carol – a 17th century folk song from Provence. The song remains an important part of Christmas Eve celebrations in the Provence region, where children dress up as shepherds and milkmaids, carrying torches and candles to Midnight Mass while singing this carol.
Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle,
un flambeau, courons au berceau!
C’est Jésus, bonnes gens du hameau,
le Christ est né, Marie appelle,
Ah! Ah! Ah! Que la mère est belle,
Ah! Ah! Ah! que l’Enfant est beau!
Bring a torch, Jeannette, Isabella,
bring a torch and quickly run.
Christ is born, good folk of the village,
Christ is born and Mary’s calling,
Ah! Ah! Beautiful is the mother,
Ah! Ah! Beautiful is her child.
Come and see within the stable,
come and see the Holy one,
come and see the lovely Jesus,
brown his brow, his cheeks are rosy.
Hush! Hush! Quietly now he slumbers,
Hush! Hush! Quietly now he sleeps.
I should mention that according to Hymnary, there is a third verse, and it’s a bit of a scold:
It is wrong when the Child is sleeping
It is wrong to talk so loud;
Silence, all, as you gather around.
Lest your noise should waken Jesus.
Hush! hush! see how fast He slumbers;
Hush! hush! see how fast He sleeps!
I’m really glad our Hymnal Commission didn’t include this verse – yikes! It’s much more lovely with just the verses we sing.
And yes, I love that this is included in our hymnal, especially with the first verse in French. It’s not at all deep or theological, but it is lovely and gentle. I love this in children’s or treble voices, sung lightly as if a dance.
The picture is of some of the Christmas celebrations in Provence. Sheep apparently figure prominently.