STLT#258, Whence, O Shepherd Maiden?

Sometimes all hope of focusing on a spiritual practice goes out the window – not because of the world events, or because of some deep tragedy. No, sometimes all hope disappears because there is a young squirrel running around the house wreaking havoc. Including running across my legs at 5am. My sister’s been dealing with this for a few days, and just now we finally have the pest control people out to plug holes in this old Victorian house and set traps, hoping we can get this poor critter out and not coming back.

So … the morning’s been fraught.

And then, I sat down to sing this odd little French carol, D’où viens tu, Bergère? and try to learn something about it.

Here’s what I know:

It’s French.

Yep, that’s pretty much all I know.

Whence, O shepherd maiden, whence came you?
Whence, O shepherd maiden, whence came you?
I come from the manger, walking on my way,
nothing ever stranger seen within my day.

What saw you there, maiden, what saw you?
What saw you there, maiden, what saw you?
I saw lying cradled there a tiny child,
in the new straw huddled, softly it was piled.

Nothing more then, maiden, nothing more?
Nothing more then, maiden, nothing more?
Mary, holy mother, nursing babe at breast,
Joseph, holy father, with the cold oppressed.

Well, I also know we’ve got some intriguing lyrics, especially the very last line – I mean, I’m glad Joseph gets a nod and the honorific “holy father”… but I’m not sure I get what it’s saying?

I also know that the only lyrics I could find in French are the first verse:

D’où viens-tu, bergère ? D’où viens-tu?
Je viens de l’étable de m’y promener!
J’ai vu un miracle, ce soir arriver!
Rien de plus, bergère? Rien de plus?
Y’a le boeuf et l’âne, qui sont par devant,
Avec leur haleine Réchauffant L’Enfant.

I’m happy for anyone to translate that for me – my French is so rusty it would give you tetanus.

Anyway. A weird morning and an odd carol. I’m curious about your impressions and experiences with it.

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