Minuit, chrétiens

When I was a kid, there was always a Christmas program at church. Certain people were known for their particularly beautiful renditions of their “signature” songs. A father-in-law/daughter-in-law duet of “O Holy Night” stands out as one of the memorable ones. Again, although I’ve sung this carol my whole life, I didn’t know it was French.

A wine merchant and poet, Placide Cappeau, composed a Christmas poem, “Minuit, chrétiens” (minwe cray-tea-n) or “Midnight, Christians,” at the request of his parish priest. In 1847, Adolphe Adam set it to music and the carol became known as “Cantique de Noël.” It was translated into English by Unitarian minister John Sullivan Dwight.  It’s memorable for reasons other than my church’s Christmas program. In 1906, it became the second piece of music broadcast on the radio. Virtually every Christmas album has included a version of this beautiful carol.

Here is sung in by French tenor Roberto Alagna. The French lyrics are below with my literal French translation. The artwork is from the Louvre’s collection. By the way, I was having formatting troubles today. The carol insists on being double-spaced, and since it’s almost minuit, I’m throwing in the towel.

Peuple à genoux, attends ta délivrance. (Kneel people, wait for your deliverance)

Noël, Noël, voici le Rédempteur, (Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer)

Noël, Noël, voici le Rédempteur ! (Christmas, Christmas, here is the Redeemer!)

De notre foi que la lumière ardente (May the ardent light of our faith)

Nous guide tous au berceau de l’Enfant, (Guide us to the Infant’s cradle)

Comme autrefois une étoile brillante (As in times past a brilliant star)

Y conduisit les chefs de l’Orient. (There led the Eastern chiefs)

Le Roi des rois naît dans une humble crèche: (The King of kings born in a humble manger )

Puissants du jour, fiers de votre grandeur, (Powerful ones of today, proud of your grandeur,)

A votre orgueil, c’est de là que Dieu prêche. (To your pride, it’s there that God preaches)

Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur. (Bow your heads before the Redeemer.)

Courbez vos fronts devant le Rédempteur. (Bow your heads before the Redeemer.)

Le Rédempteur a brisé toute entrave : (The Redeemer has broken all bonds )

La terre est libre, et le ciel est ouvert. (Earth is free, and heaven is open)

Il voit un frère où n’était qu’un esclave, (He sees a brother where there was only a slave,)

L’amour unit ceux qu’enchaînait le fer. (Love unites those who were chained by iron.)

Qui lui dira notre reconnaissance, (Who will tell him of our gratitude,)

C’est pour nous tous qu’il naît, qu’il souffre et meurt. (It’s for us all that he was born, suffered and died.)

Peuple debout ! Chante ta délivrance, (Rise people ! Sing your deliverance,)

Noël, Noël, chantons le Rédempteur, (Christmas, Christmas, let’s sing of the Redeemer,)

Noël, Noël, chantons le Rédempteur ! (Christmas, Christmas, let’s sing of the Redeemer!)

French Christmas Music

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About Patricia Gilbert

Patricia Gilbert is a French teacher. She's Canadian, lives in the United States, but dreams of living in France. Follow her on Instagram @Onequalitythefinest and on Twitter @1qualthefinest.
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2 Responses to Minuit, chrétiens

  1. Pingback: Noël nouvelet | One quality, the finest.

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