It’s almost time for that wonderful morning when the children leap out of beds around the world and tear open bits of paper in search of some special treasure. For me it is the time of year when I get to break out with the one real great excuse I have to speak in Latin to myself.
It’s not as if there are a great many people around who share that particular interest.
My all-time favorite Latin Christmas carol is Silent Night, possibly because I remember all the worlds without fail each year, and quite possibly because I can actually sing the song decently.
Of course, despite the fact that I’m humming along to my Silens Nox there apparently must be a knock-down, drag-out, linguistic geek-fest over how to properly translate carols in Latin.
It seems there are people who prefer to say Tranquilla Nox instead of Silens Nox… really?? Tranquilla? It’s not calm or still… its SILENT. Quiet. Not calm. Urgh.
Ok so moving onward, it’s Silens Nox, then holy night or what I would call Sacra Nox. But apparently Sancta Nox is also a common version. Ok, I can live with that contention, although I consider Sancta somewhat more formal and Sacra somewhat more descriptive I suppose you could argue that either fits.
The next line is ‘all is calm, all is bright’ so I was a bit thrown by the suggestion that it should be ‘Dormit mundus, nullus vox’ for that line. The world is asleep and no one is speaking?? How is that all is calm and bright? Ridiculous. Now I can be on board with the suggestion that it should be ‘Placida, Lucida’ even if I disagree with the form – yet it is at least closer to my preference: Omnes Pax, Omnes Lux (or even Omnes est Pax, Omnes est Lux) meaning all is peace and all is light – which is close and works well for rhyming even if calm would be preferred over peace.
Next is ‘Round yon virgin, mother and child’ which typically would be said as ‘Circum matrem et puerum’ or even some variation with Virginem but I was very surprised (or perhaps less now?) that the same person who thinks the world should be asleep said that it should be translated: ‘Iam auditur, in stabulo’ …. are you serious? You hear them over in the stable??
I’m wondering what version of this song they’re singing because it certainly isn’t the one I know.
When their next line was ‘Maria et Ioseph cum puero’ (Mary and Joseph with son) I just gave up because … really, I only get a short window to speak Latin with other people and this is just irritating me when I would rather be singing! So perhaps a reminder, sing if you want to sing and don’t wait for others to join you.
Da fidei quae fidei sunt, date et dabitur vobis dei gratia. Te deus custodiat et Merry Christmas!