Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Gabriel fram heven king

Everyone loves a good Christmas carol and though most of the ones we are familiar with today are from Victorian times when Christmas as we now think of it was invented, there are some wonderful ones from earlier centuries when it was a purely religious festival. One of my favourites dates back to the 13th century and was actually mentioned by Chaucer in The Miller's Tale where it is sung by the clerk Nicholas. Chaucer calls it by its Latin title of Angelus ad virginem but there is an English version too which I prefer because of the rich and robust sound of the words and a greater sense it gives you of being taken back to the Middle Ages. The song is probably French in origin but it adapts very well to anglicisation. It has a wonderful lilting melody and like many carols you feel you could dance to it. It certainly has a feeling of joy. Wikipedia says it was probably Franciscan in origin and it does have that sweet simplicity you would associate with St Francis.

The song tells the story of the Annunciation when the angel Gabriel appears to the Virgin Mary to announce her divine destiny and ask her if she will accept it. Her humility and grace when faced by this stupendous news is deeply touching. Here she is confronted by a great angel of the Lord and all she asks is how this thing can happen since she is a maid. Nothing about herself. When the miracle is explained to her she accepts it instantly and gives herself over completely to the task.

In this recording by St George's Canzona the tune is given a rather rumbustious folk music performance which suits it quite well though the sense of mystery might be somewhat lacking. Only the first verse is sung.





This is a more reflective performance, perhaps more in keeping with the momentousness of the occasion. All the verses are sung.




Original English version with modern translation in italics

Gabriel, fram hevene king
Sent to the maide sweete,
Broute hire blisful tiding,
And faire he gan hire greete
"Heil be thu, ful of grace aright,
For Godes Sone, this heven-light,
For mannes love
Wil man bicome
And take
Fles of thee, maide bright,
Manken free for to make
Of senne and devles might."

Gabriel, from heaven's king
Sent to the maid sweet,
Brought her blissful tidings,
And fair he did her greet:
"Hail be thou, full of grace aright,
For God's Son, this heaven's light,
For man's love
Will man become
And take
Flesh of thee, maiden bright,
Mankind free for to make
From sin and devil's might."

Mildelich him gan andswere
The milde maiden thanne:
"Wichewise sold ichs bere
A child withhute manne?"
Th'angle hir seid, "Ne dred tee nout;
Thurw th'oligast sal been iwrout
This ilche thing
Warof tiding
Ich bringe.
Al manken wurth ibout
Thurw thine sweete childinge,
And hut of pine ibrout."

Gently him did answer
The gentle maiden then:
"In what way can I bear
A child without a man?"
The angel said, "Fear thee naught;
Through the Holy Ghost shall be wrought
This same thing
Of which tiding
I bring.
All mankind will be redeemed
Through your sweet child
And delivered from suffering."

Wan the maiden understood
And th'angles wordes herde,
Mildelich with milde mud
To th'angle hie andswerde:
"Ure lords thewe maid iwis
Ich am, that her aboven is.
Anenttis me
Fulfurthed be
Thi sawe,
That ich, sith his wil is,
A maide withhute lawe
Of moder have the blis."

When the maiden understood
And the angel's words heard,
Gently with a gentle mind
To the angel she answered
"Our Lord's serving maiden indeed
I am, who here above is.
Concerning me
Fulfilled shall be
Your saying
That I, since his will it is,
A maiden, without a husband
Of motherhood will have the bliss."

Th'angle went awei mid than
Al ut of hire sighte
Hire wombe arise gan
Thurw th'oligastes might.
In hire was Crist biloke anon
Sooth God, sooth man in fles and bon,
And of hir fles
Ibore was
At time,
Warthurw us kam good won.
He bout us ut of pine
And let im for us slon.

The angel then departed
All out of her sight
Her womb to arise began
Through the Holy Ghost's might.
In her was Christ soon enclosed 
True God, true man in flesh and bone,
And of her flesh 
Born he was
In time,
In this way good fortune came to us
He bought us out of pain
And was for us slain.

Maiden moder makeles,
Of milche ful ibunde
Bid for us im that te ches,
At wam thu grace funde,
That he forgive us sen and wrake,
And clene of evri gelt us make;
And heven-blis
Wan ure time is
To sterve
Us give for thine sake
Him so her for to serve
That he us to him take.

Spotless maiden mother 
Of mercy full abounding,
Pray for us to him who chose you
With whom you found grace,
That he forgive us sin and vengeance
And cleanse us of all our guilt 
And heaven's bliss
When our time has come
To die
Grant us for thy sake
Him so here for to serve
That he us to him take.












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