Today I decided to informally ask people what their favorite Christmas song is, as an unscientific survey. Two Starbuck’s baristas I asked said Amy Grant’s “Breath of Heaven” and “Jingle Bells”. The second one got me thinking of secular Christmas songs, but as you see below even my ‘secular’ song is rooted in the old Judaeo-Christian heritage of Europe.
The Boar’s Head Carol
The boar’s head in hand bear I,
Bedeck’d with bays and rosemary.
And I pray you, my masters, merry be
Quot estis in convivio (As many as are in the feast)
Caput apri defero (The boar’s head I offer)
Reddens laudes Domino (Giving praises to the Lord)
The boar’s head, as I understand,
Is the rarest dish in all this land,
Which thus bedeck’d with a gay garland
Let us servire cantico. (Let us serve with a song)
Our steward hath provided this
In honour of the King of Bliss;
Which, on this day to be served is
In Reginensi atrio. (In the Queen’s hall)
My most vivid memories of this song are hearing it sung by the madrigal singers at Covenant College as the boar’s head, complete with an apple in its mouth, was carried in for the feast.
The Boar’s Head Carol is a macaronic 15th century carol–in other words it uses a mixture of languages. Macaronic text sometimes includes bilingual puns. Can you think of a few other more common macaronic carols?