Donkey’s Mass: Orientis partibus

Leggi in Italiano

The Donkey Festival (or Festa dei Folli, known as the Festa dei Pazzi in Florence) was celebrated in the church in different regions of Europe, on the day of the Circumcision of the Child Jesus (on the first of January – see Holy Foreskin); but the date in question varied so could fall to Epiphany or January 14 (see Jean-Baptiste Thiers “Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire de la fête des foux“)

Calends Festival

The purpose of the festival was to pay homage to the donkey who had not only kept warm Jesus in the cave, had fled with the Holy Family in Egypt, but also had brought the adult Messiah on his back in the entrance to Jerusalem.
The veneration of the Donkey was still widespread among the eartly Christians and in the Middle Ages we see Jesus Christ crucified/donkey (Alexamenos graffito )

Pietro Lorenzetti: Gesù entra a Gerusalemme, Basilica in Assisi

“Immagine non necessariamente (o per nulla) blasfema, bensì profondo simbolo sacrificale.
Al raglio asinino, quest’invocazione che sembra così piena di dolore e vuota di speranza, è stato in questo senso associato il grido altissimo di Gesù sulla croce. E all’umile e paziente asinello, segnato dalla croce sulla schiena in ricordo e ringraziamento per il suo servizio nella Domenica delle Palme, si associa appunto il Cristo stesso di cinque giorni più tardi, il Cristo dileggiato e sofferente che, al pari dell’asino, porta sulle spalle la croce sulla quale sarà sacrificato. I corteggi medievali dei condannati montati su asini, e poi ancora le “feste dei folli”, i “carnevali degli asini” e tutti i riti “di rovesciamento” nei quali l’asino veniva abbigliato da re o da vescovo e onorato, rex unius diei prima di venire bastonato e scorticato (o anche semplicemente prima di tornare all’improba fatica di tutti i giorni), conservano tutti la memoria di questo ambiguo ma commovente rapporto fra asino e Cristo, entrambi figure regali ed entrambi obiettivo della crudeltà dell’uomo.” (from here)

Poorly tolerated but still practiced by the priests, the Festa dell’Asinello was a mixture of the sacred and the profane, a joke that could be pushed to the mockery of the liturgy, in a parody of the mass.
It must be said that in the Middle Ages the church is not only a building where mass is celebrated: it takes place political assemblies under the aegis of the Bishop, a lot of Corporations affaires with meetings and councils for the Corporation matters . It becomes a hospital refuge during epidemics or for pilgrims or sick in search of healing, inviolable asylum of the persecuted, grave for the illustrious dead. It could happen that men entered on horseback and at least once a year a donkey in a cassock.


Albrecht Dürer’s woodcut, “Wheel of Fortune”, c1494

An ambivalent animal in the Middle Ages the donkey is a symbol of both the Good, humble, patient, mount of the Prophets and sapiential creature (the donkey of Balaam), but also of Evil: it is the donkey opposed to the ox symbol of Christianity and the Elected People beeing a “pure animal that has a bifid and non-ruminant nail”, while the pagan donkey is “impure, rumen and has a compact nail”; it is the donkey of Dionysus and then ridden by Jesus to symbolize the Christian church that triumphs over previous cultures. It is the golden Ass of Apuleius slave of the pleasures of the flesh, ignorant but curious to learn the magic.


A procession left the church and returned with a donkey led up to the altar. At Mass all the faithful answered with some bray.
Hez va, hez va, hez va, hez !
Biaux sire asnes, car alez,
Bele bouche, car chantez!
For the occasion it was also written a song: Orientis partibus! The song is attributed to the archbishop of Sens Pierre de Corbeil, whose text and music we know of as contained in the “Officium stultorum ad usum Metropoleos ac primatialis Ecclesiae Sennonensis” (XIII century) preserved in Paris in the King’s library.

The Jaye Consort & Gerald English

Musica Vagantium

New London Consort (Philip Pickett)


Compagnia dell’asino che porta la croce

Joglaresa & Belinda Sykes

Orientis partibus
adventavit asinus
pulcher et fortissimus
sarcinis aptissimus
Hey, Hez, sir asne, hey!
Hic in collibus Sichan
iam nutritus sub Ruben (1)
transiit per Iordanem
saliit in Bethlehem
Saltu vincit hinnulos
dammas et capreolos
super dromedarios
velox madianeos
Aurum de Arabia
thus et myrrham de Saba(2)
tulit in ecclesia
virtus Asinaria  (3)
Dum trahit vehicula
multa cum sarcinula
illius mandibula
dura terit pabula
Cum aristis, hordeum
comedit et carduum
triticum ex palea
segregat in area (4)
Amen dicas, asine
iam satur de gramine
Amen, amen itera
aspernare vetera
English translation*
In eastern lands
the ass arrived
pretty and strong
fit for bunen
Hey, sir Ass, Hey!
Here on the hills of Sichan
already suckled by Ruben (1)
he crossed the Jordan
and enters Bethlehem.
He defeats in the jump the young mule
the fallow deer and roe deer
higher in speed
to the dromedaries of the Medes.
The gold of Arabia
the incense and the myrrh of Saba
he took to the church
the virtue of the donkey
While he pulls his cart
many with heavy loads,
his jaw
grinds tough fodder.
He eats wheat and barley
and the thistle
he separates the wheat from the chaff
on the threshing floor
You say “amen”, ass,
all filled with grass,
“amen”, “amen” once again,
spurning the past.

* partially from here
1) Ruben is the first-born son of Jacob
2) the donkey entering the church symbolically enters Jerusalem or peace. The land of Saba was the land of magicians-astrologists in the Middle Ages.
3) for the initiates, the Church had abandoned the path towards esoteric knowledge, so the glorified donkey indicates a new initiation path, the way of the mad.
4) once the animals was used to husk the wheat (simply by walking on the wheat)

second part


Apples in Winter: New Years Eve in Great Brittany

Leggi in italiano


The apple tree is a tree that was born in the mountains of Central Asia and it has spread along the commercial “silk road”, moving to the west. It is commonly believed that it was the ancient Romans who brought the apple tree to Britain, yet the most recent archaeological excavations in Armagh (Northern Ireland) found apple seeds dating back to the 10th century BC. In fact, the apple appears in many Druidic teachings and in Celtic poetry and mythology.
The apples are stored for a long time in a cool and dry place like attics, becoming one of the few fruits that can be eaten in winter.


The apple tree is the embodiment of the female principle; a medieval narration tells us the love story of Aillin and Baile, two children in love to whom the Druids had prophesied that they would never meet in life, but only after death to never separate again: the macabre (or romantic) prophecy came true magically with the union of the wood of two trees, the apple and the yew grown on their graves!
The legend is set at the time of Celtic Ireland by King Cormac mac Airt (II-IV century), but it is somewhat inconsistent with respect to the archaeological sources in our possession; they tell the story of the “taball filidh” (the poet’s tablet) -probably a wooden tablet or a waxed tablet in use with the ancient Greeks and Romans – one made from the wood of the apple tree of Aillin and the other from the wood of the Baile rate, that they indissolubly linked to each other when they found themselves nearby for the first time (to Samain during the party presided over by Art, son of Conn of the Hundred Battles, king of Erinn). If the story were true, the bards of Ireland writed they poems on wooden tablets; these two tablets were one from Leinster (apple), the other from Ulster (rate) and for their magical adherence were preserved as rarities in the treasure of Tara.
The story seems to be a variant of the love knot between the rose and thorn, recalled in the medieval ballads (grown from the respective tombs of the unfortunate lovers, they come together and intertwine with each other).

But the main association of the apple tree with the Celtic world is the Island of the apples, Avalon, the land of the Fairies.
Geoffrey of Monmouth writes in the Historia Regum Britanniae (1136)
Insula pomorum quæ fortunata vocatur,
Ex re nomen habet, quia se singula profert.
Non opus est illi sulcantibus arva colonis,
Omnis abest cultus, nisi quem natura ministrat,
Ultro fœcundas segetes producit, & herbas,
Nataque poma suis prætonso germine sylvis.

The isle of Apples, truly fortunate,
Where unforc’d goods and willing comforts meet.
Not there the fields require the rustick’s hand,
But nature only cultivates the land.
The fertile plains with corn and herbs are proud,
And golden apples smile in ev’ry wood.“.

Fairies’ food that can make immortal or restore health to the sick, the apple is the basis of the preparation of cider, a low-alcohol drink obtained from the fermentation of fruits such as apples, pears or loquats, typical of the United Kingdom, Basque Country and of Normandy. see


by Hedingham Fair

The oldest form of the winter celebration of the Wassail provides the blessing of trees and bees, so important for pollination, in order to ensure a healthy harvest for the next year.
“Apple Wassail”, is the blessing of the orchards: during the ritual they sing and make a spell, with a great noise they beating pots and pans (or shooting in the air) to ward off evil spirits, pourring some cider around the roots of the oldest tree; finally all drink to the health of the apple trees and the future harvest, eating sweet buns, and leaving a slice to the spirit of tree (to feed the robins), placed on the branches of the plant as thanksgiving.
(see more)


The second rite comes from Wales called “Hel Calennig” (Literally “the hunt of the Calends”) based on the ancient tradition of exchanging a gift for the first of January. (some scholars believe that the ritual derives from the customs practiced in the Roman Empire for the New Year. see Strenia)

Hel Calennig” is a Welsh tradition of the first day of the new year: an apple impaled on three sticks like a tripod, decorated with cloves and a sprig evergreen. This “trophy” is brought as a gift (or shown) in the neighbors’ house by the children singing a good-luck song.
In return they receive bread and cheese or some coins.

Blwyddyn newydd dda i chwi,
Gwyliau llawen i chwi,
Meistr a meistres bob un trwy’r ty,
Gwyliau llawen i chwi,
Codwch yn foreu, a rheswch y tan,
A cherddwch i’r ffynon i ymofyn dwr glan.
A happy new year to you,
May your holidays be merry,
Master and mistress – everyone in the house;
May your holidays be merry,
Arise in the morning; bestir the fire,
And go to the well to fetch fresh water

The New Year is also the Hoodening Day in Wales when Mari Lwyd, “Y Fari Lwyd”   (in English “Gray Mare”) is brought home.


Paul Bommer

Mari Lwyd is the Welsh version of the hooden horse. Tradition still practiced in central and south Wales, in particular in Llantrisant and Pontyclun on New Year’s Eve. The mask consists of a horse’s head (a real skull) with movable jaw and disquieting eyes made from two pieces of green bottle, decorated with colored ribbons and carried on a pole by a person hidden under a wide white sheet.
The wassailers stop to sing in front of the doors of the houses and call the mistress and challenge her in a pwnco, a sort of debate between the two sides, often with insolent verses. The victory of the singing challenge allows the wassailers to enter the house to eat sweets and drink beer.
As we can see in the illustration, the landlady holds a broom in her hand and she does not want to let the wassailers enter, because they are bringers of chaos.
The revel as all the rituals of the peasant world requires a certain degree of drunkenness and harassing behavior. In fact, the mare will turn around the room trying to take the women, she is clearly a monstrous and otherworldly creature who must be appeased with some offers. Sometimes a small child stands with a sweet and manages to calm the beast. keep it going. see more

Here we come
Dear friends
To ask permissions to sing
If we don’t have permission,
Let us know in song
How we should go away tonight
I have no dinner
Or money to spend
To give you welcome tonight
Welsh gaelic
Wel dyma ni’n dwad
Gyfeillion diniwad
I ofyn am gennod i ganu
Os na chawn ni gennad
Rhowch wybod ar ganiad
Pa fodd mae’r ‘madawiad, nos heno
‘Does genni ddim cinio
Nac arian iw gwario
I wneud i chwi roeso, nos heno

1) if the people of the house were defeated in the poetic contest, the Mari Lwyd claimed the right to stay at dinner with all his followers. Alternatively they offered a glennig, (a small tip), a glass of glaster, (water and milk) or beer

At Cwm Gwaun (Gwaun Valley), above Abergwaun (Fishguard), the community celebrates Yr Hen Galan (the old New Year) on January 13, according to the calendar prior to 1752.
Even in Wales as in Scotland is still rooted the practice of Firstfoot: here must be a man with a lucky name (Dafydd, Sion, Ifan or Siencyn), or alternatively a woman with a lucky name (Sian, Sioned, Mair or Marged ); in New Year’s Eve there was also a wren hunting.


The “Apples in winter” is an Irish jig also known by many other titles (see)

David Power uillean pipe & Willie Kelly violin in “Apples in winter” (n enjoyable cd of jigs and reels + some traditional Irish air)


Anglo concertina, Cittern, & Guitar


second part



Auld Lang Syne: melodies in search of an author


Leggi in italiano

At New Year’s Eve the most widespread song in Scottish homes is Auld Lang Syne, a song sung all over the world on many occasions.
The song is accompanied by a collective ritual: in a circle we hold each other’s hands during the first verse. Then the arms must be crossed by grasping the hands of the neighbor during the last verse.

The title is composed of three terms in Scottish that mean old, long, since three words to indicate the past time, “the good old days”. This is an old song that Robert Burns says he heard from an elderly singer, Burns also states that the song had been passed down only orally. Here is the correspondence between Burns and the publisher George Thomson (1793): “The following song, an old song, of the olden times, and which has never been in print, nor even in manuscript until I took it down from an old man’s singing, is enough to recommend any air”

Similar rhymes and melodies date back to 1500: in particular two, the ballad Auld Kyndnes Foryett -in Bannatyne Manuscript 1568- and the ballad attributed to the court poet Sir Robert Ayton (1570-1638) published in 1711 by James Watson in “Choice Collection of Scots Poems” collection; for the latter some verses are the same that are found in the Burns’ ones.
Should auld Acquaintance be forgot,
nd never thought upon,
The Flames of Love extinguished,
And freely past and gone?
s thy kind Heart now grown so cold
n that Loving Breast of thine,
That thou canst never once reflect
On Old-long-syne?

In 1724 Allan Ramsay wrote in his “A Collection of Songs” the song entitled “Should auld acquaintance be forgot” (perhaps taken from the sixteenth-century ballad Auld Kyndnes Foryett) and the song was then published in Vol 1 of the “Scots Musical Museum” 1787, with the title “Auld Lang Syne” but the verses are light years away from those of Burns!

"O Can Ye Labor Lea" 
"For old long Gine my jo"  
(from Playford in "Original Scotch Tunes" 1700)

Johnson publishes “Auld Lang Syne” from the first version of Burns in the Scots Musical Museum, vol 5, 1796; but Robert Burns sent his writings about this song even to the publisher George Thomson, and in particular his third version. Later, Thomson learns from Stephen Clarke that Johnson already had a copy of Burns’ song and that the melody was always transcribed by Johnson in the version of Ramsay. Burns, so he replies:‘The two songs you saw in Clarke’s are neither of them worth your attention. The words of ‘Auld lang syne are good, but the music is an old air, the rudiments of the modern tune of that name. The other tune you may hear as a common Scots country dance.’ Burns 1794.

So the first melody that Robbie calls “an old air” is that published by Johnson “O Can Ye Labor Lea“, while the second melody “For old long Gine my jo” is the one in Playford.


Burns’ merit was to write a couple of verses and to modify and arrange the others. A fragment written by Robert Burns in 1793 is kept at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum (see)


WhenGeorge Thomson published “Auld Lang Syne” in the “Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs”, 1799 replaced the first melody with the much more popular one in the eighteenth century called “The Miller’s Wedding” (formerly in “Scots Reels”, Bremner 1759) and commonly called ‘Sir Alexander Don’s Strathspey’ because also played by the famous violinist Niel Gow: a typically Scottish dance melody the strathspey!


George Thomson republished “Auld Lang Syne” in 1817 with a new arrangement by the Czech composer Leopold Kozeluch

Burns had already reused the same melody in two songs: “O can ye labor lea” ( “I fee’d a man at Martinmas”) and “Coming thro ‘the rye.


Lately on the web (of course only on Italian sites) in the wake of Jesse Blackadder’s novel “The Raven’s Heart”, 2011 they have spread the attribution of the melody to Davide Rizzo (or David Riccio as they called in Scotland ). The journalist and writer Renzo Rossotti (in “Assassinio in Scozia” da “Piemonte magico e misterioso”, Newton Compton Editori, 1994 see) in his “Assassinio in Scozia” reports an italian legend according to which David Riccio is the author of “Auld Lang Syne”, but this is indeed a legend.

Two old friends, meeting after many years of separation, remember the youth and toast to the old days! 

Robert Burns 1799 (George Thomson)

Dougie MacLean in Tribute– 1996
Velvety voice, pronounced seductively scottish, guitar background, a delicate arrangement

AULD LANG SYNE Robert Burns in SMM vol 5 1796 (James Johnson)

 Jim Malcolm  in Acquaintance
Velvety voice, pronounced seductively scottish, a splash of notes on the piano, guitar and violin background. The melody is slightly different as the sequence of strophes I, IV, II, III, V and the theme of the Waltz is recorded in the final played by the guitar alone

Paolo Nutini

Eddi Reader

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And days auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear(1),
For days auld lang syne,
We’ll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For days auld lang syne!
We twa hae run about the braes(3)
And pou’d the gowans(4) fine,
But we’ve wander’d monie a weary fit(5),
Sin days auld lang syne.
We twa hae paidl’d in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid(6) hae roar’d,
Sin days auld lang syne.
And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp(2)
And surely I’ll be mine,
And we’ll tak a cup o kindness(8) yet,
For days auld lang syne!
And there’s a hand my trusty fiere(7),
And gie’s a hand o thine,
And we’ll tak a right guid-willie waught(8),
For days auld lang syne
1) or “jo”
2) stowp= vessel, 
3) braes= hills,
4) gowans= daisies,
5) monie a weary fit= many a weary foot,
6) braid= broad
7) fiere= friend,
8) right guid-willie waught= “cup of kindness” good toast, friendly draught, 



The song has been translated all over the world (in at least forty languages). The popularity of “Auld Lang Syne” derives most probably from its inclusion with the title “Farewell Waltz” in the film “Waterloo bridge” (1940) directed by Mervyn LeRoy, with Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor. This film was the prototype of the typical Hollywood melodrama.

The famous scene of the waltz.

The Farewell Waltz version was arranged by Cedric Dumont (1916-2007) Swiss composer, author and conductor and it was translated / arranged in Italian by the authors Larici & Mauri in 1943 like danceable. At the time, the Anglo-Saxon melodies were forbidden in Italy by the war censorship, but it was enough to change the title and arrangement and here is “Il valzer delle candele”!


Tati Casoni 

Domani tu mi lascerai
e più non tornerai,
domani tutti i sogni miei
li porterai con te.
La fiamma del tuo amor
che sol per me sognai invan
è luce di candela che
già si spegne piano pian.
Una parola ancor
e dopo svanirà
un breve istante di
Ma come è triste il cuor
se nel pensare a te
ricorda i baci tuoi
che non son più per me.
Domani tu mi lascerai
e più non tornerai,
domani tutti i sogni miei
li porterai con te.
La fiamma del tuo amor
che sol per me sognai invan
è luce di candela che
già si spegne piano pian.

Nini Rosso.

The melody has finally become a new song titled “Il Canto dell’Addio” well know by all those who have been scouts, or have spent their summer in the italian colonies, or at the shelters run by priests and the like.

È l’ora dell’addio, fratelli,
è l’ora di partir;
e il canto si fa triste; è ver:
partire è un po’ morir.
Ma noi ci rivedremo ancor
ci rivedremo un dì
arrivederci allor, fratelli,
arrivederci sì.
Formiamo una catena
con le mani nelle man,
stringiamoci l’un l’altro
prima di tornar lontan.
Perché lasciarci e non sperar
di rivederci ancor?
Perché lasciarci e non serbar
questa speranza in cuor?
Se attorno a questo fuoco qui,
l’addio ci dobbiam dar;
attorno ad un sol fuoco un dì
sapremo ritornar.
Iddio che tutto vede e sa
la speme di ogni cuor;
se un giorno ci ha riuniti qui,
saprà riunirci ancor.
Ma non addio diciamo allor
che ancor ci rivedrem:
arrivederci allor, fratelli,
arrivederci insiem!
Fratello non dolerti se
la fiamma langue già:
doman la stessa fiamma ancor
fra noi risplenderà.

second part

LINK online/AuldLangSyne/default.asp?id=4

A guid new year to ane an’ a’

Hogmanay is the most popular revel in Scotland and the most common songs are Auld Lang Syne and “A New Year Year tae Ane an Aa“. The second song did not become as famous as the first, but still hansellings groups sing it just after midnight to wish a Happy New Year. [Capodanno è una festa molto sentita in Scozia e i canti più comuni sono Auld Lang Syne e A Guid New Year Year tae Ane an Aa. Il secondo canto non è diventato altrettanto famoso come il primo, ma ancora i gruppi di hansellings lo cantano appena dopo la mezzanotte per augurare un Buon Anno.]

Carl Peterson in We Wish You A Merry Christmas And A Guid New Year 2009

A guid new year to ane an’ a’
An’ mony may ye see,
An’ during a’ the years to come,
O happy may ye be.
An’ may ye ne’er hae cause to mourn,
To sigh or shed a tear;
To ane an’a baith great an’ sma’
A hearty guid New year.
O time flies past, he winna wait,
My friend for you or me,
He works his wonders day by day,
And onward still doth flee.
O wha can tell when ilka ane,
I see sae happy here,
Will meet again and merry be
Anither guid New year.
We twa ha’e baith been happy lang.
We ran about the braes.
In yon wee cot beneath the tree,
We spent our early days.
We ran about the burnie’s side,
The spot will aye be dear,
An’those that used to meet us there,
We’ll think on mony a year.
Noo let us hope our years may be
As guid as they ha’e been,
And trust we ne’er again may see,
The sorrows we ha’e seen.
And let us wish that ane an’a’
Our friends baith far an’ near,
May aye enjoy in times to come –
A hearty guid New year!
Traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
Un buon anno nuovo a tutti
molti altri ne possiate vedere
e negli anni a venire
possiate essere felici
Che non abbiate più da lamentarvi,
sospirare o versare lacrime;
per tutti, grandi e piccini
un cordiale, buon anno nuovo
Il tempo vola e non aspetterà
amico mio per te o per me,
fa meraviglie giorno per giorno
e in avanti fugge.
Cosa posso dire quando vedo ognuno
così felice qui?
Ci rivedremo e saremo felici
un’altro buon anno nuovo!
Entrambi siamo stati a lungo felici
correndo nelle valli
in quel piccolo cottage sotto gli alberi,
abbiamo trascorso i giorni della nostra giovinezza, correndo sulle rive del ruscello,
quel posto sarà sempre caro
e coloro che là incontrammo
li ricorderemo per molti anni
Ora speriamo che i nostri anni siano buoni
come lo sono stati,
e speriamo che non vedremo mai più
la tristezza che abbiamo visto.
Ci auguriamo che tutti
i nostri amici sia vicini che lontani
possano gioire nei tempi a venire
un cordiale buon nuovo anno!

english translation Cattia Salto
A good New Year to one and all,
And many may you see!
And during all the years to come,
O happy may you be!
And may you never have cause to grieve,
To sigh or shed a tear!
To one and all, both great and small,
A hearty, Good New Year!
O time flies past, he will not wait,
My friend for you or me,
He works his wonders day by day,
And onward still do flee.
O what can tell when ever one,
I see so happy here,
Will meet again and merry be
Another good New year.
We two have both been happy long.
We ran about the hillsides.
In that little cottage beneath the tree,
We spent our early days.
We ran about the small stream’s side,
The spot will ever be dear,
And those that used to meet us there,
We’ll think on many a year.
Now let us hope our years may be
As good as they have been,
And trust we never again may see,
The sorrows we have seen.
And let us wish that one and all
Our friends both far and near,
May aye enjoy in times to come –
A hearty good New year!


What Child is this

“What Child is this” is a Christmas song written by the English poet William Chatterton Dix in 1865, adapted in 1871 by John Stainer to the traditional English melody “Greensleeves”, a melody so old to be attributed to Henry VIII and in any case documented as one of the favorite of Queen Elizabeth, also mentioned twice by Shakespeare.
The song entitled “What Child is this” appears in the Christmas Carols New and Old edition of 1871.
[“What Child is this” è un canto natalizio scritto dall’inglese William Chatterton Dix nel 1865, adattato nel 1871 da John Stainer alla melodia tradizionale inglese  “Greensleeves“, una melodia talmente antica da essere attribuita ad Enrico VIII e comunque documentata come una delle favorite della Regina Elisabetta, citata inoltre due volte da Shakespeare.
Così il brano con il titolo di “What Child is this” compare nell’edizione Christmas Carols New and Old del 1871.]

Don Francisco, Wendy Francisco,  Jerry Palmer in “Christmas Carols on Guitar”

Lindsey Stirling 2017

The text tells of the newborn Jesus as he sleeps in the arms of Mary and he is visited by the shepherds and the Wise Men.
[Il testo parla di Gesù neonato mentre dorme tra le braccia di Maria e viene visitato dai pastori e dai Magi.]

Moya Brennan in An Irish Christmas, 2006 (I, II, IV)

What child is this
who laid to rest
On Mary’s lap,
is sleeping?
Whom angels greet
with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch
are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard
and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring Him laud
The Babe, the Son of Mary
Why lies he
in such mean estate
Where ox and ass (1)
are feeding?
Good Christians, fear,
for sinners here
The silent Word (2) is pleading
Nails, spear
shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me,
for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
So bring Him incense,
gold and myrrh
Come, peasant, king, to own Him
The King of Kings salvation brings
Let loving hearts enthrone Him
Raise, raise a song on high,
The virgin sings her lullaby.
Joy, joy for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.
Traduzione italiano Cattia Salto
Chi è questo bambino,
che giace e riposa
tra le braccia di Maria
Che gli angeli annunciano
con inni di gioia
mentre i pastori
Costui è Cristo il Re,
che i pastori vegliano
(mentre) gli angeli cantano,
affrettatevi a tributargli lode,
il Bambinello, figlio di Maria!

Perché si trova
in una così meschina dimora,
dove il bue e l’asino
Buoni Cristiani, temete,
per i peccatori qui
il Verbo silenzioso prega.
Chiodi e lancia
lo trafiggeranno,
la croce dovrà portare per me,
per te.
Ave al Verbo fattosi carne
il Bambinello, figlio di Maria
Così portategli incenso
oro e mirra,
venite contadini e re a conoscerlo;
il Re dei Re la salvezza porta,
che i cuori amorosi lo incoronino!
S’innalza un canto al cielo
la vergine canta una ninnananna,
gioia per la nascita di Gesù
il Bambinello, figlio di Maria

1) Moya says “ewe” [Moya dice “pecora”]
2) Word in the Bible is the Word that is God, made flesh to plead for the Salvation of Humanity. So “silent word” is the newborn Jesus who prays for sinners. So why should the good Christian be afraid? Only in the next verse we understand the reason for fear. Jesus will die crucified
Word nella Bibbia è il Verbo cioè Dio, fattosi carne per supplicare per la Salvezza dell’Umanità. Così “silent word” è il neonato Gesù che ancora imberbe prega per i peccatori. Ma allora perchè il buon Cristiano dovrebbe avere paura? Solo nel verso successivo capiamo il motivo del timore. Gesù morirà crocefisso


Bethlehem Down

Bethlehem Down is a rather recent Christmas carol published in 1927 and winner of the annual competition announced by the Daily Telegraph (United Kingdom): the author of the text is Bruce Blunt, while the composer of music, Philip Arnold Heseltine (who called himself Peter Warlock). The two scapegrate authors wanted to scrape together some money for a colossal boozing on Christmas Eve, they were certainly not two angels, so there is no need to be Protestant reverends (shepherds) or Catholic priests to compose a nice Christmas hymn! In fact, the Anglican church has admitted this carol in the liturgy of Christmas and the Epiphany.
[Bethlehem Down è un Christmas carol piuttosto recente pubblicato nel 1927 e risultato vincitore dell’annuale gara indetta dal Daily Telegraph (Regno Unito): l’autore del testo è Bruce Blunt, mentre il compositore della musica, Philip Arnold Heseltine (che si faceva chiamare Peter Warlock, in italiano “Pietro lo stregone”). I due scapestrati autori volevano raggranellare qualche soldino per una colossale sbronza alla vigilia di Natale, non erano certo due stinchi di santo, così non c’è bisogno di essere reverendi (pastori) protestanti o preti cattolici per comporre un bel inno di natale! Infatti la chiesa anglicana ha ammesso il canto nella liturgia del Natale ed dell’Epifania.]
Sting in If On A Winters Night 2009

 Erin Bode

“When He is King
we will give Him a King’s gifts,
Myrrh for its sweetness,
and gold for a crown,
Beautiful robes”, said
the young girl to Joseph,
Fair with her first-born
on Bethlehem Down.
Bethlehem Down
is full of the starlight (1),
Winds for the spices (2),
and stars for the gold,
Mary for sleep,
and for lullaby music,
Songs of a shepherd
by Bethlehem fold.
When He is King
they will clothe Him in grave-sheets,
Myrrh for embalming,
and wood for a crown,
He that lies now
in the white arms of Mary,
Sleeping so lightly
on Bethlehem Down
Here He has peace
and a short while for dreaming,
Close-huddled oxen
to keep him from cold,
Mary for love,
and for lullaby music,
Songs of a shepherd
by Bethlehem Down.
Traduzione in italiano Cattia Salto
Quando sarà Re
gli faremo doni regali
la dolce mirra,
e l’oro per una corona,
e belle vesti” disse
la fanciulla a Giuseppe,
bella con il suo neonato
sulla collina di Betlemme.
La collina di Betlemme
è illuminata dalla luce delle stelle (1),
profumo di spezie (2)
e stelle per la corona dorata (3),
Maria per il sonno
e per cantare una ninnananna,
canti di pastore
dall’ovile di Betlemme
Quando sarà Re
lo vestiranno in un sudario,
mirra per imbalsamarlo,
e spine per la corona,
egli che giace ora
tra le braccia bianche di Maria
e dorme così sereno
nella collina di Betlemme
Qui ha pace
e un po’ di tempo per sognare,
buoi accalcati vicini
per preservarlo dal freddo,
Maria per l’amore
e per cantare una ninnananna,
canti di pastore
dalla collina di Betlemme

1) according to tradition and the vision of the mystics at the birth of Jesus the sky became clear and full of stars [secondo la tradizione e le visione dei mistici alla nascita di Gesù il cielo divenne chiaro e pieno di stelle]
2) letteralmente: vento per le spezie
3) golden crown


Hurdy Gurdy Man (“Der Leiermann”) by Sting

In 1823 Whilhelm Müller wrote a collection of 24 poems, entitled “Winterreise” four years later, Franz Schubert composed the music for the whole series, the last song is entitled “Der Leiermann”, that is ” the organ player “.
He describes the meeting between the poet and the poor beggar, a street musician, who despite the frost of the winter, is on the road barefoot to play for cold and indifferent passers, he also does not care about people and continues to turn the crank. We are in full German Romance and that mysterious old man could very well be Odin descended among the mortals in his favorite disguise, that of the wayfarer. The whole cycle of poems describes the erring romantic traveler in search of a sense of life and perhaps the mysterious old man has the answer.
Schubert and Müller were almost the same age and both young men died on the threshold of thirty years.
[Nel 1823 Whilhelm Müller  scrisse una raccolta di 24 poesie, intitolata “Winterreise” (Viaggio d’Inverno) quattro anni più tardi, Franz Schubert compose la musica per tutta la collana, l’ultima canzone s’intitola “Der Leiermann”, cioè “il suonatore d’organino”.
Descrive l’incontro tra il poeta e il povero mendicante, un musicista ambulante, che nonostante il gelo dell’Inverno è per strada a piedi scalzi a suonare per dei passanti infreddoliti e indifferenti, anch’egli non si cura della gente e continua a girare la manovella. Siamo in pieno romanticismo tedesco e quel vecchio misterioso potrebbe benissimo essere Odino sceso tra i mortali nel suo travestimento preferito, quello del viandante. Tutto il ciclo delle poesie descrive l’errare del viaggiatore romantico alla ricerca di un senso della vita e forse il vecchio misterioso ha la risposta.
Schubert e Müller erano quasi coetanei e morirono entrambi giovani sulla soglia dei trent’anni.]

Gustav Klimt

Once the instrument par excellence of the wandering musician was the hurdy-gurdy, an instrument invented in the Middle Ages by monks and also known by the names of organistrum, gironde, symphonia, vielle à roue. Initially instrument of the minstrels to accompany songs and dances, in the middle of the seventeenth century with the pastoral fashion rampant, the hurdy-gurdy knows a long period of glory and in the early eighteenth century it is perfected by illustrious luthiers to assume the characteristics of the contemporary instrument. Its popularity between the aristocracy and the cultured music ends however at the end of the eighteenth century (except in the countries of the East) and in the nineteenth century the itinerant musicians prefer to play the organ.
At the time of Müller and Schubert the Leiermann could be a hurdy-gurdy man or a cranked organ called the “roller organ” or “organ of Barberi” as a tribute to its inventor Giovanni Barbieri.
The music is printed on punched cards or on a cardboard disk and is reproduced by the organ pipes by turning a crank (often in the context of the walking entertainment the crank was driven by a trained monkey)
[Un tempo lo strumento per eccellenza del musicista girovago era la ghironda, strumento inventato nel Medioevo dai monaci e noto anche con i nomi di organistrum, gironda, symphonia, vielle à roue. Dapprima strumento dei menestrelli per accompagnare canti e danze, nella metà del Seicento in piena moda pastorale la ghironda conosce un lungo periodo di gloria e nei primi del Settecento viene perfezionata da illustri liutai fino ad assumere le caratteristiche dello strumento contemporaneo. La sua popolarità tra l’aristocrazia e la musica colta termina però a fine Settecento (tranne nei paesi dell’Est) e nell’Ottocento i suonatori ambulanti preferiscono passare all’organetto.
Ai tempi di Müller e Schubert lo Leiermann poteva essere un suonatore di ghironda o di un organino a manovella detto organo a rullo o anche “organetto di Barberia” in omaggio al suo inventore Giovanni Barbieri.
La musica è impressa su schede perforate o su un disco di cartone e viene riprodotta dalle canne d’organo girando una manovella (spesso nel contesto dell’intrattenimento ambulante la manovella era azionata da una scimietta ammaestrata)]

The poem thus enlightens with a further meaning, the perforated sheet is the fate of all humanity drawn by a numinous being and man can not but do what has already been preordained. So the poet asks “but if I were to sing, would you accompany me?”, That is, if I were to decide my destiny, would you agree with me?
[La poesia così s’illumina di un ulteriore significato, il foglio perforato è il fato di tutta l’umanità tracciato da un essere numinoso e l’uomo non può che non compiere ciò che è già stato preordinato. Così il poeta si chiede “ma se fossi io a cantare, tu mi accompagneresti?”, cioè se fossi io a decidere il mio destino, tu mi asseconderesti?]

Der Leiermann

Andreas Schmidt & Rudolf Jansen

Nataša Mirković De Ro (soprano) Matthias Loibner (hurdy-gurdy)

Voice: Philippe Sly, Guitar: Adam Cicchillitti

Drüben hinterm
Dorfe steht ein Leiermann
und mit starren Fingern
dreht er, was er kann.
Barfuss auf dem Eise
schwankt er hin und her
und sein kleiner Teller
bleibt ihm immer leer.
Keiner mag ihn hören,
keiner sieht ihn an,
und die Hunde knurren
um den alten Mann.
Und er lässt es gehen
alles, wie es will,
dreht und seine Leier
steht ihm nimmer still.
Wunderlicher Alter,
soll ich mit dir geh’n?
Willst zu meinen Liedern
deine Leier dreh’n?
Traduzione italiano Pietro Soresina
Al limitare del paese
c’è un uomo con l’organetto (1);
con le dita indurite
gira la manovella.
Scalzo, sul ghiaccio
vacilla qua e là,
il piattello resta
sempre vuoto.
Nessuno l’ascolta,
nessuno lo vede,
e ringhiano i cani
intorno al vecchio.
Indifferente a tutto lui (2)
gira, gira (3),
mai non tace.
Vecchio misterioso,
e se venissi con te?
Accompagneresti i miei canti
col tuo organetto?

* da qui
english translation here
1) io tradurrei organino
2) il vecchio è indifferente all’indifferenza del mondo e caparbio, continua a suonare
2) gira la manovella 

Hurdy Gurdy Man

The version translated into English by Sting for his winter CD differs from the original only in the last stanza.
[La versione tradotta in inglese da Sting per il suo cd invernale si discosta dall’originale solo nell’ultima strofa]
Sting in If On A Winters Night 2009

In the snow there stands
a hurdy gurdy (1) man,
With his frozen fingers
Plays as best he can.
Barefoot on the ice
He shuffles to and fro
And his empty plate
It only fills with snow.
And his empty plate
It only fills with snow.
No one wants to hear
His hurdy gurdy song,
Hungry dogs surround him
and before too long
He will fall asleep
and then before too long
He’ll just let it happen,
happen come what may.
Play his hurdy gurdy
till his dying day,
Watching you, old man,
I see myself in you.
One day I will play
This hurdy gurdy too.
Traduzione in italiano Cattia Salto
Là nella neve
c’è un suonatore d’organino
con le dita intirizzite
suona meglio che può
A piedi nudi nel ghiaccio
vacilla avanti e indietro
e il suo piattino vuoto
è riempito solo dalla neve
e il suo piattino vuoto
è riempito solo dalla neve
Nessuno vuole stare ad ascoltare
il suono del suo organino,
cani affamati lo circondano
e fra non molto
si addormenterà,
e allora fra non molto
lascerà solo che accada,
accada quel che accada.
Suonerà il suo organino
fino al giorno della sua morte
Guardandoti, vecchio
vedo me stesso in te
un giorno suonerò
anch’io questo organino

1) the original German Leier translates both lyre and organ, [Hardy gardy è il termine inglese per la ghironda, ma nell’originale tedesco Leier traduce sia lira che organetto, che ghironda]
2) I would like to ask Sting the reasoning underlying this translation [mi piacerebbe chiedere a Sting il ragionamento sotteso a questa sua traduzione]


The Hounds Of Winter

On more than one occasion Sting reiterated that the season most congenial to him is winter, so in The Hounds of Winter he is an abandoned lover who recalls the past and abandons himself to the gloom of the season.
[In più di un’occasione Sting ha ribadito che la stagione a lui più congeniale è l’inverno, così in The Hounds of Winter (in italiano I segugi dell’Inverno) è un amante abbandonato che richiama il passato e si abbandona alla cupezza della stagione ]
Sting in “Mercury Falling” 1996

If On A Winters Night 2009: a revisited version played with the acoustic guitar and double bass, but also the typical instruments of the Celtic tradition
[una versione rivisitata suonata con la chitarra acustica e contrabbasso, ma anche gli strumenti tipici della tradizione celtica]

Mercury falling (1)
I rise from my bed
Collect my thoughts together
I have to hold my head
It seems that she’s gone
And somehow I am pinned by
The hounds of winter  (3)
Howling in the wind
I walk through the day
My coat around my ears
I look for my companion
I have to dry my tears
It seems that she’s gone
Leaving me too soon
I’m as dark as December
I’m as cold as the man in the moon
I still see her face
As beautiful as day
It’s easy to remember
Remember my love that way
All I hear is that lonesome sound
The hounds of winter
They follow me down (6)
I can’t make up the fire
The way that she could
I spend all my days
In the search for dry wood
Board all the windows
and close the front door
I can’t believe
she won’t be here anymore
A season for joy
A season for sorrow
Where she’s gone
I will surely, surely follow
She brightened my day
She warmed the coldest night
The hounds of winter
They got me in their sights
Traduzione in italiano Cattia Salto
Il mercurio è in picchiata (1)
mi alzo dal letto
e raduno tutti i miei pensieri,
con la testa tra le mani (2).
Sembra che lei se ne sia andata
e chissà come sono attaccato
dai segugi dell’inverno (3)
che ululano nel vento
Rivivo quel giorno
con il bavero alzato (4),
cerco la mia compagna,
mi devo asciugare le lacrime.
Sembra che lei se ne sia andata,
lasciandomi troppo presto,
sono cupo come Dicembre
sono freddo come l’uomo nella Luna
Vedo ancora il suo viso
bello come il sole (5).
E’ facile ricordare,
ricordare il mio amore così.
Tutto ciò che sento è quel suono solitario,
i segugi dell’inverno
che mi inseguono (6).
Non riesco ad accendere il fuoco
come faceva lei,
passo i giorni
in cerca di legna asciutta.
Sbarro tutte le finestre
e chiudo la porta principale.
Non posso credere
che lei non sia più qui
Una stagione per la gioia,
una stagione per il dolore
ovunque sia andata
di sicuro, di sicuro la seguirò.
Lei illumina il mio giorno,
riscalda le notti più fredde.
I segugi dell’inverno
mi tengono d’occhio.

1) “There are so many references attached to mercury. I mean, it’s a metal, it’s a liquid, it’s an element, it’s a god, it’s a planet. It’s an idea – ‘mercurial,’ I think, is a valuable description. I use the phrase initially very literally. You know, it’s getting cold, the thermometer’s falling. And then I use it symbolically at the end. I love the phrase. It’s very resonant, full of so many things.(Sting from here)
[Ci sono così tanti riferimenti collegati al mercurio. Voglio dire, è un metallo, è un liquido, è un elemento, è un dio, è un pianeta. È un’idea – ‘mercuriale’, penso, è una descrizione preziosa. Uso la frase inizialmente in modo molto letterale. Sai, si sta facendo freddo, il termometro sta cadendo. E poi lo uso simbolicamente alla fine. Amo la frase È molto risonante, pieno di tante cose.(da qui)]
2) letteralmente “mi devo tenere la testa”
3) are the hounds of hell, demons, the hunting dogs known in folklore as Wild Hunt?
[sono i segugi dell’inferno, demoni, i cani della battuta di caccia nota nel folklore come Caccia selvaggia?]
4) letteralmente “con il cappotto alle orecchie”
5) letteralmente “bello come il giorno”
6) in the last verse of the final he says
The Hounds of Winter
They harry me down
nell’ultimo verso del finale dice
“I segugi dell’Inverno mi hanno preso”

The Burning Babe

From the visions of the English Jesuit Robert Southwell, the poem “The Burning Babe” was played by the English folk violinist Chris Wood and sung by Sting.
[Dalle visioni del gesuita inglese Robert Southwell, la poesia “The Burning Babe” (in italiano: il bambino ardente) è stata musicata dal violinista folk inglese Chris Wood e cantata da Sting.]

The birth of Jesus and the prefiguration of his Passion in a single metaphysical vision: the poem was written in 1595 just before his death when the Jesuit was a prisoner in the Tower of London awaiting his trial, he remained there for three years also suffering the torture and finally he was condemned for treason and sent to the gallows; at the time Catholic priests ended badly in England: Southwell was accused of a plot against Queen Elizabeth, but in reality it was his missionary preaching to be indicted!
[La nascita di Gesù e la prefigurazione della sua Passione in un’unica visione metafisica: la poesia è stata scritta nel 1595 poco prima della sua morte quando il gesuita era prigioniero nella Torre di Londra in attesa di processo, ci rimase per tre anni subendo anche la tortura e infine fu condannato per tradimento e mandato alla forca; all’epoca i preti cattolici finivano malamente in Inghilterra, Southwell fu accusato di un complotto ai danni della regina Elisabetta, ma in realtà era la sua predicazione missionaria ad essere incriminata!]

His poems written in prison were published in the St Peter’s Complaint And Other Poems collection, shortly after his death.
[Le sue poesie scritte in carcere vennero pubblicato nella raccolta St Peter’s Complaint And Other Poems, poco dopo la sua morte]

Sting live in Durham cathedral [cattedrale di Durham]

If On A Winter’s Night

As I in hoary (1) winter’s night
stood shivering in the snow,
Surprised I was with sudden heat
which made my heart to glow ;
And lifting up a fearful eye
to view what fire was near,
A pretty babe all burning bright (2)
did in the air appear ;
Who, scorchëd with excessive heat,
such floods of tears did shed
As though his floods should quench
his flames which with his tears were fed.
Alas, quoth he, but newly born
in fiery heats I fry,
Yet none approach to warm
their hearts or feel my fire but I!
My faultless breast the furnace is,
the fuel wounding thorns,
Love is the fire, and sighs the smoke,
the ashes shame and scorns ;
The fuel justice layeth on,
and mercy blows the coals,
The metal in this furnace wrought
are men’s defilèd souls,
For which, as now on fire I am
to work them to their good,
So will I melt into a bath
to wash them in my blood (3).
With this he vanished out of sight
and swiftly shrunk away,
And straight I callèd unto mind
that it was Christmas day.
Traduzione italiano di Giorgio Melchiori *
Mentre in una bianca notte invernale
rabbrividivo nella neve,
fui sorpreso da un subito calore
che mi infiammava il cuore;
e quando levai l’occhio timoroso
per vedere qual fuoco avessi accanto,
un Pargoletto avvolto in viva fiamma
nell’aria apparve;
bruciato dall’eccessivo ardore,
ei versava fiumi di lacrime,
quasi che tali fiumi dovessero soffocare
le fiamme alimentate dalle sue lacrime.
“Ahimè!” diss’egli, “appena nato
brucio in cocenti ardori,
ma nessuno si approssima a riscaldarsi
il cuore o a provar la fiamma;
il mio seno innocente è la fornace,
combustibile con laceranti rovi;
amore è il fuoco, sospiri il fumo,
e le ceneri vergogna e insulti;
giustizia porta la legna,
e misericordia soffia sui carboni;
il metallo lavorato in questa fornace
sono le anime immonde degli uomini;
e come ora son per esse infiammato
onde operare il loro bene,
così mi dissolverò in un bagno
per lavarle nel mio sangue”.
Con ciò ei svanì alla vista
e ratto si dissolse,
e d’un subito mi rammentai
che era il giorno di Natale.

* da qui
1) hoary is a somewhat dated adjective that refers to a gray-haired elderly person [hoary è un aggettivo un po’ datato che si riferisce ad una persona anziana dai capelli grigi letteralmente canuto ma anche bianco]
2) white and red, ice and fire the two opposing primaries elements [bianco e rosso, ghiaccio e fuoco i due elementi primari opposti.
3) the flame of divine love becomes the red of the blood shed in Christ [la fiamma dell’amore divino diventa il rosso del sangue versato in Cristo]


Lullaby for an Anxious Child

A lullaby for Baby Jesus composed by Sting and Dominic Miller for the collaboration with the Kofi Brown album “Together as one” in 2006; the song is then added to Sting’s “If A Winter’s Night” album released in 2009.
[Una ninna nanna per Gesù Bambino Lullaby for an anxious child ( Ninna nanna per un bimbo preoccupato) è stata composta da Sting e Dominic Miller per la collaborazione nell’album di Kofi Brown “Together as one” del 2006; il brano viene successivamente inserito nell’album di Sting “If On A Winter’s Night” uscito nel 2009.]

Sting, Kofi Brown, Novecento 2006

If On A Winter’s Night” 2009


Hush child
Let your mommy sleep into the night
until we rise
Hush child,
Let me soothe the shining tears
that gather in your eyes
Hush child,
I won’t leave I’ll stay with you
to cross this Bridge of Sighs
Hush child,
I can help the look of accusation
in your eyes
The world is broken and now
All in sorrow
Wise men hang their heads
Hush child,
Let your mommy sleep into the night
until we rise
Hush child,
All the strength I’ll need to find,
I’ll find inside your eyes
In your eyes
Traduzione in italiano di Cattia Salto
Shh bimbo (mio)
lascia dormire la mammina nella notte
fino al risveglio
Shh bimbo (mio)
lascia che asciughi le gocce di stella (1)
che si accumulano nei tuoi occhi
Shhh bimbo
non ti lascerò, starò con te
per attraversare questa Valle di Lacrime(2)
shh bimbo
non riesco a sostenere lo sguardo d’accusa
nei tuoi occhi
Il mondo è a pezzi
e nel dolore
I re magi abbassano il capo
Shhh bimbo
lascia riposare la mamma nella notte
fino al risveglio
Shhh bimbo
tutta la forza di cui avrò bisogno
la troverò dentro ai tuoi occhi
nei tuoi occhi

1) letteralmente lacrime splendenti
2) letteralmente Ponte dei Sospiri