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Quand Dieu Naquit à Noël

French Christmas Carol

Quand Dieu naquit à Noël (“When God was born at Christmas”) is an old Christmas carol dating to at least the 18th century. Baroque composers such as Claude Balbastre and Louis-Claude Daquin harmonized and adapted the melody, which means it would been heard by the court of Louis XV in the Royal Chapel of Versailles.

The song speaks of the generosity of those who came to see Our Lord in Judea, commenting that “there was no one young or old who did not offer all his riches” to Our Lady and St. Joseph. It also mentions the Three Magi who offered Our Lord gold, frankincense and myrrh. The carol concludes that we must believe in this God-King, Jesus, our refuge.

Quand Dieu naquit à Noël is here interpreted by the early music ensemble Les Musiciens de Saint-Julien and the Maîtrise de Radio France.

Listen to Quand Dieu naquit à Noël


Old French lyrics

1. Quand Dieu naquit à Noël,
Dedans la Judée,
On vit ce jour solennel
La joie inondée.
Il n’étoit ni petit, ni grand,
Qui n’apportât son présent,
Et n’o, n’o, n’o, n’o,
Et n’offrit, ffrit, ffrit,
Et n’o, n’o,
Et n’offrit sans cesse,
Toute sa richesse.

2. L’un apportoit un agneau
Avec un grand zèle,
L’autre un peu de lait nouveau
Dedans une écuelle;
Tel, sous ses pauvres habits,
Cachoit un peu de pain bis,
Pour la, la, la, la,
Pour la sain, sain, sain,
Pour la, la,
Pour la Sainte Vierge,
Et Joseph Concierge.

3. Ce bon père putatif
De Jesus mon ître,
Que le Pasteur plus chétif
Désiroit [faire] connoître;
D’un air obligeant et doux,
Recevoit les dons de tous,
Sans cé, cé, cé, cé,
Sans céré, ré, ré,
Sans cé, cé,
Sans cérémonie,
Pour le Fruit de vie.

4. Il ne fut pas jusqu’aux Rois
Du rivage Maure,
Qui, joints au nombre de Trois,
Ne vinssent encore;
Ces bons Princes d’Orient,
Offrirent en Le priant,
L’en, l’en, l’en, l’en, l’en,
Cens, cens, cens, cens, cens,
L’en, l’en, l’en,
L’encens et la myrrhe,
Et l’or qu’on admire.

5. Quoiqu’Il n’en eût pas besoin,
Jesus notre Maître,
Il en prit avec soin
Pour faire connoître,
Qu’Il avoit les qualités
Par ces dons représentés,
D’un vrai, vrai, vrai, vrai,
D’un Roi, Roi, Roi, Roi,
D’un vrai, vrai,
D’un vrai Roi de Gloire,
En qui l’on doit croire.

English translation:

1. When God was born at Christmas,
There in Judea,
On that solemn day
Joy poured down.
There was no one young or old,
Who would not bring a present,
And no', no', no' no',
And nobody who did not offer,
And no', no',
And nobody who did not offer unceasingly,
All his riches.

2. One brought a lamb,
With great zeal;
Another brought a little fresh milk
In a pail;
Yet another, under his ragged cloak,
Carried a crust of brown bread,
For the, the, the, the,
For the Holy, Holy, Holy
For the, the,
For the Holy Virgin
And for Joseph, the Manager.

3. This good Step-Father
To Jesus, my refuge,
Whom the very small Shepherd
Desired to made known:
In an obliging and sweet manner,
He received everyone’s gifts,
Without ce', ce', ce', ce',
Without cere', 're', 're',
Without ce', ce',
Without ceremony:
Gifts for the Fruit of life.

4. There were even Kings
From the Moorish shores,
Who, in the number of Three,
Came to visit Him;
These good Princes of the East,
Offered, as they worshipped Him,
In', in', in', in', in',
'Cense, 'cense, 'cense, 'cense, 'cense
In', in', in',
Incense and myrrh,
And gold, which is greatly prized.

5. Although He had no need of them,
Jesus Our Lord,
Took hold of the gifts with care
To make it known
That He had the qualities
Symbolized by these gifts,
Of a true, true, true, true
Of a King, King, King, King,
Of a true, true,
Of a true King of Glory,
In Whom we must believe.

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Quand Dieu naquit à Noël
For a larger PDF version, click here.

For a version in D Major, click here.

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