Carol of the Birds – Let Heaven and Nature Sing!

Yesterday’s post used birds prominently
in a poignant allegory that alluded to
why Jesus had to be incarnated.
This next uses birds prominently
to make another important allusion:

In tribute to the people of his native country, Catalonia, (at the time of this writing in 2017, embroiled in issues with independence from Spain) ninety-four-year-old Pablo Casals, famed cellist, composer, and conductor, had often ended his concerts with “El Cant Dels Ocells” (“The Song of the Birds”), a Catalonian Christmas carol.

“It is so beautiful,” he said, “And it is also the soul of my country, Catalonia.” “The birds in the sky, in the space, sing: “Peace! Peace! Peace!””

Song of The Birds, or, Carol of the Birds, isn’t as widely known as many of the more traditional carols, but I wish it were. (please note that there are two or three songs which have the same name, but different lyrics and tunes.) (and even this Catalonian song has several different versions)

I am fascinated by the idea that the birds might represent nature, or the created universe, when it first becomes “aware” of The Creator’s arrival inside His creation. What happiness, and joy, and awe, and peacefulness, is expressed by these “voices of nature”.

This may be frivolous speculation on my part, wondering how nature “perceives” its Creator; is it somehow “conscious” or “aware” of Him in a way we cannot understand, we aren’t conscious of, and can’t have much knowledge of? And maybe not individual awareness like one rock or mountain, but a collective awareness with the whole of creation giving glory and being glory for our mighty God.

 I know a few people who hear this music as haunting, morose, even depressing.
Not me!
I hear bright awe and respect;
depth of joyous, sacred mystery;
gentle, peaceful, yet glorious and ecstatic, worship,
in reverence for the Christ-child.

How do you perceive it?

Below are four different lyrical versions of “Carol of the Birds”.
There may be more, I’m not certain,
but these are poetic, and deep,
 compelling, and emotional.
One could almost imagine that nature,
or Creation, is praying to, and worshiping,
our all knowing, all encompassing, Creator-God;
Our Christ-child, our Jesus.

~ ~ ~

Joan Baez version:

When rose the eastern star, the birds came from a-far,
in that full might of glory.
With one melodious voice, they sweetly did rejoice,
and sang the wondrous story.
Sang, praising God on high, enthroned above the sky,
and his fair mother Mary.
The eagle left his lair, came winging through the air,
his message loud arising.
And to his joyous cry, the sparrow made reply,
his answer sweetly voicing.
“O’ercome are death and strife, this night is born new life”,
the robin sang rejoicing.
When rose the eastern star, the birds came from a-far.

~ ~ ~

The words given below are as most commonly sung
in the English version;

A star rose in the sky
and glory from on high
did fill the night with splendor.
Came birds with joyful voice
to carol and rejoice with
songs so sweet and tender.

The eagle then did rise,
went flying through the skies,
to tell the wondrous story,
sang: Jesus, born is he,
who comes to set us free,
he brings us joy and glory.

The sparrow with delight
said: This is Christmas night,
our happiness revealing.
The sky with praises rang,
as finch and robin sang
their songs of glad rejoicing.

The lark upon the wing
said: Now it seems like spring,
no more is winter pressing;
for now a flower is born
whose fragrance on this morn
to earth brings heaven’s blessing.

Sang magpie, thrush, and jay,
It seems the month of May
in answer to our yearning.
The trees again are green
and blossoms now are seen,
it is the spring returning!

The cuckoo sang: Come, come,
And celebrate the dawn
this glorious aurora.
The raven from his throat
then trilled a festive note
to the unexcelled Señora.

The partridge then confessed,
I want to build my nest
beneath that very gable
where I may see the Child
and watch whene’er he smiles
with Mary in that stable.

~ ~ ~ 

A more literal translation from the Catalonian:

In seeing emerge
The greatest light
During the most celebrated of nights,
The little birds sing.
They go to celebrate Him
With their delicate voices.

The imperial eagle
flies high in the sky,
singing melodically,
saying, “Jesus is born
To save us all from sin
And to give us joy.”

The sparrow responds,
Today, this Christmas Eve,
Is a night of good cheer!”
The greenfinch and the siskin
Say in singing, too,
“Oh, what joy I feel!”

The linnet sang,
“Oh, how lovely and beautiful
Is the child of Mary!”
The thrush answers:
“Death is conquered,
My life now begins!”

The nightingale twitters,
“He is more beautiful than the sun,
More brilliant than a star!”
The redstart and the stonechat
Celebrate the infant
And his virgin Mother.

The wren sang
For the glory of the Lord,
Inflating with fantasy;
The canary follows:
Its music sounds like
A great song from Heaven.

Now comes the woodlark
Saying, “Come birds
To celebrate the dawn!”
And the big blackbird, whistling,
Went celebrating
The greatest Lady.

The tit says,
“It is neither winter nor summer
But rather springtime;
A flower is born
That gives a sweet smell all around
And fills the whole world.”

The francolin sang,
“Birds, who wants to come
Today at daybreak
To see the good Lord
With all of his splendor
Within a stable?”

The hoopoe goes singing,
“This night has come
the greatest of Kings!”
The turtle dove and rock dove
Admire, and to all
Sing without sadness.

Woodpeckers and bullfinches
Fly between fruit trees
Singing their joys.
The quail and the cuckoo
From afar have come
To see the Messiah.

The partridge sang,
“I am going to make my nest
Inside of that stable,
To look upon the Infant;
How he trembles
In the arms of Mary.”

The magpiemistle thrush, and jay
Say, “May is coming!”
The goldfinch responds,
“All the trees become green again,
All the branches flower
As if it were the spring.”

The chaffinch whispers,
“Glory today and tomorrow;
I feel great joy
To see the diamond
So handsome and brilliant
In the arms of Mary.”

The scops owl and little owl
Seeing the sunrise
Leave confused.
The tawny owl and eagle-owl
Say, “I cannot look;
Such splendors are in front of me!”

~ ~ ~

Beautiful lyrics of unknown origin:

1. Upon this holy night,
When God’s great star appears,
And floods the earth with brightness
Birds’ voices rise in song
And warbling all night long
Express their glad heart’s lightness
Birds’ voices rise in song
And warbling all night long
Express their glad heart’s lightness

2. The Nightingale is first
To bring his song of cheer,
And tell us of His glad – ness:
Jesus, our Lord, is born
To free us from all sin
And banish ev’ry sadness!
Jesus, our Lord is born
To free us from all sin
And banish ev’ry sadness!

3. The answ’ring Sparrow cries:
“God comes to earth this day
Amid the angels flying.”
Trilling in sweetest tones,
The Finch his Lord now owns:
“To Him be all thanksgiving.”
Trilling in sweetest tones,
The Finch his Lord now owns:
“To Him be all thanksgiving.”

4. The Partridge adds his note:
“To Bethlehem I’ll fly,
Where in the stall He’s lying.
There, near the manger blest,
I’ll build myself a nest,
And sing my love undying.
There, near the manger blest,
I’ll build myself a nest,
And sing my love undying.

~ ~ ~

What are some of the things these different versions have in common?

The most celebrated holy night
in which a great light appears.
The heavens are filled with God’s glory!
The earth is flooded with brightness.
That illumination allows birds to awake, fly and sing,
when most do not do so in darkness.

From eagle to sparrow, all kinds of birds
sing of Jesus’ birth.
They extol the virtues of Him and His mother.
They praise the Highest Lord
with voices both loud and sweet.

The birds come from near and far away,
and sing of how He will set them,
and all creation free.
They joyfully sing of how Heaven’s blessing
has come to earth, and of how He will overcome
darkness, sin, and death.

The birds sing of the dawn of new life;
eternal springtime blooming;
they sound thankful and hopeful.
They worship and adore Him!
They want to stay near Him;
They pledge loyalty.

Best of all, the multitude of birds rejoice!

And who do these birds represent?
All of creation?
Yes, all of that, and maybe
And you.
And all of us.
~ ~ ~
Merry Christmas!
Sing loudly and sweetly!

Len @






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