Music/Popular Culture

Today’s Christmas Song–“Miri it is”

An old song, one of the few surviving songs with lyrics in Middle English, and one which seems appropriate for today, the shortest day of the year. The modern translation would be “Merry it is.” So this should be a joyful song, with a joyful treatment. The text probably dates from around 1225, and goes like this:

Mirie it is while sumer y-last
With fugheles son
Oc nu neheth windes blast
And weder strong.
Ei, ei!
What this nicht is long
And ich with wel michel wrong
Soregh and murne and fast.

Which translates as

Merry it is while summer lasts
With the song of birds
But now draws near the wind’s blasts
And harsh weather
Alas, alas!
How long the night is!
And I, most unjustly
Sorrow and mourn and fast

A seasonal song, then, and probably not originally a Christmas song, although the proximity of Christmas with the winter solstice has led to more than one convergence.

Here’s a milder version from Ensemble Belladonna that I quite like:

And another, from the always-exemplary La Reverdie, a longer and more contemplative vision of the song:

And here’s my favorite version, from the Belgian group Zefiro Torna. I’d love to see this performed live—this is one of those tracks that just explodes genre boundaries. (It’s Deezer, so you may have to register–but it’s free):

Categories: Music/Popular Culture

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