Thursday, December 13, 2007

Old Business - 500 Years So.

They looked up and saw a star
Shining in the East beyond them far
And to the earth it gave great light
And so it continued both day and night
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
Born is the King of Israel!

Believe it or not, I have issues with this; the second verse of "The First Noel".

Put the stones down. I like the song. Unlike those that will appear on my list of the worst Christmas songs, this one has tradition, a pleasant melody and a joyful message. It's very hard to screw up, even by your local church choir or a glitzy country music star.

The problem goes back 50 years ago when it was mandatory for my elementary school class to sing The First Noel for The Christmas Program. Like I said, it's a pretty hard song to screw up, even by a bunch of squirrelly nine year-olds. OK. We breeze through the first verse but then when the shepherds look up to see the star to open verse two, the music stops. Mrs. Greene, the lady to whom I will forever be ingratiated for teaching me the tune, "Grandma Grunt", said, "No, no, no. It goes like this: They look -ked up , not looked."

What? It says looked. It rhymes with cooked, not crooked. We knew how to read. In fact, bring look-ed to the reading circle and you'd get corrected on the spot. Something that the "top" reading group (We knew who we were.) considered a great indignity. The argument lasted only a few minutes before Mrs. Greene and centuries of tradition imposed their will.

I did a search and found out the carol came from 16th century England. I'm positive the lyrics have gone through some revision over the years and are not exactly as originally penned. Why couldn't this awkward bar be cleaned up to match the cadence of the song? 'They all looked up" would work.

But no, the lyric remains screw-ed up to this day.

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