This song, a last-minute substitution since I had trouble finding the song I had planned for today, was published in 1833 (so it would actually be known to my steampunk character! Fancy that). It’s done in the minor mode, according to Wiki, which according to my much more musical partner Chaos says makes people uneasy and sounds a little depressing. Not what you’d expect from a Christmas carol, that’s for sure! But it makes sense; picture the first noel, the long, cold winter night, the uncertainty of the stable birth in a time when many women died in childbirth, the weight of sin uncleansed from the world…
I jest, of course. That’s the Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan, hardly a traditional interpretation. Though I do like that version; it’s got a little groove in it I dig.
The usual version is more like this:
Nat King Cole proves that the minor mode doesn’t have to be dark and soulful; it can be joyous, but still holds depth and an intriguing sound to it. And he’s about as traditional as you can get these days.
Of course, there’s Glee. For once, they’re not too bad, doing an almost acapella version, all female:
This verse, in particular, always stands out to me:
Now to the Lord sing praises,
All you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace;
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface.
To my ear, it sounds like celebrating any other holiday “defaces” Christmas, doesn’t it? Of course, its not true. “doth” takes a third person subject, “It”, rather than a plural “all”, meaning “All others” must be the object of the sentence, meaning Christmas “defaces” all other holidays. While today “deface” means mar or damage, apparently an archaic meaning was “obliterate”; Christmas literally destroys all other holidays, according to this song. Except that that’s not true either, apparently, because other sources of mine mention that it used to be synonymous with “efface” or “outshine”, but that’s not nearly as nice a mental image
Food for thought. Here’s Boyz II Men:
More food for thought: apparently, the singer is not wishing the “Merry gentlemen” to be “rested” by “God”, but for “God” to “rest you merry” to the “gentlemen” in general, if that makes sense. It’s the same kind of sentence construction as “let nothing you dismay”; while “rest” is never and “dismay” only occasionally used in the transitive sense anymore, this was more common when the song was written. See also “let nothing you affright”, which isn’t even used as a word anymore, let alone a transitive verb. We would today use “scare”, which is a much less interesting word I think. Too round.
Have some Clockwork Orchestra, in honor of Erika:
I totally want to put together a steampunk modern dance troupe, don’t you?