Saturday, January 17, 2009

First contact with a villancico

Another thorny subject: villancicos. I could translate this word with Christmas carol but as far as I could see, the term villancico has a wider meaning.

I remember the first time I heard one: I was having a walk inside a big mall few days before Christmas and I noticed that everywhere you could listen to the music of some villancico. Then, I didn't even know their name. Neither could I understand their words. Even so, the atmosphere of happiness was clearly transmitted to me and I started remembering the typical Christmas carols I'd been listening all over my life.

The spell was broken when the following year I could clearly understand their words. Some of them are so absurd that I started looking for information about this kind of Christmas carols. It turned out that the villancico even had a couple of century of glory as a poetic form, and I don't doubt about the quality of the Renaissance poetry.

As far as it concerns their poetic form, a villancico is formed by stanzas, which usually are two, followed by a refrain. As far as it concerns the content, they were meant to be didactic texts to get people to know Christianism and help their conversion. One of the many funny evangelic means that mankind has invented throughout the centuries.

So far, so good. The problem is: have you ever listened to one? I'm not saying heard. I said: listened. I could give plenty of examples but the one that struck me most comes from a villancico which (I think) it's called Rin rin. I really want to translate it for you because I couldn't find words to express the feeling I have.

Toward Betlehem goes a donkey
rin, rin
I was mending it,
I mended it,
I did a mend,
I took it off.
Loaded with chocolate
it brings its chocolate machine
rin, rin,
I was mending it,
I mended it,
I did a mend,
I took it off.
its grinder and its stove
Mary, mary
come here soon
that the chocolate
they're eating.

In the hall of Betlehem
rin, rin
I was mending it,
I mended it,
I did a mend,
I took it off.
some mice have entered
and to good St. Joseph
rin, rin
I was mending it,
I mended it,
I did a mend,
I took it off.
they gnawed the shorts.
Mary, mary
come here soon
that the pants
they're gnawing.

In the hall of Betlehem
rin, rin
I was mending it,
I mended it,
I did a mend,
I took it off.
some thieves have entered
who, to the poor child in the cradle,
rin, rin
I was mending it,
I mended it,
I did a mend,
I took it off.
the nappies are stealing.
Mary, mary
come here soon
that the nappies
they're stealing.

Now, maybe we can just laugh at this nonsense. It's the only judicious thing left to do. But I was still wondering... Does somebody see any poetry in it? Does somebody see at least some didactic intent to convert somebody? I fail. Speaking of St. Joseph pants gnawed by mice seems almost unrespectful, though. And about the mend... I really don't catch its meaning.

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