Procul in Praesaepi

Today's carol, "Away in a Manger," is a popular English Christmas carol, first published in 1885, with the third verse added in 1887. Although the first publication was by the Lutheran Church, it is not true that Martin Luther is the author of the song, although you will sometimes see it attributed it to him. The song is popular in both America and in England, although it is sung to two different tunes. You can find the lyrics along with MIDI files for the two different tunes and sheet music at the Hymns and Carols of Christmas website. There is also a Wikipedia article about this carol.

The English title of this carol gives me a great excuse to say something about the wonderful English word "manger," which is ultimately derived from Latin. As all Latin students know, the Latin verb esse, "to eat," is confusingly similar to the verb "to be" (this is the case in many Indo-European languages). As a result, the simple Latin verb esse was gradually replaced in the later Romance languages. In some languages, it was replaced by a compounded form of the verb. The Spanish "comer," for example, comes from the Latin comesse (as in the English word "comestible"). In Italian, however, the verb is mangiare (as anyone knows who has been told, "mangia, mangia!" "eat, eat!"). This word comes from the Latin verb manducare, "to chew." This Latin verb manducare is thus also the root of the English word "manger," where the animals come to "chew" their food!

I found this Latin version of the carol on the Internet, attributed to Robert J.M. Lindsay.

Procul in praesaepi et sine lecto,
en, parvulus Iesus dormit in faeno
stellaeque micantes despectant eum
tranquillo in somno, nostrum Dominum.

Dum mugiunt boves, expergiscitur;
nec tamen ex illo auditur murmur.
Amo te, mi Iesu! De caelo specta
et usque ad lucem, precor, mi adsta.

Es, Domine, mecum, te rogo; mane
me iuxta aeterno, et dilige me.
Pueruli omnes in cura tua
fac uti fruantur aeterna vita.


Unknown said...

Salve, Laura! Thanks for providing these wonderful Latin carols. My students have enjoyed them.

As for the English "manger", it probably came to us via French, in which the verb manger means "eat". Of course it would ultimately go back to the Latin form.

Devenius Dulenius (Dewayne Dulaney), Latinteach list member, Latin and Spanish teacher

Laura Gibbs said...

I am glad you are enjoying them! And yes, there are so many Latin words that come to us via French - although I'm guessing that in this case, it is the "mangia! mangia!" that people might recognize from Italian, rather than the French "manger." English "mange" and "mangy" come from the same root, but it's kind of nasty thinking about the little mange critters eating us up! :-)

Stephen Bujno said...

Thank you! It grounded the day in solemnity singing a couple carols in Latin. Also, love the etymology being pointed out. My mother would often ask me "que tu mange" each day. Good memories. So buon Natale to all!