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The Curious Case of the Merechi Carol

From:Amanda Babcock <ababcock@...>
Date:Friday, August 6, 2004, 21:30
I was reading a conculture post from last year and saw that Christian
Thalmann had translated a christmas carol into - was it Jovian?  Anyway,
this put a bit of a bug in my brain and I had to translate one of the
more pagan ones into mërèchi.

Ethnographers are puzzled as to how this traditional mërèchi folksong
ended up with the same tune as "The Holly and the Ivy", and many of
the same themes, but very little similarity otherwise ;)

(The ivy known as carambèdi must not be toxic to deer.  I'm not actually
sure how long such a plant would survive in the wild.  Maybe the mërèchi
don't have the deer control problems that Pennsylvania has.  They do have
wolves, after all... alternatively, maybe the ivy-eating deer are just
really desperate.)

Ignore the diacritics; the X-SAMPA version is in the interlinear.

Note that the last syllable of the first line of the chorus should be
sung as the first syllable of the second line.  Does that make sense?
In sheet music it would have dashes showing that it wraps to the next
line.  I wrote it to the dulcet strains of this webpage:
(Warning: the webpage is, 1, a Tripod side full of popups, and 2, a
rather variant set of lyrics :) though not as variant as those below.
And 3, it plays music automatically, which is normally a browser-terminating
offense for me, but in this case was helpful.)

alàla cililàtian
Or, Blessed Be the Evergreens


  alàla cililàtian
  càli kakàsli;
  të alàla yíri làmakes
  na-éam kabalíndi.

  Blessed be the evergreens
  with red berries;
  and blessed be every bit of life
  which lives in wintertime

a póvi katólia
yilàti latèmsöp'ë;
të koràpi carambèdi
ësóp'r yihócipi.

The tall holly tree
is the greenest tree;
and the wrapping ivy
is the farthest-reaching.


pëcílitim enèd,
të pëgélam tèmitan;
mitabità tatàlap'të,
carambèdi'c pëlómbam.

The rising of the sun,
and the running of the deer;
below holly boughs they run,
eating the ivy.


à katòlia íllü,
të pàla, carambèdi;
néric cíli póvi cheldàp'ë
të né'c dàp'r èchëki.

The holly is a man
and a woman, the ivy;
her he ever holds tall
and him she makes warm.



Everything written "a" in the phonetic transcription/morpheme breakdown
line should be considered /A/, which was just too annoying to keep writing.

alàla      cililàtian
a'lala     kili'lati     -a  -n evergreen.ADJ NOM PL

càli  kakàsli
'kali ka'kas -li
red   berry  with

të  alàla      yíri  làmakes
te  a'lala     'yiri 'lama      -kEs
and all   vegetation piece.of

na-éam                kabalíndi
na-   'ea -p  -n      kaba'lin   -di
which be  IND 3P.SG.n wintertime in

a póvi  katólia
a 'povi ka'tolia
O tall  holly.tree

yilàti    latèmsöp'ë
yi- 'lati la'tEm -so -p  -e
SUP green tree   COP IND 3P.SG.m

të  koràpi    carambèdi
te  kor -'api karam'bEdi
and bind PART ivy

ësóp'r           yihócipi
e'so -p  -r      yi- 'hoki -pi

pëcílitim      enèd
pe- 'kilit -im E'nEd
GER rise   GER sun

të  pëgélam       tèmitan
te  pe- 'gela -m  'tEmita -n
and GER go    GER deer    PL

mitabità           tatàlap'të
mita        -bi'ta ta'tala -p  -te
holly.bough under  run     IND 3P.PL

carambèdi'c    pëlómbam
karam'bEdi -k  pe- 'lomba -m
ivy        ACC GER eat    GER

à  katòlia    íllü
'a ka'tolia   'illu
O  holly.tree man

të  pàla  carambèdi
te  'pala karam'bEdi
and woman ivy

néric       cíli  póvi  cheldàp'ë
'ner    -ik 'kili 'povi xEl  -'da -p  -e
3P.SG.f ACC ever  tall  stay CAUS IND 3P.SG.m

të  né'c        dàp'r             èchëki
te  'ne     -k  'da   -p  -r      'ESe -ki
and 3P.SG.m ACC cause IND 3P.SG.f heat ADJ

Possibly opaque abbreviations:

  ADJ    adjectivizing suffix, or as .ADJ indicates word is an adjective
  CAUS   causative suffix
  COP    copula (either for the verb or for the verbalizing suffix)
  GER    gerundizing circumfix
  IND    indicative mood
  NOM    nominalizing suffix
  O      not an abbreviation; this is the vocative O! :)
  PART   participial suffix (active, in this case)
  SUP    superlative prefix

I assume everyone can figure out ACC, PL, and the various 3P.etc's.

As with every other translation I do, mërèchi grammar mutated during
the course of writing this.  New bits this time include the verbalizing
copular suffix -sö /so/, and possibly the use of apposition for zero
copula.  Plus I discovered the slurred form -m for -pn, and a shorter
word for "deer"; and my original word for "holly bush" became "holly
bough", which spawned a new carol idea: "míta, mítali bla bla bla" (need
a word for "decorate the hall" with three syllables, must get to work :)