Writing on Christmas Eve, I have decided to start a “12 days of Christmas” music experiment on this blog. One song a day, with a few comments on some of them. Not ranked.
First up, in honor of the solstice that just passed, is what might be the most beautiful song I know: Björk’s version of “Vökuró” from her masterpiece Medúlla.
I love this song so much, that I decided I had to try to sing it. So, in addition to sounding it out in Icelandic in what I suppose would sound atrocious to native speakers without enlightening anyone else, I made some singable English lyrics. (It’s not that I claim to know Icelandic, but only that I tried to get near the heart of the meaning in lyrics that work as a song, through a free paraphrase informed by other people’s translations). One of these days I hope to record it. But, meanwhile, waiting for that day would turn the perfect into the enemy of the good—and, in addition, if I were to put this forward in my own voice when you could listen to Björk, that would be pathetic.
Still, you will get more out of this superlative performance if you understand what she is singing about. It is an Icelandic lullaby. Here is a prose version of the gist of it, again my paraphrase from translations.
Our farm sleeps happily as snow falls at dusk. Silently it blankets the grass, keeping earth until spring.
Spring is nesting underground, keeping watch with the two of us. Trusting life through the winter’s cold, staring from the depths up into the stars.
Far away the great city wakes, going mad with grim enchantment. It never rests, anxious night and day—yet you gaze back at me, smiling calm and bright.
In your smile I feel my hope return, rousing songs from dreams. Earth is at peace in the arms of snow. Close your eyes, my beloved child, and rest until spring.
Here is my version that lets you follow line by line, or even sing along if you dare to profane the perfection of her arrangement.
Little farm, home for you and me
Through the night, sleeps in peace
Covering the grass
Silent snow, blanketing the fields, keeps earth ’til spring
Spring still hides. nesting at the foot of the hill
Keeping watch as we also do
through the winter’s cold
Keeping faith, staring from the depths up into the stars
Far away, the great gray city wakes
Flickering screens drawing us into their spell
fearful night and day
Yet your eyes, trusting and serene, are with me here
In your smile, I can feel my hope return
As we sleep, songs will rise from dreams
Earth at peace
In the arms of snow
Close your eyes, my beloved child, and rest till spring
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