Inadvertent cussin’ in a hymn!

A long hymn composed by none other than St. Thomas Aquinas gets a slightly alarming Chinook translation…

lauda sion

(Image credit: Youtube)

Talkin’ about the “Lauda Sion” blues! 

(Lauda Sion = ‘Praise, o Zion…’ in Latin.) 

Page 163 of the “Chinook Book of Devotions throughout the Year“, detailing how the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of Corpus Christi, includes Father JMR Le Jeune’s Jargon translation of this oldie.

The following comes near the end of his version. I’ll show this passage to you along with the English translation given on Wikipedia + my own (DDR) translation.

For those sharp characters who are going to be noticing such stuff, I want you to know that my stress marks on the Chinuk Wawa transcription will be explained below…

dirty dogs

Ukuk, lisash klaska makmak,
úkuk, lésash ɬáska mə́kʰmək, 
WIKI: ‘Behold the Bread of Angels,’
DDR: ‘This is the angels’s bread,’

nsaika tlap ukuk ilihi
nsáyka t’ɬáp Ø ukúk ilíhi(;) 
WIKI: ‘For us pilgrims food, and token’
DDR: ‘That we’ve received on this earth(;)’

Shisyu patlach iaka tanas,
shísi pátɬach yáka tə́nas Ø, 
WIKI: ‘Of the promise by Christ spoken,’
DDR: ‘Jesus gave it to his children,’

wik kopa kaltash kamuks.
wík kʰúpa kə́ltəs kʰámuks. 
WIKI: ‘Children’s meat, to dogs denied.’
DDR: ‘Not to worthless dogs.’

[this means to make the sign of the cross now]

The reason I put a headline on this article about cussin’ is that Le Jeune’s translation, faithful as it is to the Latin original (below), sounds like a nasty insult in Jargon. Calling someone a dog is fightin’ words. Aside from that, I feel that he did a wonderfully inventive translation job, and I have nothing more to say 😉

Bonus fact:

I think with this song Le Jeune was attempting the rare feat of a Chinuk Wawa text that has poetic meter. The Latin original has a really obvious “Song of Hiawatha” beat to it (a “trochaic tetrameter”). So we can see the similarities between HW Longfellow’s — 

“Shóuld you ásk me, whénce these stóries?
Whénce these légends ánd tradítions…”

and Aquinas’s (with my translation) — 

“Écce pánis Ángelórum,     (Behold the bread of angels,)
Fáctus cíbus víatórum:     (Made into food for pilgrims,)
Vére pánis fíliórum,     (Truly bread for the children,) 
Nón mitténdus cánibús.”     (Not to be given to dogs.)


And maybe that resemblance isn’t just coincidental, as “Hiawatha” was a huge influence on North American pop culture in the 19th century. Le Jeune may have felt the similarities between these two well-known texts, and maybe he wanted to sort of “Indianize” the medieval Catholic hymn.

To be exact about this, we can stipulate that Le Jeune’s last line doesn’t conform exactly to the meter; it’s as if he’s leaving a dramatic (unstressed syllable sized) pause between the wik and the rest. The effect is like singing ‘NÓT AT ÁLL to wórthless cánines’! 🙂 

But — and I find this totally hilarious, in a way — Le Jeune made awesome use of the “SILENT IT” (Ø, the inanimate direct object), not once but twice. This both made his text very fluent, which is kinda rare in Jargon songs written by Settlers, and helped him stick to the meter, which is happened even less often!

This is another old Jargon song that I’d love to hear someone perform & record…

Bonus fact:

Chinuk Wawa hymns don’t always have an obvious stress placement, or a clear matchup between the known tunes and the syllables of the lyric. So today’s piece is quite a rarity in that light, too. You can follow the “Book of Devotions” link above to read the whole long thing, if you’re already a Chinuk Pipa reader or if you want to practice & become one!

What do you think?