And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt.
Herod waited for the Kings to come back and tell him where the child he feared was, but they had also been warned in a dream and returned home on another path. Then the furious King of Judea ordered to kill all the children of Bethlehem and the surrounding area younger than two years. Today, December 28 (if you read this on the day it's published) commemorates the Massacre of the Innocents, a dreadful episode that some historians say is false (but not unlikely, according to Herod's documented facts); others maintain that only a few dozen children would have been killed.
Many artists have painted this scene or written verses about it. Others have paid attention to the flight to Egypt, the event we pay attention to this week as well. We will do so with a song by Ottorino Respighi, Le repos en Egypte [The rest in Egypt], composed in 1912 and published in 1919 in the collection Sei Liriche, seconda serie [Six songs, second series]. The poem, a sonnet, is by the symbolist poet Albert Samain. It is part of Le chariot d'or [The Golden Chariot], a collection that was published shortly after Samain died, in 1900, aged 42.
The poem tells us of a calm night, probably a balm after the distress of the journey; Joseph, Mary, and the child rest between the feet of the Sphinx; the music is markedly impressionist in character, and keeps the calm that emerges from the verses, subtly underlining them. Our interpreters are Leonardo de Lisi and Reinild Mees.
I hope you enjoy this delicate song I chose to close the year 2022, and I hope you have a good start to the new year!
La nuit est bleue et chaude, et le calme infini...
Roulé dans son manteau, le front sur une pierre,
Joseph dort, le coeur pur, ayant fait sa prière,
Et l'âne à ses pieds est comme un humble ami.
Entre les pieds du Sphynx appuyée à demi,
La vierge pâle et douce, a fermé la paupière;
Et, dans l'ombre, une étrange et suave lumière
Sort du petit Jésus dans ses bras endormi.
Autour d'eux le désert songe mysterieux;
Et tout est si tranquille a cette heure, en ces lieux
Qu'on entendrait l'enfant respirer sous ses voiles.
Nul souffle... La fumée immobile du feu
Monte ainsi qu'un long fil se perd dans l'air bleu...
Et le Sphynx éternel atteste les étoiles.
Please follow this link if you need an English translation.
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