"Bring a Torch, Jeanette, Isabella" (French: Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle) is a Christmas carol which originated from the Provence region of France in the 16th century. The song is unique among Christmas carols in that it is in 3/8 time.
The carol was first published in 1553 in France, and was subsequently translated into English in the 18th century. The song was originally not a song to be sung at Christmas, but rather dance music for French nobility.
The carol tells the story of two milkmaids, Jeanette and Isabella, who went to milk their cows in a manger in Bethlehem, only to find the baby Jesus sleeping in the hay. The two girls ran to town to tell the village of the coming of Christ, and the townspeople came with their own torches to view the sight for themselves. However, they had to keep their voices down so little Jesus could enjoy his dreams.
To this day in the Provence region, children dress up as shepherds and milkmaids, carrying torches and candles to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, while singing the carol.
The painter Georges de La Tour painted a nativity scene based on the carol.
Un flambeau, Jeanette, Isabelle --
Un flambeau! Courons au berceau!
C'est Jésus, bonnes gens du hameau.
Le Christ est né; Marie appelle!
Ah! Ah! Ah! Que la Mère est belle,
Ah! Ah! Ah! Que l'Enfant est beau!
C'est un tort, quand l'Enfant sommeille,
C'est un tort de crier si fort.
Taisez-vous, l'un et l'autre, d'abord!
Au moindre bruit, Jésus s'éveille.
Chut! chut! chut! Il dort à merveille,
Chut! chut! chut! Voyez comme il dort!
Doucement, dans l'étable close,
Doucement, venez un moment!
Approchez! Que Jésus est charmant!
Comme il est blanc! Comme il est rose!
Do! Do! Do! Que l'Enfant repose!
Do! Do! Do! Qu'il rit en dormant!
Bonne Noël! Jhesu + Marie!
Lyrics and information are from the net.