Morobito kozorite

Christmas carols are the Jurassic Park of Japanese — an isolated environment in which long-extinct vocabulary was revived to roam free. Here's the Japanese equivalent to "Joy to the world," for example:

Morobito kozorite,
Utai matsure!
Hisashiku machinishi,
Shu wa kimaseri,
Shu wa kimaseri,
Shu wa, shu wa kimaseri!
Let everyone gather,
And welcome Him with song!
The long awaited
Lord is come,
Lord is come,
Lord is, Lord is come!

I think it's fair to say that morobito and kozoru are extinct. Shu is at best Christian jargon (I'm not sure if it's still used or not). There appears to be some confusion about whether utaimatsure means "welcome with song" or "humbly sing," (etymologically it all came from the same place) but either way, the imperative matsure is at least rare. Hisashiku is still in use, albeit a bit stiff. The verbs matsu and kuru are alive and kicking, but they are of course conjugated archaically, so that shu wa kimaseri, "The Lord is come," is notoriously opaque to the children who learn it.

There's another way in which this song is similar to a Jurassic Park dinosaur: it is not what it seems. Just as John Hammond's dinosaurs were partly reconstructed with frog DNA, "Morobito kozorite" is in truth not a translation of "Joy to the world" at all. It is a translation of "Hark the glad sound":

Hark, the glad sound! the Savior comes,
The Savior promised long;
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every voice a song.

See? There's that long awaited, and textual evidence that _utai matsure is indeed supposed to be two separate verbs (sing + enthrone), not a verb and an auxiliary (sing + [+humble]).

Note that there is a Japanese translation of "Joy to the world" that is actually a translation of "Joy to the world". Actually, there are a few; here's one:

Tami mina yorokobe,
Shu wa kimaseri!
Kokoro o sonaete,
Iza mukaeyo,
Iza mukaeyo,
Iza, iza mukaeyo!
Let all people rejoice,
The Lord is come!
Offering your hearts,
Welcome ye Him,
Welcome ye Him,
Welcome, welcome ye Him!

No heaven or nature singing, but clearly much closer to the "Joy to the world" we know and love (seriously, it's the single most beloved carol).

How did this situation arise? Wikipedia has the whole story, but in a nutshell, these translations were made back in the olden days when corporate media hadn't rendered the connections between words and tunes quite so rigid. The first version of "Tami mina yorokobe" was presented set to the tune "Winchester Old", while the words set to "Antioch" (the "Joy to the world" tune) were those of "Morobito kozorite". "Tami mina yorokobe" did have a note, it seems, saying that it could also be sung to "Antioch," but I guess the damage was done.

Incidentally, there's another version where the second line is Mukaematsure! which is, I think, meant as verb + auxiliary (welcome + [+humble]). Perhaps that's muddying the water around utai matsure comes from.

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主(しゅ) is the standard translation for Lord in the Old and New Testament, so that is certainly the 'shu' here in this hymn.


Thry still use it, then? I had the vague idea that the "new" translations had adopted something different. Thanks!

L. N. Hammer:

I like the "Tami mina" version a lot better. Even ignoring that the first is bungo out the wazoo, it's even stiff AS bungo.



As a kid I remember singing Shu ware o aisu 'Jesus loves me', and the Morobito version of 'Joy to the World'. But my understanding didn't get much beyond bito = hito, and enjoying the rhythm of Shu wa kimaseri.


こぞる isn't quite extinct; こぞって(挙って)is still used as an adverb meaning "everyone, all, unanimously" and isn't unusual as far as I know.


On reflection, aragoto, you're right. My bad. Would you agree with the proposition that nowadays it tends to have a negative connotation (like, say, "mob" in English), and probably wouldn't be used in a positive context like this?


You definitely have a point there. In fact, googling it shows the usual Yahoo Chiebukuro queries and search suggestions asking how to say it politely/tactfully. (There's even a suggestion of confined spaces and too much elbowing in the sound of it, come to think of it.)


主 is still the standard translation of small-caps Lord in both major Japanese translations.

And I think your categorisation of Christmas carols as the Jurassic Park of Japanese is a bit unfair in two dimensions - first, it's not just Christmas carols, but all Christian hymns are basically unchanged since the Taisho era and totally incomprehensible to most of the people singing them; second, it's not just Japanese - there's not much call for "hark" and "ye" in English these days.


Yeah, that's definitely true -- I wouldn't claim that English Christmas carols are up-to-date either. (It's telling that Wikipedia has a whole section explaining what "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" is actually supposed to mean, for example.) Although, of course, just like in Japanese the old-fashionedness is part of the appeal.

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