Thursday, December 24, 2020

Music on My Mind

Peter Hollens, with The Hound + The Fox, "Away in a Manger". This song has an interesting history. It shows up suddenly in the 1880s, attributed to Martin Luther, and sometimes given the title, "Luther's Cradle Song". There is, however, no such song in Luther's corpus; there's not even an extant German version of the song before well into the twentieth century. Probably what happened was an imaginative attribution -- i.e., the poet wrote a lullaby perhaps in the persona of Luther, or, having written it, thought it sounded well read as if from Luther, but the attribution in the title was taken literally by others -- but nobody knows. It's almost certainly American in origin, though, making it perhaps the most popular carol of American origin in the world.