Posted by Word Camel on December 27, 2003
In Reply to: The First Noel lyric question... posted by Nick on December 27, 2003
: At that time, although I think it was already archaic, it would have meant what we mean today if we said "some poor shepherds."
: : : : : This has always bothered me a bit...
: : : : : "The first Noel, The angels did say
: : : : : was to certain poor shepherds,
: : : : : in fields as they lay..."
: : : : : Does this mean 'certain shepherds' as opposed to certain *other* shepherds? Is is an archaic verb? Is is just the way lyrics are sometimes?
: : : : : This has been preying on my mind for decades. Some times I wake up and night and wonder. Many thanks in advance for any insights.
: : : : : Camelita
: : : : : Who clearly needs a new hobby
: : : : I do not know. I imagine the songwriter just threw in "certain" to make it sound right.
: : : Well we can be certain of some things: firstly the shepherds were not poor - these folks always had their sheep to fall back on. Secondly, if they were carrying crooks then they were certainly shepherds so we are left with the probability that these shepherds, above all other shepherds, were, for whatever reason, privileged to hear the very first 'Noel'. Contrary to what you might think I've been worried for years about the reaction of said shepherds to this 'Noel'. Did they think it a joke and roll around laughing, were they impressed at being chosen or had they been warned in advance and just took it in their stride. I favour the last option, I think they had an inkling that angels were on the lookout for three shepherds lying in a field and, just out of curiosity, they left their homes after tea, congregated in a nearby convenient field and, with their crooks for identification purposes, lay down and hoped for the best. The rest is history.
: : Well, in that case, tipped off as they were, they were probably *certain* and maybe even smug. Which makes me wonder if there were uncertain shepherds filled with existential angst... Mind you, the shepherds then had less time to navel gaze than shepherds now, what with all the wolves in sheep's clothing and such.
:At that time, although I think it was already archaic, it would have meant what we mean today if we said "some poor shepherds."
I thought it might have been an archaic verb as in "let's certain the shepherds because they are uneasy" But "certain" used in the sense of "certain people" is still in current usage.