Adiemus – An Imaginary Translation (with apologies to Karl Jenkins)

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’
(Lewis Carroll: Through The Looking Glass (And What Alice Found There)

Lyrics can be tough to memorise when you need to.  And that’s just when the lyrics have meaning in a language you understand.

But some songs have words that intentionally have no meaning.  Take Karl Jenkins’ Adiemus for example.  Lovely.  I’ve been learning it as part of a choir, and although there aren’t a lot of lyrics, I’ve been finding it harder than usual to get them lodged in my brain (and I keep having to look down at my songsheet).

I think part of the reason for this is, although the words are deliberately beautiful, because they don’t signify anything there’s no story for me to latch on to.

So I created one, with some dusty language ‘O’ Levels to (mis)guide me.

Sadly, if I typed the full lyrics to Adiemus here that would be naughty.  However, I can share some examples.  For instance, the first line:

Aria-di-amus la-te

suggested to me: “We’ve been given a song, in secret”, and a couple of lines on:

Aria-natus la-te a-dua

came out as: “For a song to be born in secret is jolly hard work.”

So here follows my totally spurious translation of Adiemus, with my apologies to its composer:

We’ve been given a song, in secret.
We have been given a song, oh yes.
For a song to be born in secret is jolly hard work.

To plant an altar, you go away. (x2)
To plant an altar, you go away.  Hide yourself.

Off my patch!  Chill, sun-god! (x2)
Off my patch!  Chill, sun-god!  Lone wolf? (x3)
(A sign of a dove, oh yes!)
Off my patch!  Chill, sun-god!  Lone wolf?
A sign – do, oh yes! (x2)

A sign of a dove, oh yes! (x9)

Which all makes about as much sense as most of the Eurovision lyrics last weekend (especially that one about the trumpet).

Daft as this sounds, having this internal dialogue going on has helped me to remember the words, which was, after all, the name of the game.  Hopefully I’ll be able to relinquish my pretend translation soon, and the syllables will become automatic to me.  Failing that, I could be thrown out for singing the words in my head and not the ones in front of me…

Dedicated to anyone who’s ever had to learn Adiemus 🙂

 
Culture Bunker, Music, Word-hoard

2 responses to Adiemus – An Imaginary Translation (with apologies to Karl Jenkins)


  1. Lucy Vignoles

    I remember you all as “late teenagers?” complaining about time spent on Latin!! – it has finally proved useful and made me smile too. Great Posts – wish I could write as well. LJV

  2. Freddy

    Thank you for your help!!

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