Souviens-toi

I took French in high school, and a little in college. I am by no means fluent, but I do okay. I was a very enthusiastic student, and a symptom of my enthusiasm was my purchase of a French hymnbook (Cantiques), children’s songbook, and Book of Mormon from distribution services.
Not all of the English hymns are in the French hymnbook, and not all of the French hymns are in the English hymnbook. One of my favorites is Hymn number 179, Souviens-toi (PDF). The melody comes from Dvorak’s New World Symphony (Largo, to be specific). Here’s a youtube video of someone singing it, with a translation in the video information. It is a lovely song, addressing a newborn and discussing heaven.

The other day I dug out the Cantiques looking for Christmas songs, and since I had it out I went ahead and turned to this hymn and started singing along with the melody “Souviens-toi, Mon enfant: tes parents divins Te serraint dans leurs bras, ce temps n’est pas loin…”

Wait wait wait. Back up; “tes parentS divinS? Dans leurs bras?” Perhaps you don’t have to speak French to guess was that ‘s’ at the end of ‘parent’ might mean. Just in case here is a rough translation: “Remember, my baby your divine parents held you in their arms not long ago.”

A hymn, a beautiful one at that, with a distinct reference to Heavenly Mother in the first line. How I didn’t notice this years ago is beyond me, but there it is.

We need to get this hymn in the English hymnbook post haste.

Starfoxy

Starfoxy is a fulltime caretaker for her two children.

You may also like...

17 Responses

  1. Lori Pierce says:

    Thanks for pointing that one out. Had never noticed it before. I too speak French – am actually a high school French teacher right now (first year back working since my motherhood retirement). Have sung most of the hymns in Cantique, but never noticed this one’s message. How cool!

  2. Wow. I’d never heard of this hymn before — it wasn’t in the [older hymnbook used when I was a missionary in France and Switzerland. All three verses are beautiful. (Amazing that it was written by a committee, according to the credit line. Committees don’t usually do that well!)

    • Starfoxy says:

      I was surprised by the committee as author thing as well. While I was searching for a video of someone singing it I came across a blog post that claimed the lyrics were penned by a woman who had been unable to have children. She wrote them all one night, only to later adopt a baby from another country that was born on the same night she wrote the song.
      That story sounds somewhat dubious to me, especially since the woman is not named as the author, but I suppose stranger things have happened. And I guess the idea that a committee wrote those lyrics would be just as miraculous.

      • Zannah says:

        The story is (mostly) true. I lived in Paris for three years, and the woman was in my stake (her husband is in the stake presidency, in fact). She actually adopted two boys, biological brothers I believe, and while I had never heard the tidbit about writing it the same night one of the boys were born, it’s certainly possible. The written-in-a-single night is true, as her husband told it to me, and knowing the woman (and their family) it makes complete sense for a committee to be credited. If you’re curious about names and such, I’d be happy to share an email with that.

      • Barry Smale says:

        Hi Starfoxy, I am glad you are impressed with “Souviens-toi mon enfant”. I searched on google for others who thought this song was special, and found many sites. However, there is one thing that intrigued me. I found no-one who caught on to the fact that there is another important word associated with “Divine Parent. In French it is TES,and English it is YOUR. This isvery significant. Most bret”hren and sisters in the church believe that there is just one Father and Mother in Heaven and that we are all children of them (from th Declaration to the world on the importance of Familly). If that is the case then the author of this song would have said in French NOS or in Eng;ish OUR. This tells us that the author believed that there her Celestial Parents are different than hers ( actually there is a small chance that they could be the same). This is something that I have believed for the past two years. I have been Temple Worker for 6 years and have realized thru this work, that the promiss that all worthy brethren and sisters who keep all their covenants, means that we will be married in eterenity and have “Eternal Lives” and be Kings and Queens, or Priests and Priestesses, under Jesus Christ who is the King of Kings, and son of Elohim and his wife, and our Saviour, as our King, and his wife, as our Queen. As Celestial Parents we will have spirit children that will partake in the same Plan of Progression that we are in right now. Our own heavenly parents will stay with Elohim. In addition, we were sealed to our Heavenly Parents because we were born in the covenant.
        If you project everthing you have been taught about our glorious future if we are faithful, then you have a good indication what our pre-mortal existance was like as well as that of Elohim’s, and of our many Eternal Lives yet to come.

        The Celestial Family is an eternal principle and those that will particpate in it, will have chosen Life (Children).

        This is my own personal opinion, based on spiritual reasoning and testimony, and is not to construed as being Revelation like that which is received by our Prophet, his councellors, and 12 apostles.

        For those who wish to reason together, you can email me at barrysmale@videotron.ca or phone me at 450-465-5679
        Hopefully we can both learn more from each other and still remain humble as we strive to acquire the attributes of our Heavenly Parents.
        P.S. Questions. Who will be our teachers on how to become Heavenly Parents? Why did Jesus tell us we had to become as little children or who do children turn to when the want o to be comforted, and have confidence in? Now I understand more clearly when Jesus said he would reconciliate us with our Heavenly Father. Maybe also with our own Heavenly Parents too

  3. Caroline says:

    Wow, this is fantastic!

    It makes me wonder about the spaces that are opened in the various word choices of hymns, scriptures, etc. in other languages. I remember talking to a female RM who went to Germany on her mission, who said that the endowment ceremony in German uses less distressing language regarding the obedience covenant than women use in the English ceremony. (Maybe it was ‘Hearken with” rather than “Hearken to”? Can’t quite remember.)

    Thanks for letting us know about this, Starfoxy.

  4. Alisa says:

    I’m overcome with the beauty of this hymn. I’ve heard the melody before, but I love how it has been adapted into the hymn style. And those lyrics? They make me weep. They are so beautiful.

  5. jose says:

    I used to sing Souviens-toi to my daughter when she was a baby. One of my favorite Cantiques–both words and music.

  6. EmilyCC says:

    I love going through old hymnals and finding songs like this. How wonderful!

    My piano students play “Largo” all the time. Little did I know it’s a hymn, too. 🙂

  7. Corktree says:

    What a wonderful discovery and a beautiful hymn. I think we should be encouraged to try out some foreign hymns, even untranslated, here stateside. I think it would be a great reminder that this church is not limited to our American experience. Along the lines of what Caroline said, I think English can mess up our perceptions.

    When I went to Russia I brought a Russian hymnal with me and I remember singing the hymns and feeling the power of the music even more than when I could understand all the words. What was amazing to me was that in such a completely different language, even the familiar hymns worked poetically somehow. I didn’t always know the correct translation, but it helped me to give some hymns a fresh look and appreciate them differently.

  8. Ryan Hammond says:

    As a former Paris missionary and having then lived their for a couple of years working in Paris, this is by far one of my favorite hymns. I think I even once tried to translate it into English for my parents back home (not poetic just message.) Anyway I looked around and here is a decent translation of it from this blog:
    http://rixarixa.blogspot.com/2006/12/souviens-toi-mon-enfant-remember-my.html

    Remember, My Child
    Remember, my child : not long ago,
    your divine parents held you in their arms.
    Today you are here, marvelously present.
    Your gaze still shines with the reflection of heaven.
    Talk to me, my child, about that blessed place,
    because for you the veil is still thin.

    Remember, my child, the forests, the cities.
    Can we down here imagine them?
    And the night sky, is it rosy or gray?
    Is the sun waiting for snow or rain?
    Describe to me, my child, the color of the meadows
    and the birdsongs of a forgotten world.

    Remember, my child: at the dawn of time,
    we were friends playing in the wind.
    Then one day in joy we chose to accept
    the Lord’s grand plan of life.
    That night, my child, we promised through love,
    and through faith, to be reunited.

    Thanks for reminding me of the heavenly parents reference. I also really like the last verse. It really is a beautiful hymn and makes me long for the day that we seriously increase the diversity of hymns in our books.

  9. Stella says:

    Thanks for this Starfoxy!

    I have lived in Paris a few times and just finished up 1/2 a year in French speaking Switzerland. I’ve been to many services and sung this hymn many times, and, like you, never noticed before. So beautiful!

    Around Christmas time I always want to sing Noel Nouvelet in church!

  10. Gerald says:

    Hello,

    I was searching references to Souviens-Toi online and came across this. I just thought you might be interested in knowing that I did a complete translation of this hymn a few years back while studying translation in university. I sent a copy to the Church Music Committee and they sent me a letter saying that they were keeeping it for potential future consideration. That was probably about 13 or 14 years ago, so who knows what will happen, but they do have a translation.

    Gerald

  11. Lydia says:

    Zannah — what is that sister’s name? Because I have a feeling the woman you are describing was my landlady last summer! Is it sister Euvrard? Oh my gosh that would be so awesome I need to email her and confirm this!

  12. Jared says:

    I’ve sung this song to my children for years and I really appreciate this topic and all the comments that have been made. It was also sung at the funeral of our first son and has brought me much peace and joy.

  13. Hello,

    I am a professional translator living in Ottawa Canada. I read your article above with interest. I too love this hymn and would like to let you know that I translated it into English while in university in the late 90s. I sent a copy to the Church Music Committee in Salt Lake and received a letter saying they were keeping it on file for future considerations. I don’t know if it will ever be included in the Hymn Book, but I look forward to the next revision to see. My translation will be posted very soon to my site at ldsdefender.yolasite.com. I would love to know what you think.

Leave a Reply