Skip to page content

What we know today as the melody of Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabella (In French, “Un flambeau, Jeannette, Isabelle”) is almost certainly based on a drinking song composed by Marc-Antoine Charpentier, to be performed as incidental music for Molière’s Le médecin malgré lui (1666). The original French text by Émile Blémont, based on a 17th-century Provençal carol, first appeared with this melody in Noëls français (1901), a collection of French carols transcribed and harmonized by musicologist and composer Julien Tiersot. Two shepherdesses, Jeannette and Isabella, excited at finding the baby in the stable, are urged to bring torches. Torches remain a Christmas tradition in Provence, where children dress up as shepherds and milkmaids, carrying torches and candles to Midnight Mass while singing this carol.

Bring a torch, Jeannette, Isabella.
Bring a torch, come hurry and run.
It is Jesus, good folk of the village,
Christ is born, and Mary’s calling:
Ah! Ah! Beautiful is the Mother, Ah!
Ah! Beautiful is the Child!

It is wrong when the baby is sleeping,
It is wrong to speak so loud;
Silence now, as you come near the cradle,
Lest you awaken little Jesus,
Ah! Ah! Beautiful is the Mother, Ah!
Ah! Beautiful is the Child

Skies are glowing, the heavens are cloudless,
Bright the path to the manger bed.
Hasten, all who would see little Jesus,
Shining bright as yonder star,
Ah! Ah! Beautiful is the Mother, Ah!
Ah! Beautiful is the Child!