The Legend of St. Nicolas

Traditional French song translated into English by Barbara MacArthur

Children gleaning

NARRATOR:
There were three little children
Who were harvesting in the fields. (repeat)
They went and they came
Until night fell and they were lost.
They went to a butcher’s house,

THE CHILDREN:
“Butcher, will you let us stay here tonight?”

NARRATOR:
There were three little children
Who were harvesting in the fields. (repeat)
They were just inside the door
When the butcher killed them.
He chopped them into little pieces,
Put them in a brine bucket like pigs.

There were three little children
Who were harvesting in the fields. (repeat)
St. Nicholas, at the end of seven years,
Came to pass by this field,
He knocked at the butcher’s door.

Nicholas with butcher

ST. NICHOLAS:
“Butcher, would you want me to stay the night?”

NARRATOR:
There were three little children
Who were harvesting in the fields. (repeat)

BUTCHER:
“Come in, come in St. Nicholas,
There is lots of room, you will want for nothing.”

NARRATOR:
He no more than entered
Than he asked him to supper.

There were three little children
Who were harvesting in the fields. (repeat)

ST. NICHOLAS:
“Some little salted meat I want to have
That has been in the brine bucket seven years.”

NARRATOR:
When the butcher heard this
He ran out the door.

There were three little children
Who were harvesting In the fields. (repeat)

ST. NICHOLAS:
“Butcher, Butcher, don’t run away;
Repent! God will pardon you.”

Nicholas with barrel

NARRATOR:
St. Nicholas went to seat himself
At the side of the brine bucket.

There were three little children
Who were harvesting in the fields. (repeat)

ST. NICHOLAS:
“Little children who sleep there
I am the great St. Nicholas.”

NARRATOR:
And the Saint extended three fingers:
(the French way of counting with his thumb as #1, index finger #2 and third finger #three)
The little ones woke up all three.

There were three little children
Who were harvesting in the fields. (repeat)
The first says:

Nicholas with children

CHILD ONE:
“I have slept well;”

NARRATOR:
The second says:

CHILD TWO:
“And me too;”

NARRATOR:
And the third answers:

CHILD THREE:
“I believe I was in heaven.”


From Chantez Noël!: Merry Christmas by Barbara MacArthur, Frog Press, 1993.
Illustrations from Chantez Noël! by Robert Jensen. Used by permission.

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