I know this is text from a famous hymn. Unfortunately, the only "translation" I could find was a poetic English version which I believe embellishes the German. Can anyone give me a literal translation of this? My kids are singing these words as part of a Ward Swingle accapella suite called "Music History 101" (this gets sung to a chorale setting of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star").
Gottes Sohn ist kommen
uns allen zu frommen
hier auf dieser Erden
in armen Gebärden,
dass er uns von Sünde
freie und entbinde.
I sent this to my friend Joe, a professional translator who does a lot of German to English translation. He's also on the faculty of that prestigious language school that Gerardo has begun attending (although he's on leave this semester), an advanced square dancer and a key member of our Shakespeare goup.
Here's his reply:
The general consensus is pretty much right. More or less literally:
God's son has come
to benefit us all (frommen = old verb, "to benefit, be of use, be helpful")
here on this earth
in poor guise (Gebärde = modern "gesture," old senses = "behavior, appearance, nature" reach back to Middle and Old High German)
so that us from sin
he can free and release
The business of "frommen" being = "religionize" is nonsense, based on the modern sense of the adjective "fromm," pious (both derive from Middle High German vrum = useful). One source dates the original German hymn to 1544, so in spite of its mostly modern appearance it's as far from modern German in some details as Shakespeare's English is from ours.
"Goup" is of course from Old French, pronounced "goo." It refers to a sort of literary club or society whose members immerse themselves in lukewarm vats of goo, typically Marshmallow Fluff or, among traditionalists, molasses, in order to read aloud and offer commentary on the works of great writers.