A Picture Worth a Thousand Words - by Rolf A. F. Witzsche


The Winterreise 
(Winter Journey)

a musical experience


"I will sing bitter songs for you" - Franz Schubert



The Winterreise by Franz Schubert

A song cycle of a winter landscape of inner emptiness
sung by  baritone Randall Scarlata.


The Winterreise (The Winter Journey) is a cycle of 24 poems by Wilhelm Müller of a landscape where the human world becomes increasing buried under snow and drifts out of sight as but a memory. The poems are best known as a song cycle composed for male voice and piano by Franz Schubert (D. 911, published as Op. 89 in 1827). 

The Winterreise was composed in two parts, each containing twelve songs, the first group being set in February 1827 and the second in October 1827.

While the music was composed long ago, it nevertheless speaks in metaphor of our time. In the poem, the poet tells of a man's agonies when his beloved is stolen by another, leaving despair in his heat as he wonders the icy landscape that he resigns himself to. In this poem he unwittingly also tells our story, of a world that has become devoid of prosperity, which has been stolen, increasingly, with mankind reacting exactly as the poem lays out in metaphor. 

Throughout much of the world the golden times have been stolen, leaving evermore poverty and desperation in the wake with little hope left for mankind to get it back. Didn't the U.S. President Barak Obama say recently, in 2009, these very things to the unemployed of the demolished U.S. auto industry? He told them with a smile as to a child, "those jobs will never come back." Yes, that's what his promise was. And he is right. For as long as society follows the path outlined by the poet in the Winterreise, the President's promise becomes self-fulfilled. 

But Schubert's song isn't a funeral song. It isn't this yet. By intention it is a cry for living. Still it does not resolve the pain of society having become so 'small' in face of adversity as it now stands. The resolution for this pain is not the poet's task. It is society's own task, and the resolution remains still waiting to be built.

The poet is not a dictator or a foreteller of the future. He merely presents crass pictures that should inspire alternate choices. Like Shakespeare did in Hamlet, who presents a crazy world ruled by fools, the poet poses the key question to society, how did we become so small to let this happen? Shakespeare asked society to take this question home with it when leaving the theatre, though the play itself speaks not a word about it, even while it is the central theme, the theme of the unseen and unrealized, then as now. 

The poet delves deeper into the unanswered question, posing his own question to society as to what steps must yet be taken to get out of our own, homegrown ice cold world, of our own Winterreise. 

The question that Shakespeare had posed in Hamlet, the poet here poses 24 times in succession, with 24 poems, each time digging deeper. And he doesn't ask how did WE (society) get into this mess, as is asked in Hamlet. Instead he asks the question individually, urging the individual to ponder: How did I get there? What must I do to get out? How must I respond? How does a human being respond?

The tragic figure in the poem responds badly, by not responding at all. And so he becomes smaller and smaller as a human being until at last he joins a beggar on the street who is so poor that his small plate is always empty. He offers him his song of woe as a song for his organ grinder.

Don't be mistaken, this is your song, the song of all. Our beloved, the prosperity that was once taken for granted has been stolen. For more than a hundred years we have responded badly. Now the failure to respond as a human being threatens to become an existential crisis. Too many people cry a lot, but what is there response. Do we respond at this deepest level? If we say nay, then all the crying is in vain.

 Schubert presents the poems with music. He has a human voice to sing to us the sad old story, since only the human 'voice' with all its grand colors can paint the paths as yet left undiscovered that remain but mapped out in the air of universal principles to become born in life.

Rolf A. F. Witzsche


 The Baritone Randall Scarlata sings the Winterreise presented here. He has become one of the most sought-after musical interpreters of his generation. He is hailed for his warm, expressive sound, consummate musicianship and his winning way with the audience. His performances of recital, symphonic, and opera repertoire throughout the United States, Europe and South America have garnered raves from audiences and critics alike. 

The Winterreise was originally intended for a tenor. One suspects that the black pessimism of the Winterreise has made it seem more appropriate to the baritone's darker range than to the brighter tone of a lyric tenor. But is spiritual depth, dependent on register? In any case, the baritone's voice has become the standard in our age. Maybe in future ages this will change when the current darkness in the human landscape no longer predominates and resonates in the audiences, and then requires a brighter sound depicting a journey looking back. Maybe this was the real intention of the poet and the hope of the composer of its music.

The Winterreise Part 1

The Winterreise Part 2

Click to play -- or right-click to download

The performance by Randall Scarlatta
is made available under a Creative Commons license
by © Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
280 The Fenway, Boston MA 02115
Information 617 566 1401 Box Office 617 278 5156


Early on the wanderer sings about his beloved. As the song cycle develops he starts to sing more about the problems of being a beggar, dogs barking at him etc.

1. Gute Nacht (Good Night)

By moonlight, in winter, the poet leaves the house as he came to it, a stranger. The daughter has allowed their love to grow, and the mother has encouraged the pair to think of marriage: but the daughter's love has wandered to some new sweetheart. So he quietly and secretly steals away while they are sleeping, writing 'Good night' on her door, and leaving the path of his footsteps in the snow.

2. Die Wetterfahne (The Weather-vane)

As he goes he notices the winds blowing the weather-vane around on the house, and they blow him away from there as well. If he had taken notice of that fickle sign when he first came, he would not have expected to find a constant woman within. Indoors, their hearts beat like the vane, but not so loud - what do they care for his suffering, when their daughter will be a wealthy bride?.

3. Gefror'ne Tränen (Frozen Tears)

Frozen tears fall from his cheeks as he walks away, but the breast from which they arise is so burning hot with feelings that they should melt the winter ice completely.

4. Erstarrung (Numbness)

He looks in vain for her footprints in the snow, where they formerly walked together arm in arm among the flowers and green grass. He wants to kiss the ground and weep on it, until he can dissolve the ice and see where they trod. But the flowers are all dead, and he can take no remembrance of her away from there. His heart is lifeless with her image frozen within; but if it thaws, her beautiful image fades.

5. Der Lindenbaum (The Linden Tree)

He comes to the linden tree, with its pale flowers and heart-shaped leaves. that stands at the gate; in the shade of this tree he has dreamt many beautiful dreams, and in the bark he has carved words of love. It was his favourite place. Now he passes it with his eyes shut, even though it is deepest night, but the branches rustle to him, 'Come here old comrade, find your rest here'. A gust of wind blows his hat off, and many hours afterwards he remembers the tree, and it seems to say 'You should have found your rest here.' It is a tacit invitation to suicide. (In Die Schöne Müllerin by the same author the rejected lover actually drowns himself and finds rest in the friendly brook where he dies.)

6. Wasserflut (Torrent)

He weeps copiously and his tears fall in the snow. When the Spring comes the snow will melt and flow into the river, and will carry his tears to the house of his beloved.

7. Auf dem Flusse (On the Stream)

The river, usually busy and bubbling, is locked in frozen darkness and lies drearily spread out under the ice. He will write her name, and the date of their first meeting, in the ice with a sharp stone. The river is a likeness of his heart: it beats and swells under the hard frozen surface.

8. Rückblick (Retrospect)

His feet are freezing as the soles of his boots are out: but he is eager to leave the town, and he stumbles over every stone. The crows knock the snow off the eaves onto his hat from every house he passes. But when he first came to that inconstant town, larks and nightingales sang at the windows, the lime-trees blossomed, the streams ran clear, and a pair of maiden's eyes shone on him and stole his heart away. When he thinks of that happy day, he longs to walk back along the road to the house where she lives.

9. Irrlicht (Will o' the wisp)

The will-o'-the-wisp has led him astray from the road in the darkness: but he is always going off the road, for our joy and sorrow alike are merely sports to delude us. He follows a track down the crag side: all roads lead to their goal, every spring flows to the sea, and every sorrow leads to the grave.

10. Rast (Rest)

He reaches a charcoal-burner's hut and, worn out by his long trek through the snowstorm with a heavy backpack, he lies down to rest. In the quiet his cuts and bruises sting sorely.

11. Frühlingstraum (Dream of Springtime)

He dreams he is wandering through meadows full of flowers and bird-song in May: he heard the cock's crow and opened his eyes, but it was a raven calling in the cheerless darkness. Who could draw the flowers of ice he can see on the windows? He dreams again, of love, and a maiden's kiss, and the joy and bliss of love, but again the crowing wakes him and he sits up alone. He tries to sleep again: when will the leaves at the window be green - when will she hold him in her arms again?

12. Einsamkeit (Loneliness/Solitude)

He wanders along the busy road ungreeted. Why is the sky so calm and the world so bright? Even in the tempest he was not so lonely as this.

13. Die Post (The Post)

His heart leaps up as the post-horn sounds: they are not bringing him a letter, but it has come from the town, and he will ask if there is news of the beloved.

14. Der greise Kopf (The Grey Head)

The frost in his hair made him think he was going grey, but now it has thawed and his hair is still black. He has heard that some people go grey overnight with sorrow, but though he has felt that sorrow, it has not happened to him.

15. Die Krähe (The Crow)

A crow has followed him all along the way from the town. Is it waiting for him to die, so that it can eat him? It won't be long, let it keep him company to the end.

16. Letzte Hoffnung (Last Hope)

He wanders among the trees and fixes his gaze on one leaf, which seems to hold his fate. It is a token: if it should fall from the branch, his hope will fall. His heart sinks, and his soul weeps the loss of everything.

17. Im Dorfe (In the Village)

People are asleep in the village and the dogs are barking. They dream of many things and have their rest. Let the dogs drive him away so that he does not rest with them - he is finished with all dreaming.

18. Der stürmische Morgen (The Stormy Morning)

The tempest has driven the clouds about the sky, and the fiery sun darts between them. It is like his heart, a cold, wild winter.

19. Täuschung (Deception)

A light on the dark and icy road at night, might be a warm place to stay, or the deception of a beautiful face.

20. Der Wegweiser (The Signpost)

Straying restlessly away from the roads, he still seeks rest. There is always a signpost in front of him, pointing to the road from which no wanderer returns. Death?

21. Das Wirtshaus (The Inn)

The 'wayside inn' is a lonely graveyard where he hopes to find rest at last. The wreaths are the tavern sign, inviting him in. But no - all the rooms are taken, and he must carry on, as he tells his faithful walking staff.

22. Mut (Courage)

As the wind blows snow in his face, he sings loudly to silence his thoughts of sorrow, so that he cannot hear or feel them. With his trusty staff and cheerful song he'll just keep going on.

23. Die Nebensonnen (The Phantom Suns)

He used to see three suns, but two of them (the eyes of his beloved) have turned away to shine upon another, and now he sees but one, and this he wishes would pass away and leave him to the darkness.

24. Der Leiermann (The Hurdy-Gurdy Man)

At the end of the village he finds the old barefoot hurdy-gurdy man, winding away his tunes, but no one has given him a penny, or listens. Even the dogs growl at him. But he just carries on playing. The poet thinks he will cast in his lot with him.

[edit] (Commentary)

The parallel with the singer singing his sad songs in the ice and the slow, unresolved melody of the hurdy-gurdy concludes the cycle with an eerily unfinished feel perfectly in character with the lonely wandering of the singer. The Leiermann wants to survive, he keeps playing in bad weather in the hope that someone will give him something, he keeps moving his bare feet to avoid frostbite, he would not have reached old age as a beggar without strong survival motives. There is some chance that the Leiermann will turn the poet away, from suicide in the Lindenbaum, from signposts pointing to no return and to rest in a graveyard and will instead turn the poet towards survival but the ending is uncertain.


The following is the text of the poems, provided by - Emily, 


The original text is in German, by Wilhelm Müller, with  translation to English by Rolf Witzsche

Gute Nacht

Language: German

Fremd bin ich eingezogen,
Fremd zieh' ich wieder aus.
Der Mai war mir gewogen
Mit manchem Blumenstrauß.
Das Mädchen sprach von Liebe,
Die Mutter gar von Eh', -
Nun ist die Welt so trübe,
Der Weg gehüllt in Schnee.

Ich kann zu meiner Reisen
Nicht wählen mit der Zeit,
Muß selbst den Weg mir weisen
In dieser Dunkelheit.
Es zieht ein Mondenschatten
Als mein Gefährte mit,
Und auf den weißen Matten
Such' ich des Wildes Tritt.

Was soll ich länger weilen,
Daß man mich trieb hinaus?
Laß irre Hunde heulen
Vor ihres Herren Haus;
Die Liebe liebt das Wandern -
Gott hat sie so gemacht -
Von einem zu dem andern.
Fein Liebchen, gute Nacht!

Will dich im Traum nicht stören,
Wär schad' um deine Ruh',
Sollst meinen Tritt nicht hören -
Sacht, sacht die Türe zu!
Ich schreibe nur im Gehen
An's Tor noch gute Nacht,
Damit du mögest sehen,
An dich hab' ich gedacht.


Good Night

Language: English

As a stranger I arrived,
As a stranger I leave town.
The May was kind to me
With many a bunch of flowers.
The girl spoke of love,
The mother even of marriage, -
But now the world is bleak,
The path covered with snow.

For my travels, I can 
Choose neither path nor time;
Itself the path must point my way
In the unfolding darkness.
I'm dawn by shadows in moonlight
For companions with me,
On fields of white spread out
I, as the wild world, tread

Why should I longer terry
Till I'm driven away?
Let their dogs howl
At their master's house;
The beloved love the wandering,
God has made her thus
From one, on to another.
And so dear Love, good night!

I won't disturb your dreaming,
It'd be too sad disturbing your peace;
You will not hear my footsteps -
Softly, as I close the door!
I'm writing as I am leaving
"Good Night" upon the gate,
So that you may yet see,
You are in my thoughts.


Die Wetterfahne

Language: German

Der Wind spielt mit der Wetterfahne
Auf meines schönen Liebchens Haus.
Da dacht ich schon in meinem Wahne,
Sie pfiff den armen Flüchtling aus.

Er hätt' es ehr bemerken sollen,
Des Hauses aufgestecktes Schild,
So hätt' er nimmer suchen wollen
Im Haus ein treues Frauenbild.

Der Wind spielt drinnen mit den Herzen
Wie auf dem Dach, nur nicht so laut.
Was fragen sie nach meinen Schmerzen?
Ihr Kind ist eine reiche Braut.


The weather-vane

Language: English

The wind plays with the weathervane
Atop the house of lovely beloved.
I imagined in my delusion
She whistled the poor fugitive out.

He should have seen it, coming,
The shield stood at the house,
He'd never aimed to discover
In it a woman's picture of fidelity.

The wind within plays with the hearts
As on the roof, but not so loudly.
What is my suffering then to them?
Their child is my rich bride.


Gefrorene Tränen

Language: German

Gefrorne Tropfen fallen
Von meinen Wangen ab:
Und ist's mir denn entgangen, 
Daß ich geweinet hab'?

Ei Tränen, meine Tränen, 
Und seid ihr gar so lau,
Daß ihr erstarrt zu Eise
Wie kühler Morgentau?

Und dringt doch aus der Quelle 
Der Brust so glühend heiß,
Als wolltet ihr zerschmelzen 
Des ganzen Winters Eis!


Frozen tears

Language: English

Frozen teardrops, falling
From my cheeks they do
Has it escaped my thoughts 
That I've been crying?

O tears, my tears, 
Are you so slight, so luke,
That you have turned to ice 
In colder morning dew? 

Pushed from this well, 
With breast so burning hot,
As if to melt you down
And all the winter's ice!



Language: German

Ich such' im Schnee vergebens
Nach ihrer Tritte Spur,
[ Hier, wo wir oft gewandelt
Selbander durch die Flur.]1

Ich will den Boden küssen,
Durchdringen Eis und Schnee
Mit meinen heißen Tränen,
Bis ich die Erde seh'.

Wo find' ich eine Blüte,
Wo find' ich grünes Gras?
Die Blumen sind erstorben
Der Rasen sieht so blaß.

Soll denn kein Angedenken
Ich nehmen mit von hier?
Wenn meine Schmerzen schweigen,
Wer sagt mir dann von ihr?

Mein Herz ist wie [erfroren]3,
Kalt starrt ihr Bild darin;
Schmilzt je das Herz mir wieder,
Fließt auch [das]2 Bild dahin!

View text without footnotes
1 Schubert: "Wo sie an meinem Arme /
   Durchstrich die grüne Flur."
2 Schubert: "ihr"
3 Schubert: "erstorben"



Language: English

I search in the snow, in vain
For traces of her footsteps
Here, where I and she on arm,
Had wandered in the the green.

I want to kiss the ground,
Piercing the ice and snow
With the hot of my tears,
Until I'd see the earth.

Where can I find a blossom?
Where can I find green grass?
The flowers are all dead now,
The grass so wilted.

Should I have no souvenir from here
That I can take away?
When my pains receed,
Who then speak to me of her?

My heart is as if frozen dead,
Cold stares her image in it,
But should the heart again melt,
Her image would then flow away and pass!


Der Lindenbaum

Language: German

Am Brunnen vor dem Tore
Da steht ein Lindenbaum;
Ich träumt in seinem Schatten
So manchen süßen Traum.

Ich schnitt in seine Rinde
So manches liebe Wort;
Es zog in Freud' und Leide
Zu ihm mich immer fort.

Ich mußt' auch heute wandern
Vorbei in tiefer Nacht,
Da hab' ich noch im Dunkel
Die Augen zugemacht.

Und seine Zweige rauschten,
Als riefen sie mir zu:
Komm her zu mir, Geselle,
Hier find'st du deine Ruh'!

Die kalten Winde bliesen
Mir grad ins Angesicht;
Der Hut flog mir vom Kopfe,
Ich wendete mich nicht.

Nun bin ich manche Stunde
Entfernt von jenem Ort,
Und immer hör' ich's rauschen:
Du fändest Ruhe dort!


The linden tree

Language: English

By the fountain, near the gate,
Stands a linden tree;
I dreamt in its shadows
So many a sweet dream.

I have carved its bark
With many a words of love;
It drew in joy and sorrow,
To it, me, always, more.

I must, today, now journey
Pass in the dead of night.
But even in the darkness
I have to close my eyes.

And as its branches rustled
As if they to call to me:
"Come here, to me, of friend,
Come here and find your peace!"

The cold winds blew
Straight in my face,
The hat flew off my head,
I turned not back.

Now many hours later
Far from this 'sacred' spot,
I can still hear the rustling:
You had found peace, yes, there!



Language: German

Manche Trän' aus meinen Augen
Ist gefallen in den Schnee;
Seine kalten Flocken saugen
Durstig ein das heiße Weh.

Wenn die Gräser sprossen wollen
Weht daher ein lauer Wind,
Und das Eis zerspringt in Schollen
Und der weiche Schnee zerrinnt.

Schnee, du weißt von meinem Sehnen,
Sag' mir, wohin doch geht dein Lauf?
Folge nach nur meinen Tränen,
Nimmt dich bald das Bächlein auf.

Wirst mit ihm die Stadt durchziehen,
Munt're Straßen ein und aus;
Fühlst du meine Tränen glühen,
Da ist meiner Liebsten Haus.


Torrent of water

Language: English

Tears from my eyes
Fallen into the snow;
Its icy flakes thirsty, drink
Thirsty for the burning grief.

When the grass begins to grow,
A mild wind blows in,
When ice breaks into chunks
All soft snow melts away.

Oh snow, you know my longing,
Tell me, to where do you run?
Oh then, just follow my tears
Their brook will take you in.

It will take you through the town,
To lively streets, flowing in and out.
Can you feel the hot of my tears now,
Look, there is my beloved's house.


Auf dem Flusse

Language: German

Der du so lustig rauschtest,
Du heller, wilder Fluß,
Wie still bist du geworden,
Gibst keinen Scheidegruß.

Mit harter, starrer Rinde
Hast du dich überdeckt,
Liegst kalt und unbeweglich
Im Sande hingestreckt.

In deine Decke grab' ich
Mit einem spitzen Stein
Den Namen meiner Liebsten
Und Stund' und Tag hinein:

Den Tag des ersten Grußes,
Den Tag, an dem ich ging;
Um Nam' und Zahlen windet
Sich ein zerbroch'ner Ring.

Mein Herz, in diesem Bache
Erkennst du nun dein Bild?
Ob's unter seiner Rinde
Wohl auch so reißend schwillt?


On the stream

Language: English

You, who rushes so merrily,
You clear, wild stream,
How still you have become,
You give no parting words.

With hard and solid crust
You covered yourself over.
Cold you lay, motionless
In sand stretched out.

I carved into your decking 
With sharp a stone
The name of my beloved
The hour and the day, therein:

The day is of our first greeting,
Then the day on which I went away:
Name and numbers entwined
In the manner of a broken ring.

My heart, in this brook
Can you recognize your own image?
Is under your surface, too,
A raging, surging swell?



Language: German

Es brennt mir unter beiden Sohlen,
Tret' ich auch schon auf Eis und Schnee,
Ich möcht' nicht wieder Atem holen,
Bis ich nicht mehr die Türme seh'.

Hab' mich an jeden Stein gestoßen,
So eilt' ich zu der Stadt hinaus;
Die Krähen warfen Bäll' und Schloßen
Auf meinen Hut von jedem Haus.

Wie anders hast du mich empfangen,
Du Stadt der Unbeständigkeit!
An deinen blanken Fenstern sangen
Die Lerch' und Nachtigall im Streit.

Die runden Lindenbäume blühten,
Die klaren Rinnen rauschten hell,
Und ach, zwei Mädchenaugen glühten. -
Da war's gescheh'n um dich, Gesell!

Kommt mir der Tag in die Gedanken,
Möcht' ich noch einmal rückwärts seh'n,
Möcht' ich zurücke wieder wanken,
Vor ihrem Hause stille steh'n.


Looking Back

Language: English

It burns me under both my the soles,
Though I walk on ice and snow;
I will not pause, not for a breath
Till the towers I see no longer.

I stumbled, at every stone,
Hastily left I the town behind;
Crows threw snowballs and hailstones
On my hat from every house.

How differently had you welcomed me,
You town of infidelity!
At your bright windows sang
The lark and nightingale in competition.

The round linden trees were blooming then,
The clear-running streams rushed by,
And, ah, two maiden eyes were glowing, -
Oh you were captured then, my friend.

When that day comes back to thought
I wish I could glance backwards, just once
I wish I could stumble back
And stand in silence, before her house.



Language: German

In die tiefsten Felsengründe
Lockte mich ein Irrlicht hin:
Wie ich einen Ausgang finde,
Liegt nicht schwer mir in dem Sinn.

Bin gewohnt das Irregehen,
's führt ja jeder Weg zum Ziel:
Uns're Freuden, uns're Wehen,
Alles eines Irrlichts Spiel!

Durch des Bergstroms trock'ne Rinnen
Wind' ich ruhig mich hinab,
Jeder Strom wird's Meer gewinnen,
Jedes Leiden auch ein Grab.


Wisps of the moment

Language: English

Into the deepest chasms
An urge enticed me;
But how to return,
Lay not heavy on my mind.

I am used to follow the wisps;
All paths do have their goal;
As our joys, our woes,
Are all but wisps of moments' games!

On mountain stream's dry running
I calmly wind my way, along,
Every stream will always win its sea
So every sorrow find its grave.

The irrlicht - will-o'-the-wisp - is a ghostly light
sometimes seen at night or twilight over bogs, swamps,
and marshes. It resembles a flickering lamp and is 
sometimes said to recede if approached. Much folklore
surrounds the phenomenon. - It is also used as metaphor.


Language: German

Nun merk' ich erst, wie müd' ich bin,
Da ich zur Ruh' mich lege:
Das Wandern hielt mich munter hin
Auf unwirtbarem Wege.
Die Füße frugen nicht nach Rast,
Es war zu kalt zum Stehen;
Der Rücken fühlte keine Last,
Der Sturm half fort mich wehen.

In eines Köhlers engem Haus
Hab' Obdach ich gefunden;
Doch meine Glieder ruh'n nicht aus:
So brennen ihre Wunden.
Auch du, mein Herz, in Kampf und Sturm
So wild und so verwegen,
Fühlst in der Still' erst deinen Wurm
Mit heißem Stich sich regen!


Language: English

I notice first my weary
As to rest I lay myself;
The wandering has kept me fresh
Along its desolate roads.
The feet don't ask for rest,
When it's too cold for standing still;
The back had felt no burden then,
The storm had blown me sorrowing.

A coaler's narrow hut I entered
I found roof and shelter there.
Still, my limbs refuse to rest,
So fiercely burnt their wounds.
Ah you, my heart, in struggles as in storm
So wild, so bold,
Yet in the stillness feels its worm
Hot by its sting and stirring!



Language: German

Ich träumte von bunten Blumen,
So wie sie wohl blühen im Mai;
Ich träumte von grünen Wiesen,
Von lustigem Vogelgeschrei.

Und als die Hähne krähten,
Da ward mein Auge wach;
Da war es kalt und finster,
Es schrieen die Raben vom Dach.

Doch an den Fensterscheiben,
Wer malte die Blätter da?
Ihr lacht wohl über den Träumer,
Der Blumen im Winter sah?

Ich träumte von Lieb' um Liebe,
Von einer schönen Maid,
Von Herzen und von Küssen,
Von Wonn und Seligkeit.

Und als die Hähne kräten,
Da ward mein Herze wach;
Nun sitz ich hier alleine
Und denke dem Traume nach.

Die Augen schließ' ich wieder,
Noch schlägt das Herz so warm.
Wann grünt ihr Blätter am Fenster?
Wann halt' ich mein Liebchen im Arm?

A springtime dream

Language: English

I dreamt of colorful flowers
Such as bloom in May;
I dreamt of greening meadows,
Of the chattering voices of birds.

When the roosters crowed,
My eyes awoke;
And all was cold, dark,
The ravens shrieked from on their roof.

But there, on the window panes,
Who had painted those leaves there?
Now, go and laugh at the dreamer,
Who had seen flowers in winter?

I dreamt of the love of loving,
Of a beautiful girl,
Of hearts and of kisses,
Of bliss and of happiness.

Yes, as the roosters crowed,
My heart awoke.
I sit alone here,
With but thoughts of a dream.

I shut my eyes again,
My heart still beats so warm.
When will you window-leaves turn green?
When will I hold my beloved in my arm?



Language: German

Wie eine trübe Wolke
Durch heit're Lüfte geht,
Wann in der Tanne Wipfel
Ein mattes Lüftchen weht:

So zieh ich meine Straße
Dahin mit trägem Fuß,
Durch helles, frohes Leben,
Einsam und ohne Gruß.

Ach, daß die Luft so ruhig!
Ach, daß die Welt so licht!
Als noch die Stürme tobten,
War ich so elend nicht.


Language: English

As a dark cloud 
Passing clear skies,
As a faint breeze wafts
Through the tops of trees:

So I make my way
With heavy steps,
Through bright and joyful living,
Alone, without a greeting.

Ah, that the air is so calm,
Ah, that the world is so bright!
Though the tempests were raging,
I was so miserable still.


Die Post

Language: German

Von der Straße her ein Posthorn klingt.
Was hat es, daß es so hoch aufspringt,
Mein Herz?

Die Post bringt keinen Brief für dich.
Was drängst du denn so wunderlich,
Mein Herz?

Nun ja, die Post kömmt aus der Stadt,
Wo ich ein liebes Liebchen hatt',
Mein Herz!

Willst wohl einmal hinüberseh'n
Und fragen, wie es dort mag geh'n,
Mein Herz?

The post

Language: English

A posthorn sounds from down the street.
What is it that makes you leap,
My heart?

The post brings not a letter for you.
What surges you then, so wonderfully,
My heart?

Oh yes the post comes from the town
Where once a lovely beloved I had,
My heart!

Do you wish to see once more
And ask how things back there, are, 
My heart?


Der greise Kopf

Language: German

Der Reif hatt' einen weißen Schein
Mir übers Haar gestreuet;
Da meint' ich schon ein Greis zu sein
Und hab' mich sehr gefreuet.

Doch bald ist er hinweggetaut,
Hab' wieder schwarze Haare,
Daß mir's vor meiner Jugend graut -
Wie weit noch bis zur Bahre!

Vom Abendrot zum Morgenlicht
Ward mancher Kopf zum Greise.
Wer glaubt's? und meiner ward es nicht
Auf dieser ganzen Reise!

The gray-haired head

Language: English

Frost sprinkled its silver white
All through my hair;
And made me think, grey-haired?
This gave me joy.

But soon it thawed,
Again, my hair is black,
And so I grieve to have my youth -
How far is what remains, the funeral bier!

From the red of dusk to the morning light
Many a head became gray.
Who would believe it? Mine has not
In all of my long journey!


Die Krähe

Language: German

Eine Krähe war mit mir
Aus der Stadt gezogen,
Ist bis heute für und für
Um mein Haupt geflogen.

Krähe, wunderliches Tier,
Willst mich nicht verlassen?
Meinst wohl, bald als Beute hier
Meinen Leib zu fassen?

Nun, es wird nicht weit mehr geh'n
An dem Wanderstabe.
Krähe, laß mich endlich seh'n,
Treue bis zum Grabe!

The crow

Language: English

A crow came with me
Out of the town,
Remaining now and here
Circling above my head.

Oh Crow, you wonderful a creature,
Will you ever not forsake me?
Will you intend to have me soon,
My corpse, for a feasting?

Oh it won't be much farther
With my staff in hand.
Then crow, so let me see at last 
A fidelity remaining to the grave!


Letzte Hoffnung

Language: German

Hier und da ist an den Bäumen
Noch ein buntes Blatt zu seh'n,
Und ich bleibe vor den Bäumen
Oftmals in Gedanken steh'n.

Schaue nach dem einen Blatte,
Hänge meine Hoffnung dran;
Spielt der Wind mit meinem Blatte,
Zitt'r' ich, was ich zittern kann.

Ach, und fällt das Blatt zu Boden,
Fällt mit ihm die Hoffnung ab;
Fall' ich selber mit zu Boden,
Wein' auf meiner Hoffnung Grab.

Last hope

Language: English

Here and there on trees
Many a colored leaf I see.
I remain before them
often, standing lost in thought.

I look then for a single leaf
To hang my hopes upon it;
But as the wind plays with my leaf,
I tremble, down to all that I am.

Ah! if the leaf should fall to the ground,
My hope would fall with it;
And I, myself, would fall to the ground,
Weeping for my hope at its grave.


Im Dorfe

Language: German

Es bellen die Hunde, es rascheln die Ketten;
Die Menschen schnarchen in ihren Betten,
Träumen sich manches, was sie nicht haben,
Tun sich im Guten und Argen erlaben;

Und morgen früh ist alles zerflossen.
Je nun, sie haben ihr Teil genossen
Und hoffen, was sie noch übrig ließen,
Doch wieder zu finden auf ihren Kissen.

Bellt mich nur fort, ihr wachen Hunde,
Laßt mich nicht ruh'n in der Schlummerstunde!
Ich bin zu Ende mit allen Träumen.
Was will ich unter den Schläfern säumen?

In the village

Language: English

The hounds are barking, their chains rattling;
The Men are asleep, snoring in their beds,
They dream of the things they do not have,
Refreshing them in the good and the bad.

And in the morning all is vanished.
Yet still, they have enjoyed their share,
And hope that what remains to them,
Might still be found on the morning's pillows.

Oh, bark me away then, you waking dogs!
Let me not find rest in hours of slumber!
I've come to the end of my dreaming 
Why should I linger with sleepers then?


Der stürmische Morgen

Language: German

Wie hat der Sturm zerrissen
Des Himmels graues Kleid!
Die Wolkenfetzen flattern
Umher im matten Streit.

Und rote Feuerflammen
Zieh'n zwischen ihnen hin;
Das nenn' ich einen Morgen
So recht nach meinem Sinn!

Mein Herz sieht an dem Himmel
Gemalt sein eig'nes Bild -
Es ist nichts als der Winter,
Der Winter, kalt und wild!

The stormy morning

Language: English

See how the storm has torn
Heaven's gray garment!
Shreds of clouds flit
In soft determined movements.

Then, fiery flames, red 
Burst through among them:
This is what I call a morning
Right to my liking!

My heart sees in the sky
It own image painted 
But it remains the winter, it is
Winter, cold and savage!


Language: German

Ein Licht tanzt freundlich vor mir her,
Ich folg' ihm nach die Kreuz und Quer;
Ich folg' ihm gern und seh's ihm an,
Daß es verlockt den Wandersmann.

Ach! wer wie ich so elend ist,
Gibt gern sich hin der bunten List,
Die hinter Eis und Nacht und Graus
Ihm weist ein helles, warmes Haus.
Und eine liebe Seele drin. -
Nur Täuschung ist für mich Gewinn!


Language: English

A light, friendly, dances before me,
I follow it to here and there;
I follow eagerly and watch
It lures the wanderer.

Ah! one who is as wretched as I
Yields himself gladly to the colored lure,
Beyond the ice, the night, and horror,
He senses a bright, warm house.
Inside, a loving soul. - 
Here, delusion is my victory!

Der Wegweiser

Language: German

Was vermeid' ich denn die Wege,
Wo die ander'n Wand'rer gehn,
Suche mir versteckte Stege
Durch verschneite Felsenhöh'n?

Habe ja doch nichts begangen,
Daß ich Menschen sollte scheu'n, -
Welch ein törichtes Verlangen
Treibt mich in die Wüstenei'n?

Weiser stehen auf den [Strassen]1,
Weisen auf die Städte zu,
Und ich wand're sonder Maßen
Ohne Ruh' und suche Ruh'.

Einen Weiser seh' ich stehen
Unverrückt vor meinem Blick;
Eine Straße muß ich gehen,
Die noch keiner ging zurück.

The way marker

Language: English

Why do I avoid those routes
That the other travelers take,
Search out me hidden paths
On snowy cliffs and stony-hights?

Truly, I have done no wrong
That I should shun mankind.
What foolish desire
Drives me then to the waste-lands' in?

Signposts stand there at the roads,
Way markers to the towns;
And so I wander on and on,
Restlessly in a search for rest.

One marker stands before me, as I stand
It's fixed before me in my gaze.
Its road I now must take,
The one that on one has ever returned on.


Das Wirtshaus

Language: German

Auf einen Totenacker hat mich mein Weg gebracht;
Allhier will ich einkehren, hab' ich bei mir gedacht.
Ihr grünen Totenkränze könnt wohl die Zeichen sein,
Die müde Wand'rer laden ins kühle Wirtshaus ein.

Sind denn in diesem Hause die Kammern all' besetzt?
Bin matt zum Niedersinken, und tödlich schwer verletzt.
O unbarmherz'ge Schenke, doch weisest du mich ab?
Nun weiter denn, nur weiter, mein treuer Wanderstab!

The inn

Language: English

My path has brought me to a graveyard.
Here would I lodge, I thought to myself.
You green death-wreaths might well be the signs,
Inviting the weary traveler to its inn, the cool.

But are in this house all the rooms taken?
Weak enough to drop, fatally heavily wounded, I am.
O unmerciful inn, will you turn me away?
Further then, further, oh my faithful staff we go!



Language: German

Fliegt der Schnee mir ins Gesicht,
Schüttl' ich ihn herunter.
Wenn mein Herz im Busen spricht,
Sing' ich hell und munter.

Höre nicht, was es mir sagt,
Habe keine Ohren;
Fühle nicht, was es mir klagt,
Klagen ist für Toren.

Lustig in die Welt hinein
Gegen Wind und Wetter!
Will kein Gott auf Erden sein,
Sind wir selber Götter!


Language: English

Snow blows in my face,
Off, I shake it.
The heart cries in my breast,
I sing, bright, cheerful.

I hear not what it says,
I have no ears,
I feel not, not its lament to me,
Lamenting is for fools.

Merrily I stride, into the world
Against wind and weather!
Will there be no God on earth,
Are we gods then, ourselves!


Die Nebensonnen

Language: German

Drei Sonnen sah ich am Himmel steh'n,
Hab' lang und fest sie angeseh'n;
Und sie auch standen da so stier,
Als könnten sie nicht weg von mir.

Ach, meine Sonnen seid ihr nicht!
Schaut Andren doch ins Angesicht!
Ja, neulich hatt' ich auch wohl drei;
Nun sind hinab die besten zwei.

Ging nur die dritt' erst hinterdrein!
Im Dunkeln wird mir wohler sein.

The imagined suns 

Language: English

Three suns I saw in the sky,
Long I stared at them;
They, too, stood staring
As if they could not leave me.

Ah, but you are not my suns!
Go stare at others, in their face!
I have had three suns till recently;
The best two are now gone.

Would then the third one follow them!
In darkness, I'd fare better.

Sundogs are formed by plate-shaped hexagonal
ice crystals in high and cold cirrus clouds
or, during very cold weather, by ice crystals 
drifting in the air at low levels, causing the image
of the sun split three side by side images.

Der Leiermann

Language: German

Drüben hinterm Dorfe
Steht ein Leiermann
Und mit starren Fingern
Dreht er, was er kann.

Barfuß auf dem Eise
Schwankt er hin und her
Und sein kleiner Teller
Bleibt ihm immer leer.

Keiner mag ihn hören,
Keiner sieht ihn an,
Und die Hunde brummen
Um den alten Mann.

Und er läßt es gehen
Alles, wie es will,
Dreht und seine Leier
Steht ihm nimmer still.

Wunderlicher Alter, 
Soll ich mit dir geh'n?
Willst zu meinen Liedern
Deine Leier dreh'n?

The Organ Grinder Man
 (the hurdy-gurdy-man)

Language: English

There, behind the village, 
stands a organ-grinder man,
With fingers numb 
he grinds as best he can.

Barefoot on the ice, 
He staggers, back, then forth,
His plate, so little 
Empty it remains, seemingly ever.

No one wants to hear him, 
No one takes notice,
Only the hounds, snarling 
Are there and about the old man.

He lets it all pass, 
Everything as it will,
He grinds away, on his organ
It never stands still.

Wonderful old man, 
Shall I come and be with you?
Would you have my songs,
To grind your organ to?

Note: The leierkasten is a small hand cranked
organ on wheels, typically used by beggars to
earn a penny for their songs.



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