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English translation of Schubert’s Winterreise, poems by W Muller

July 18, 2009
Cover page of Schubert's Wanderers by Barry Mitchell

Schubert’s Wanderers consists of English translations of the poems of Franz Schubert’s Die Winterreise and Die schöne Müllerin and the German texts as set by Schubert.  The German texts are taken from Series 20 (Leider und Gesänge) of Franz Schubert’s Werke, Kritisch durchgesehene Gesammtausgabe, Brietkopf & Härtel, Leipzig, 1895.

Schubert’s Wanderers includes a Creative Commons Licence which entitles the purchaser of this book to use and adapt the translations and synopses in any context and in any media, commercial or noncommercial.  The German texts are in the public domain.

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About the author

Barry Mitchell was born in Belfast in 1958.  He studied music at Queen’s University Belfast where after completing a first degree he studied for an MA in composition.  He is also a graduate of The Open University. He has taught music for several colleges and universities in the UK including The Open University and Rose Bruford College of Theatre & Performance.  He has worked as a music examiner for Edexcel Foundation and International Baccalaureate Organisation and has been a reviewer for The Times Higher Education Supplement. He is currently a freelance teacher and lives in Twickenham in Greater London.

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Some artists who have used the translations in Schubert’s Wanderers

Thomas Taube

Thomas Taube’s video  Sorry That I Asked is currently (i.e. on 1 February 2014) a work in progress. The translation of Die Nebensonnen from Schubert’s Wanderers is going to be used near the end of the video.  The video can be viewed here: http://tv.orf.at/orf3/stories/2587663/ and Thomas Taube’s website is www.thomastaube.de

Music for a While

Album cover, Graces that Refrain by Music for a While, Grappa Records 2012.

Album cover, Graces that Refrain by Music for a While, Grappa Records 2012.

Music for a while is a Norwegian jazz quintet headed by cabaret diva Tora Augestad.  Their album Graces that Refrain (Grappa Records, 2012) delivers chamber music/jazz transformations of classical songs. The translation in Schubert’s Wanderers of Der Leiermann from Schubert’s song cycle Die Winterreise is featured in the CD booklet.

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Schubert’s Wanderers is available on Amazon.co.uk and on most Amazon sites worldwide.

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SUMMARY OF CONTENTS

PART I SCHUBERT’S DIE WINTERREISE: ENGLISH TRANSLATION

PART II SCHUBERT’S DIE SCHÖNE MÜLLERIN: ENGLISH TRANSLATION

PART III SCHUBERT’S DIE WINTERREISE: GERMAN TEXT

PART IV: SCHUBERT’S DIE SCHÖNE MÜLLERIN: GERMAN TEXT

PART V: CREATIVE COMMONS LICENCE

PART I SCHUBERT’S DIE WINTERREISE: ENGLISH TRANSLATION can be read in its entirety below.

PART I SCHUBERT’S DIE WINTERREISE: ENGLISH TRANSLATION

 Chapter 1 Introduction to Schubert’s Die Winterreise

An English translation of Schubert’s Die Winterreise, settings of poems by Wilhelm Müller and a synopsis of the story told by the poems.

The twenty-four poems of Die Winterreise were written in 1821 and 1822. The first twelve poems were published separately in 1823 and the cycle was published in full in 1824. Schubert made his settings of the poems in 1827.

These translations are in free verse and are designed to introduce readers to Schubert’s song cycle.  I have ignored the original metrical scheme but have tried to make the translations as accurate as possible.  I have also tried to use a vocabulary that suggests Romantic poetry.

Synopsis

Die Winterreise is primarily about feelings and atmosphere, but there is nevertheless a story, albeit told in a fragmented narrative.  A young man, the hero (or anti-hero) of the poems, arrives in an idyllic town in May (Good Night).  There he befriends a family of mother, father and daughter and is invited to live with them (Good Night).  He falls in love with the daughter and his love is returned, or so he is led to believe (Feeling Numb).  However, the daughter rejects him to marry a wealthy suitor with the approval of her parents (The Weathervane).  It is now winter and the hero leaves his adopted home in the dead of night after writing a farewell message to his beloved (Good Night).  As he leaves the town crows shower him with snow from the roofs (Looking Back) and he begins a painful journey, constantly tortured by memories of his past happiness (Frozen Tears, On the River, The Watercourse). On his journey he is joined by a raven, possibly symbolic of a death wish (The Raven).  Eventually he arrives at another town (Solitude) where it seems he stays for some time as he writes of the post arriving there (The Post).  The song cycle ends with a particularly bleak image.  An organ-grinder or hurdy-gurdy man has a pitch near the town where he plies his trade ignored by the townspeople and harassed by dogs.  It is ironic that in this final poem the poet asks if the hurdy-gurdy man will set the poet’s songs to music, an invitation that was ultimately accepted by Schubert.

Chapter 2

No. 1. Good Night (Gute Nacht), No. 2. The Weathervane (Die Wetterfahne), No. 3. Frozen Tears (Gefror’ne Thränen), No. 4. Feeling Numb (Erstarrung), No. 5. The Linden Tree (Der Lindenbaum)

 

 Die Winterreise No. 1. Good Night (Gute Nacht)

 

As a stranger I arrived

As a stranger I shall leave

I remember a perfect day in May

How bright the flowers

How cool the breeze

 

The maiden spoke of love

The mother had kind words

But now the world is dreary

With a winter path before me

 

I can’t choose the season

To depart from this place

I won’t delay or ponder

I must begin my journey now

 

The bright moon lights my path

It will guide me on my road

I see the snow-covered meadow

I see where deer have trod

 

A voice within says – go now

Why linger and delay?

Leave the dogs to bay at the moon

Before her father’s gate

 

For love is a thing of changes

God has made it so

Ever-changing from old to new

God has made it so

 

So love delights in changes

Good night, my love, good night

Love is a thing of changes

Good night, my love, good night

 

I’ll not disturb your sleep

But I’ll write above your door

A simple farewell message

Good night, my love, good night

 

These are the last words spoken

Soon I’ll be out of sight

A simple farewell message

Good night, my love, good night

 

Die Winterreise No. 2. The Weathervane (Die Wetterfahne)

 

The wind is turning the weathervane

On the roof of my sweetheart’s house

Round and round it mocks and teases

Teases and mocks my sighs and my tears

 

If only I’d seen this fickle symbol

Before I entered that house

I would not have hoped so much

Of one inconstant, though so fair

 

For Nature plays with our hearts

As the wind plays with the vane

What do they care if my heart is dying?

Their child will be a wealthy bride

 

Die Winterreise No. 3. Frozen Tears (Gefror’ne Thränen)

 

Some frozen tears

Cling to my face

Have I really been crying

And not noticed them flow?

 

Teardrops, heavy teardrops

What chills you through

What turns you into ice

Like drops of early dew?

 

From this poor bosom tears flow

Flow with burning heat

Flow enough to melt

The winter frost and snow

 

Die Winterreise No. 4. Feeling Numb (Erstarrung)

 

I look for traces of her footsteps

I look for them in vain

Where leaning on my arm

She crossed the bright green field

 

I’ll kiss the wintry carpet

And with my scalding tears

Dissolve the freezing snow

I’ll bring that field to life again

 

Do flowers still bloom?

Is the grass still green?

All the flowers have died

The grass is withered and thin

 

Earth, can you remind me

Of yesterday’s happiness

When my sorrows fall silent

Who will speak to me of her?

 

It seems my heart is frozen

Her face etched on the ice

If my heart ever melts

Her face will fade away

 

Die Winterreise No. 5. The Linden Tree (Der Lindenbaum)

 

Before the doorway is a well

A linden tree stands there

Many times I’ve sought its shade

A place of rest and pleasant dreams

 

When dreaming there I carved

Some words of love upon the bark

Both joy and sorrow

Drew me to that shady spot

 

But now I must wander

Through this blackest night

In darkness I passed this tree

But couldn’t bear to look

 

I heard the branches rustle

As if they spoke to me

“Come to me my old friend

Come, find peace with me”

 

Cruel winds were blowing

Coldly cutting my face

My hat was blown behind me

I quickly sped on my way

 

I’m now many miles distant

From that dear old linden tree

But I still hear it whisper

“Come – find peace with me”

 

Chapter 3

No. 6. The Watercourse (Wasserfluth), No. 7. On the River (Auf dem Flusse), No. 8. Looking Back (Rückblick), No. 9. Will O’ the Wisp (Irrlicht), No. 10. Rest (Rast)

 

Die Winterreise No. 6. The Watercourse (Wasserfluth)

 

My tears have made

Deep marks in the snow

The cold flakes

Absorbing all my sorrows

 

When the grass begins to grow

And feels a warmer breeze

The swelling ice begins to break

And the sun melts the snow

 

Snow, you know of my yearnings

Tell me, where do you go?

Take my tears with you

As you flow to the stream

 

Flow through the town together

Go where the road leads

You’ll feel my hot tears

As you pass where my loved-one lives

 

Die Winterreise No. 7. On the River (Auf dem Flusse)

 

River, once so restless

Flowing fast and bright

Why are you now so still

Lifeless, chilled and silent

 

A hard and icy case

Is now your winter prison

You lie cold and dreary

Pressed fast upon the earth

 

I’ll write upon your cover

With a pointed stone

My loved one’s name

A day and a time

 

The day when I first met her

The day when my love began

I’ll draw a broken ring

Around that name and date

 

Does my heart see

Your image in this river?

Does it swell and quiver

In its own icy case?

 

Die Winterreise No. 8. Looking Back (Rückblick)

 

It feels like I’m walking on fire

Though underfoot is ice and snow

I’ve hardly time to draw breath

So keen am I to leave that town

 

Every stone has made me stumble

In my haste to get away

From every roof I’ve passed

Crows have showered me with snow

 

How different when I arrived

How well you greeted me then

Your shining happy streets

Where the lark and nightingale sang

 

A linden tree whispered in the breeze

The murmur of the sparkling stream

Then the spell cast upon my heart

From a beautiful maiden’s eyes

 

Now when I think of that day

I’m tempted to turn and look back

To retrace my weary way

To stand before my loved one’s house

 

Die Winterreise No. 9. Will O’ the Wisp (Irrlicht)

 

Will O’ the Wisp has led me

Deep into a rocky maze

I look from right to left

I seek a path but there is none

 

I’m about to lose my way

All paths appear the same

Our joys and sorrows are no more real

Than this teasing phantom light

 

Through the gorge where the river rushed

I’ll calmly travel on

Every river flows to the sea

Every sorrow will come to an end

 

Die Winterreise No. 10. Rest (Rast)

 

At last I rest and only now

I feel weary

 

Nothing could tire me

While I pressed on

Over desolate winter paths

 

I was carried along as if on wings

It was too cold to stop

The winter wind helped me on my way

A helping hand on my back

 

Chapter 4

No. 11. Spring Dreams (Frühlingstraum), No. 12. Solitude (Einsamkeit), No.13. The Post (Die Post), No. 14. The Grey Head (Der greise Kopf), No. 15. The Raven (Die Krähe)

 

Die Winterreise No. 11. Spring Dreams (Frühlingstraum)

 

I had a dream of bright flowers

Bursting forth in May

I had a dream of a grassy meadow

With the sound of endless birdsong

 

When the cock crowed

I awoke in my bed

Eveything was cold and dismal

The ravens croaked overhead

 

Who drew those leafy flowers

Upon the window pane?

Why do you mock the dreamer

Whose garden blooms in winter?

 

I had a dream of a lovely maiden

And of the love we shared

There were sweet kisses in the dream

And many blissful caresses

 

When the cock crowed

I started from my dreams

Now I’m sitting alone

With a memory of that dream

 

My eyes are closing again

Once more my heart begins to throb

Will the leaves ever turn green?

Will I ever embrace my sweetheart?

 

Die Winterreise No. 12. Solitude (Einsamkeit)

 

Dark clouds are drifting

Across the bright blue sky

Soft breezes gently sigh

In the dark forest

 

But in moody silence

I walk with sluggish feet

Alone and unnoticed

In this busy street

 

Why is the air so tranquil!

Why is the world so fair!

Even in the raging storm

I never felt such despair

 

Die Winterreise No. 13. The Post (Die Post)

 

The post-horn rings

Rings through the streets

Heart, where do these feelings come from?

 

The post has no news for me

So heart, why do you grieve?

 

The post has arrived

From the town

Where once, my heart

I loved so dearly

 

I’ll ask the postman, Heart

If he has been to that town

And if he has seen

The fair one you loved

 

Die Winterreise No. 14. The Grey Head (Der greise Kopf)

 

A white sheen covers my head

A frost has done its work

I imagine I am old and grey

A pleasant dream for me

 

But then comes the thaw

My hair returns to black

Once more I am young

And peace is far away

 

They say one night of torment

Can make black hair turn white

The frost leaves my hair untouched

I have wandered but must wander more

 

Die Winterreise No. 15. The Raven (Die Krähe)

 

A raven has flown beside me

Since the day I left the town

Raven, bird of ill-omen

Will you ever leave me?

 

Do you stalk me

In the hope I will be yours?

My journey can’t last much longer

My strength begins to fail

 

Raven, surely you will be true

Until death overtakes me

 

Chapter 5

No. 16. The Last Hope (Letzte Hoffnung), No. 17. In the Village (Im Dorfe), No. 18. The Stormy Morning (Der stürmische Morgen), No. 19. Illusion (Täuschung), No. 20. The Guide-Post (Der Wegweiser)

 

Die Winterreise No. 16. The Last Hope (Letzte Hoffnung)

 

A few gaudy leaves remain

On the winter branches

I shelter beneath

I begin to dream

 

I stare at one leaf

I stake my hopes on it

If the breeze moves it

I shiver and shake with fear

 

If the leaf falls

And flutters down

My hopes will fall with it

My heart will sink too

My last hope will be gone

 

Die Winterreise No. 17. In the Village (Im Dorfe)

 

The watchdogs are barking

And straining at their chains

The people are sleeping

And the village is at rest

 

What dreams they have

What joyful pleasures

Of good, of evil

According to their souls

 

But in the light of morning

Their treasures are all gone

What then?

They’ve had their fill

But hope in vain their dreams are real

 

Bark long, bark loud

My brave guards

The world sleeps

But gives me no rest!

 

My dreams have ended in tears

Why should I linger here?

 

Die Winterreise No. 18. The Stormy Morning (Der stürmische Morgen)

 

A storm has ripped

The grey robe of the sky

The clouds fly apart

In wild disorder

 

A flame reaches out and grasps the earth

The scene without, the soul within

One hot and fiery

The other cold and bleak

 

Die Winterreise No. 19. Illusion (Täuschung)

 

I see a flickering guiding light

To left and right, now here, now there

I’ll follow this light, though I know

It will mislead and tease me

 

Those who are lost, as I am

Will trust a friendly guiding light

That in the darkness, ice and snow

Shows the path to a welcoming house

 

I see a fair face within

This trickery is my gain

 

Die Winterreise No. 20. The Guide-Post (Der Wegweiser)

 

Why should I leave the beaten path

Where the other wanderers tread?

Why do I seek hidden tracks

On unmarked mountain snow?

 

I have injured no one

No need to shun mankind

It is only foolishness

That makes me seek the wild

 

At every crossing there is a post

It points towards the town

I will travel far beyond them

I’ll seek rest, but find none

 

I see a guide-post standing

Before my face it stands

It points me to a path

One no wanderer can retrace

Chapter 6

No. 21. The Wayside Inn (Das Wirthshaus), No. 22. Courage (Muth), No. 23. The Mock Suns (Die Nebensonnen), No. 24. The Organ-Grinder (Der Leiermann)

 

Die Winterreise No. 21. The Wayside Inn (Das Wirthshaus)

 

I’ve laboured upon my journey

A path to this lonely graveyard

I was looking for a welcoming inn

To rest my weary head

 

These green funeral wreaths

You could be the sign

That tells the tired traveller

That a cool retreat awaits

 

Among all your rooms

Do you have one for me?

I’m tired and ready to rest

Unwelcoming inn, do you deny me shelter?

 

Die Winterreise No. 22. Courage (Muth)

 

Snow falls on my cheek

I carelessly brush it away

If my heart speaks of its troubles

I’ll drown it out with a happy song

 

I won’t listen to the heart’s complaints

I won’t listen to its fears

I’m content to wander

Through the wind and the snow

 

I have my trusty staff

I have my cheerful song

We will journey on together

 

Die Winterreise No. 23. The Mock Suns (Die Nebensonnen)

 

I saw three suns in the bright cold sky

I stared at them long and hard

Unmoving they stared back at me

As if they would last forever

 

You three do not belong to me

Go and shine on others

I used to have three suns

But the best two have gone

 

If the third goes out

I will welcome the darkness

 

Die Winterreise No. 24. The Organ-Grinder (Der Leiermann)

 

Up behind the village

The organ-grinder has his pitch

He stands barefoot or shuffles

On the frozen ground

 

With stiff fingers

He coaxes out the sound

His saucer is empty

Gifts for him are rare

 

No one listens to him

Or looks at him, or cares

Dogs snarl at him

Dogs chase him

 

But he wears a smile

He shows no fear or disappointment

But turns the handle round and round

 

Shall I join you on your journey?

Will you play the music to my songs?

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33 Comments leave one →
  1. Angelicaffarelli permalink
    April 5, 2010 8:18 pm

    Thank you for posting things like this in your blog!
    I sing and often go online to check for translations. (and try to help people myself in my own blog).
    Go music, opera to the people! :D

    • April 6, 2010 9:08 am

      Caffarelli is a name with a great tradition for a singer! I enjoyed visiting your blog and I see that you visited Liverpool, a city I know well.

      • Angelicaffarelli permalink
        April 6, 2010 9:12 pm

        Thank you for your visit! :D Yes Caffarelli is a great name with history. And yes, I loved Liverpool, very interesting place. (Santa Cecilia I see?)

  2. December 1, 2010 2:50 pm

    i Love your post… i am new English teacher, this is very helpfully for me.

  3. Scott permalink
    January 16, 2011 12:30 am

    I love these. May I use them for a student recital, with appropriate crediting? Please contact me at the email address posted if you are willing to give permission, I will be happy to give you more information about the venue.

  4. noelle permalink
    May 2, 2011 12:59 am

    Hi, I have a query, just wondering if you have an email address I can send to?
    Thanks :)

  5. Paola Staccone permalink
    May 31, 2011 2:38 pm

    I am going to use this translation in an essay for a specialization course. Very smart but elegant, thanks!

  6. December 18, 2011 10:47 am

    I find myself feeling sorely tempted to do a post of Brigitte Fassbaender’s version of this great song cycle, but I am not yet certain that I have the temerity to pull it off because of the sheer size and scope of it. However, should I manage to do it, I would very much like to use your fine translations of Muller’s poems. If you give your permission I will surely credit you by name as well as post the url to your site.
    If you refuse I will accept you decision in good grace, as having been made for very good reasons.
    Thank you,
    Dia.

    • December 18, 2011 10:56 am

      Dia

      By all means use my versions of the poems and I am delighted that you are interested in using them in this way. I would look forward to being informed of how you are getting on with this project.

      Next year I plan to release an e-book which will have the Winterreise poems and the Die Schone Mullerin poems in both English and German versions. I might also include a royalty free licence for performance and quotation.

      I look forward to hearing from you again.

      Best wishes

      Barry

      • December 18, 2011 11:02 am

        How very kind and generous you are. I have to admit I never expected you to grant my request. I will begin working on this hefty post – my posts tend to run away with me – and if and when I get it done I will be sure to let you know!
        With my sincere thanks and very best wishes to you. I am still a little overwhelmed….
        Dia.

        • December 21, 2011 9:36 pm

          I look forward to hearing from you – keep in touch.
          Best wishes
          Barry

          • Anonymous permalink
            December 22, 2011 2:19 am

            I most assuredly will, and Thanks once more. I am scoping out images now!
            This will be a gargantuan post – I might have to break it into two parts.

          • December 22, 2011 6:49 am

            Hello Barry,
            I just completed part 1 of my post. Would you please be so kind as to let me know if you think I should add, subtract or modify anything?
            Part 2 will have much the same format….
            Thank you again, and Kindest Regards.
            Dia.

            • December 22, 2011 7:59 pm

              That looks great – I love the illustrations, an excellent post, I hope you get loads of viewers.

              • December 22, 2011 8:06 pm

                Barry – you are such a generous man. Thank you.
                Part two is also done. It took me 20 straight hours to put everything together – searching for pictures mostly. I decided to leave out the German lyrics – the post would have been too bulky otherwise.
                Thank you for your kind words – and for making my posts possible. The whole thing would have been utterly impossible without you.
                And Complements of the Season to you as well.
                Sincere Best Wishes.
                Dia.

  7. December 22, 2011 2:52 am

    I most assuredly will.

    I will credit you in the title of the post for your translations, right along with Schubert, Müller and Fassbaender!
    I think this project will be too unwieldy for a single post, so I am considering doing it in two parts.
    Would I be imposing on your generosity too much if I were to use your text and tags as well?
    Well, actually I am asking you now!
    Once again, I will credit you in the title for text and translation, and at the bottom of the post I will mention the tags, and include an url for your blog.
    And once again, I will be in full accord with you if you were to refuse to grant yet another enormous favour.

  8. March 26, 2012 4:25 pm

    Barry- I like you translation.
    I`m German and just studied both, the German version and your English one, because we are working on this masterpiece in our evening classes. By accident I found your blog and I like reading it.
    Maybe the translation can be considered to work with….
    Nice work.

    • March 28, 2012 2:00 pm

      I’m glad you like my version of the poems – I say version rather than translation because this is a free re-writing and interpretation of the original rather than a translation. I wish you all the best with your study of Schubert. I have more Schubert posts planned in the near future.

  9. Anonymous permalink
    March 30, 2012 7:39 pm

    Lovely version. Why do you call it blank verse, though? That means unrhymed iambic pentameters — like much of Shakespeare’s theatrical work.

    • March 31, 2012 9:19 am

      Yes that is a good point I should call it “free verse”. I would change it but I have a problem with this post because for some reason if I try to edit it the formatting goes crazy, so I will leave your comment as a comment.

  10. JNR permalink
    May 19, 2012 6:29 am

    Remembering Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau

    Thank you for translation

  11. July 28, 2012 11:19 am

    Thanks for the positive comment on Theory of Music!

  12. Anonymous permalink
    October 19, 2012 4:37 pm

    The 5th line, “Das Mädchen sprach von Liebe.” sprach = speak, and liebe = love. So the normal translation would seem to be “The maiden spoke of love.” So, how do you figure it translates as “the maiden had a friendly smile”? Interpretation is one thing, but this seems to a complete rewriting of the text. Why would you do this?

  13. December 14, 2012 10:20 am

    This version of the poems is a rewriting of the translations by Theodore Baker and the line you mention is actually unchanged from Baker’s original. I imagine Baker did it this way because it fitted well with the music but as you say, it is quite different from the original.

Trackbacks

  1. uberVU - social comments
  2. Franz Schubert (1797-1828) – Winterreise | Discografia Erudita
  3. A nice web discovery on Winterreise | Lyric Fest – Connecting people through song
  4. Winterreise – Franz Schubert / Wilhelm Müller | tiboresque
  5. Der Leiermann (process experiments) | www.x-tet.com
  6. It’s turning colder … time for Winterreise | MusiCB3 Blog

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