Monday, 22 October 2007

The most beautiful spring of the love

[Skip this post if lieder are of no interest to you.]
The lovely Holywell Music Hall in Oxford, built in 1742, is said to be the oldest purpose-built music room in Europe, and hence England's first concert hall.

Grumio and I went there last week for a lunchtime lieder recital given by students from the Guildhall School of Music. The singing seemed to our untutored tastes to be rather good, and anyway just sitting in such a room for an hour is a pleasure not to be missed.

I know exactly what a leichenbegleiter* does, though I have no idea how I came by this piece of information and have never found it in any way useful. Nevertheless the knowledge probably does give me a slight edge over many lieder singers, but my understanding of German does not go much further than this and I depend on my Penguin Book of Lieder to tell me what Goethe or Heine is going on about. On this occasion, however, the crib let me down, for it did not include a song which was to be in the recital at Oxford and which I had heard before and rather liked without knowing what the words meant.

So before I went to Oxford I looked up the words (by Friedrich Rückert) on the net. Here they are:

O du Entrissne mir und meinem Kusse,
Sei mir gegrüsst, sei mir geküsst!
Erreichbar nur meinem Sehnsuchtgrusse,
Sei mir gegrüsst, sei mir geküsst!

Du von der Hand der Liebe diesem Herzen
Gegebne, Du von dieser Brust
Genommne mir! Mit diesem Tränengusse
Sei mir gegrüsst, sei mir geküsst.

Zum Trotz der Ferne, die sich feindlich trennend
Hat zwischen mich und dich gestellt;
Dem Neid der Schicksalmächte zum Verdrusse
Sei mir gegrüsst, sei mir geküsst!

Wie du mir je im schönsten Lenz der Liebe
Mit Gruss und Kuss entgegenkamst,
Mit meiner Seele glühendstem Ergusse,
Sei mir gegrüsst, sei mir geküsst!

Ein Hauch der Liebe tilget Raum und Zeiten,
Ich bin bei dir, du bist bei mir,
Ich halte dich in dieses Arms Umschlusse,
Sei mir gegrüsst, sei mir geküsst!

I could not find a translation anywhere except one in a website about a recital in Rio de Janeiro sponsored by the Gulbenkian Foundation, but this was into Portuguese so it didn’t really help me all that much.

Then a friend lent me The Book of Lieder, which has the original texts, an English singing version, and a translation of over a thousand lieder including the one I wanted. Finally, I realised that—as usual at recitals— translations of the text of the words were provided in the programme notes, so I needn’t have gone to all that bother.

But I’m glad that during my search I had asked Babel Fish to have a go at the poem, for the result was quite pleasing:

O you is greeted Entrissne me and my kiss
Is greeted me, is kissed me!
Attainable only my longing greeting
Is greeted me, is kissed me!

You of the hand of the love this heart
Gegebne, you of this chest
Genommne me! With this tear casting
Is greeted me, is kissed me.

To the defiance of the distance, hostilely separating
Between me and you placed;
The envy of fate powers to the annoyance
Is greeted me, is kissed me!

How you came to meet me ever in the most beautiful spring of the love
With greeting and kiss,
With my soul most glowing Ergusse
Was greeted me, was kissed me!

A breath of the love erase space and times,
I are with you, you are with me
I hold you in this arm Umschlusse
Is greeted me, is kissed me!

[*He is a funeral attendant, or what Babel Fish calls a corpse companion.]


Pennyroyal said...

Pennyroyal: Hi Tony, I have stopped blogging but decided to check your blog today. I like the poem too, but not quite the translation. Since 'Entrissene' is the past participle of the verb '(jmdm.) (etw.) entreissen' meaning to 'snatch (sth.) (from s.o.)' but is left untranslated in the English. I would go with 'O you who have been snatched away from me and my kiss, may you be greeted by me, may you be kissed by me...' or something similar. As for 'Gegegeb(e)ne,' it is the past participle of the verb 'geben' (to give). As you might already know Rueckert was quite familiar with Persian literature and one senses an influence of Persian mysticism in this beautiful poem. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Tony said...

Nice to hear from you again, Pennyroyal, and thank you for explaing the bits in Rueckert's poem which Babel Fish couldn't cope with.
As I said, my knowledge of German is such that I cannot appreciate German poetry, whether it is redolent of Persian mysticism or not. But if Schubert had written a song cycle using the Vienna telephone directory for text I would buy a recording of it.
All good wishes.

Anonymous said...

Here is a web site devoted to lieder:

And a better translation of Sei mir gegrüßt:

O you, who have been snatched from me and my kiss,
I greet you, I kiss you!
Reached only by my yearning greetings,
you I greet, you I kiss!

You, given by the hand of love to this heart,
you, who from my breast
have been taken! With these flooding tears
I greet you, I kiss you.

Defying the distance that fiendishly separates us
and lies between you and me -
to irritate the envious powers of fate,
I greet you, I kiss you!

Just as you always did in the fairest spring-time of love,
coming to greet me with a kiss,
so now, with my soul a glowing flood,
I greet you, I kiss you!

A breath of love erases space and time;
I am with you, you are with me,
I hold you in these arms, embracing you;
I greet you, I kiss you!

Direct link:

Tony said...

Yes indeeed. Danke schön, Anonymous.