A part of what I want to do on this blog is highlight some of my favorite pieces of German literature, poetry, music, film, etc.
I thought a perfect place to start would be by going through Wilhelm Müller’s 1820 poetry cycle Die schöne Müllerin (the beautiful [female] miller).
What’s so wonderful about this poetry cycle, besides the elegant lyrics of Müller, is that Franz Schubert, one of the giants of the Romantic era, and one of my favorite composers, set the poems to music. (You’re going to get plenty of Schubert on this blog.) So you get both poetry and music: two for the price of one!
|A bust of Schubert outside the Schubertkirche in Vienna, Austria.
With that, let’s get right into it.
Das Wandern ist des Müllers Lust, Wandering, the passion of the miller!
Das Wandern! Wandering!
Das muß ein schlechter Müller sein, He must be a terrible miller,
Dem niemals fiel das Wandern ein, who never feels like wandering.
Das Wandern. Wandering!
Vom Wasser haben wir’s gelernt, We’ve learned this from water,
Vom Wasser! from water!
Das hat nicht Rast bei Tag und Nacht, It never rests in day or night,
Ist stets auf Wanderschaft bedacht, and only thinks of its journeying
Das Wasser. The water!
Das sehn wir auch den Rädern ab, So too we see this with wheels,
Den Rädern! the wheels!
Die gar nicht gerne stille stehn, They cannot by any means stay still,
Die sich mein Tag nicht müde drehn, and turn all day without getting tired.
Die Räder. The wheels!
Die Steine selbst, so schwer sie sind, The stones, even being so heavy,
Die Steine! the stones!
Sie tanzen mit den muntern Reihn They dance along with the cheerful ranks,
Und wollen gar noch schneller sein, And even want to go faster,
Die Steine. The stones!
O Wandern, Wandern, meine Lust, O wandering, wandering, my passion,
O Wandern! O wandering!
Herr Meister und Frau Meisterin, Master and mistress,
Laßt mich in Frieden weiterziehn let me move on in peace,
Und wandern. and go wandering!
The story begins with our narrator, a restless miller who yearns for the freedom to adventure wide into the world, cheerfully singing along as begins his journey. The nature imagery (what else would you expect with Romantic poetry?) in the opening poem can hardly be missed: water, stones, etc. Nature, then, is a part of us. You might even say it’s in our . . . wait for it . . . nature. We yearn to explore, to move, and to adventure throughout nature.
Most important, however, is the imagery of the wheels. This will actually become very important later on in the story, when our young miller is led to a mill and the eponymous beautiful daughter of the miller.
And now, Schubert’s setting of this piece.
As much as I can, I will try to find and post any recordings of the incomparable baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau
(1925–2012), who, many would agree, provided the definitive rendition of many of Schubert’s innumerable Lieder–––including Die schöne Müllerin