Die schöne Müllerin (Part 6)

“Sag, Bächlein, liebt sie mich?”

Work is over, the beautiful milleress has wished everyone a good night, and the miller is now alone. This sets the scene for the next poem in the story–––”Der Neugierige.” Whom or what does the miller now have that he can share his deep feelings with? Of course, he has the brooklet. So, naturally, that’s where he goes.

Ich frage keine Blume,                              I won’t ask any flower,
Ich frage keinen Stern,                              I won’t ask any star,
Sie können mir nicht sagen,                      They cannot tell me,
Was ich erführ so gern.                             What I so desperately want to know.

Ich bin ja auch kein Gärtner,                     I’m certainly not a gardner,
Die Sterne stehn zu hoch;                         The stars are way too high;
Mein Bächlein will ich fragen,                  I’ll ask my little brooklet,
Ob mich mein Herz belog.                        If my heart has lied to me.

O Bächlein meiner Liebe,                         O brooklet of my love,
Wie bist du heut so stumm?                      Why are you so silent today?
Will ja nur eines wissen,                           I just want to know one thing,
Ein Wörtchen um und um.                       One little word again and again.

Ja heißt das eine Wörtchen,                      “Yes,” is the name of the word,
Das andre heißet Nein,                             “No,” is the name of the other.
Die beiden Wörtchen                                In both of these words,
Schließen die ganze Welt mir ein.             Is the entire world encompassed.

O Bächlein meiner Liebe,                          O brooklet of my love,
Was bist du wunderlich!                            How quaint you truly are.
Will’s ja nicht weitersagen,                        I’ll not say it again,
Sag, Bächlein, liebt sie mich?                   Speak, brooklet, does she love ?

This is one of the most touching poems of the entire story. Maybe it’s because I’ve also performed this song in concert, including once at a very tender time in my life, that makes me so in love with it. I don’t know. All I know is here we see the miller’s truly heartfelt love and desire. His emotions are raw and unreserved. At one point he even has to ask himself, like before, if he’s lying to himself. The feelings of love he has for the beautiful milleress are real, but he doesn’t know if they’re being met by the milleress. This, I believe, is what he means when he asks himself if his heart has deceived him. He wants to know, in other words, if it’s all in vain.

The simplicity of this poem is likewise powerful. There’s no flashy imagery, no fancy words, no complex form. It’s just a simple man asking a profoundly sincere and meaningful question: does she love me? But even thought the question is simple, the answer, according to the miller, encircles the entire world.

But what is the answer? We won’t find out just now. We’ll first have to wait a little bit and observe the miller’s relationship grow with the milleress.

In the mean time, here is Schubert’s rendition. It is, without a doubt, one the absolute gems of this song cycle.