Selections from Des Knaben Wunderhorn

By Gustav Mahler


(Rhine Legend)

Now I mow along the Neckar,

Now I mow along the Rhine;

now I have a sweetheart,

and now I’m alone!

What use is my mowing,

if my sickle isn’t sharp?

What use is a sweetheart,

if she doesn’t stay with me?

So, if I’m then to mow along the Neckar and the Rhine,

I’ll just throw my little gold ring into the water!

It’ll flow along the Neckar and flow along the Rhine,

it’ll dive below into the deep sea!

And as the little ring swims, a fish eats it!

Then the fish will be served on the king’s table!

The king will ask, whose ring could this be?

Then my sweetheart will say, that ring belongs to me!

My sweetheart will spring uphill and down,

to bring back my fine little golden ring!

You may mow along the Neckar,

you may mow along the Rhine.

You can always throw in your little ring to me!

Wo die schönen Trompeten blasen

(Where the Fair Trumpets Sound)

Who is outside knocking at my door,

who wakens me so lightly?

It’s your heart’s true love,

get up and let me in!

Why should I go on standing here?

I can see the morning sky brighten,

glowing red with starlight.

I long to be with my darling,

with my heart’s true love!

The girl stood up and let him in,

welcomed him with a warm kiss.

Welcome, my beloved boy!

You stayed outside for so long!

She reached out her snow-white hand.

The nightingale sang in the distance,

and she began to weep.

Please do not cry, my love!

In a year’s time, we will be together.

You will certainly be mine,

as no one else on earth can be!

Oh, love on this green earth!

I’m off to war, on the green heath;

the green heath that is so far!

That is where the fair trumpets sound,

there is my home, my home of green grass!

Verlorne Müh’!

(Lost Effort)

She:  Laddie, let’s…

Laddie, let’s go for a walk!

Shall we?  To look at our lambs?

Come, dear laddie, come, I’m begging you!

He:  Foolish lassie, I’m not going with you! 

She:  Would you perhaps…

Would you perhaps like a bit to nibble?

Would you?  Get yourself something out of my pocket!

Get it!

Get it, dear laddie.  Get it, I’m begging you!

He:  Foolish lassie, I don’t want anything to nibble on!

She:  So, shall I…

So, shall I give you my heart!?

So that you will always think of me!?


Take it, dear Laddie!  Take it, I’m begging you!

He:  Foolish lassie, I don’t care for it at all!

Das irdische Leben

(Life on Earth)

Mother, ah Mother, I’m hungry!

Give me some bread or I’ll die!

Now, now, my darling,

tomorrow we’ll harvest very quickly!

And when the grain was harvested,

the child cried again:

Mother, ah Mother, I’m hungry!

Give me some bread or I’ll die!

Now, now, my darling,

tomorrow we’ll thresh very quickly!

And when the grain was threshed,

the child cried again:

Mother, ah Mother, I’m hungry!

Give me some bread or I’ll die!

Now, now, my darling,

tomorrow we’ll bake very quickly!

And when the bread was baked,

the lifeless child lay in a coffin!


(Primal Light)

Oh little red rose!

Humankind is in dire need!

Humankind is in dire pain!

Oh, to be able to escape to heaven!

Once, I found myself on a wide path;

There, I met an angel who wanted to turn me away. 

But no!  I will not be so easily dismissed!

I came from God and to God I shall return!

Dear God, may You grant me a little light,

to illuminate my path to blessed, eternal life!

Des Antonius o Padua Fischpredigt

(St. Anthony of Padua’s Sermon to the Fishes)

St. Anthony arrives for his sermon,

and finds the church empty!

So, he goes to the river to preach to the fishes!

They flick their tails, shimmering in the sunshine!

The carp with their roe have all congregated,

their mouths wide-open, listening attentively.

There’s never been a sermon

that pleased the carp so!

Sharp-mouthed pike that are always fighting,

have quickly swum here to hear this saintly man!

Even those fantastic creatures that are constantly fasting,

the codfish, I mean, have arrived for the sermon!

There’s never been a sermon

that pleased the codfish so!

Good eels and sturgeons, that the aristocrats enjoy,

even they took the trouble to attend the sermon!

Crabs too, and turtles, the slowpokes of the group,

rise quickly from the bottom to hear his voice!

There’s never been a sermon

that pleased the crabs so!

Big fish, little fish, noble fish, common fish.

All lift their heads like rational beings!

By the will of God

they all listen to the sermon!

When the sermon ends, each turns to go!

The pikes remain thieves, the eels great lovers,

The sermon was pleasing, but they all remain the same.

The crabs still walk backwards, the codfish are still plump,

the carp still stuff themselves, and the sermon is forgotten!

The sermon was pleasing, but they all remain the same!



Between three and four in the morning,

we soldiers have to march up and down the alley,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

my sweetheart looks down on us.

Oh, brother, I’ve been shot,

I’ve been badly hit,

carry me back to my quarters,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

it’s not so far from here.

Oh brother, I can’t carry you,

the enemy has beaten us,

may God help you!

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

I must march on until my death!

Oh brothers, you pass right by me,

as if I were already done with!

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

You’re treading too near me!

Trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

I’ve got to play my drum, trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

or I will completely lose my sanity.

My brothers cover the ground, lying as if mown down.

He plays the drum up and down,

waking his silent brothers,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

they battle and strike the enemy,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

a terror hits the enemy!

He plays the drum up and down,

there they are again before their quarters,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

going brightly into the alley!

They draw close to my sweetheart’s house.

Trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

they draw close to my sweetheart’s house.

In the morning, the skeletons stand in rank and file.

The drum stands in front to be clearly seen,

trallali, trallaley, trallalera,

to be clearly seen!

Der Tamboursg’sell

(The Drummer Boy)

Poor me, the drummer boy!

They’re leading me out of the dungeon!

If I’d remained a drummer,

I wouldn’t have been imprisoned!

Oh gallows, you tall house!

You look so frightening!

I won’t look at you anymore!

Because I know that’s where I’m going!

When soldiers march by,

who were not quartered with me,

and ask who I once was:

Drummer of the first company!

Good night marble rocks,

you mountains and hills!

Good night you officers, corporals and musketeers!

Good night you officers, corporals and grenadiers!

I cry out with a clear voice:

I take leave of you!

I take leave of you!

Good night!

Lob des hohen Verstands

(In Praise of Higher Understanding)

Once in deep valley, the cuckoo and the nightingale made a bet:

Whoever sings the masterpiece best,

whether by art or by luck, would win all the praise.

The cuckoo said: “If you agree, I have chosen the judge.”

And right away he named the ass.

“For since he has two very large ears,

he can hear that much better!

And recognize what is right!”

They quickly flew before the judge.

And when the matter was explained,

he decreed that they should sing.

The nightingale sang out sweetly

The ass said: “You confuse my mind!

Hee haw!  I can’t get it into my head!”

Then the cuckoo started quickly to sing in thirds, fourths and fifths.

The ass was pleased, and said only:

“Wait!  I’ll pronounce my judgment, yes indeed.”

“You have sung well, nightingale!

But cuckoo, you sing a good chorale!

And your rhythm is impeccable!

I speak from higher understanding!

And even if it costs a whole country,

I pronounce you the winner!”

Cuckoo!  Hee haw!

Trost im Unglück

(Solace in Misfortune)

Hussar:  Now then!  The time has come!

My horse must be saddled,

I’ve made up my mind,

it’s time to ride!

Off you go!  I have what I need!

I love you only out of madness!

Without you, I can live just fine!

Without you, I’ll be just fine!

So, I’ll rest on my horse

and drink a cool glass of wine,

and swear on my moustache:

to be true to you forever!

Maiden:  Do you think that you’re the most handsome man

in the entire world?

And the nicest?

I’m afraid you’re far off the mark!

In my father’s garden there is a flower growing:

I’ll keep waiting until it grows bigger.

So, off you go!  I have everything I need!

I love you only out of madness!

Without you, I can live just fine,

without you I’ll be just fine!

Both:  You think I’ll take you?

Not for a long time!

I’m ashamed of you

at least while I’m in public!