Übersetzung / Translation
von / by Walter A. Aue

Matthias Claudius:


Der Mond ist aufgegangen,
Die goldnen Sternlein prangen
Am Himmel hell und klar;
Der Wald steht schwarz und schweiget,
Und aus den Wiesen steiget
Der weie Nebel wunderbar.

Wie ist die Welt so stille,
Und in der Dmmrung Hlle
So traulich und so hold!
Als eine stille Kammer,
Wo ihr des Tages Jammer
Verschlafen und vergessen sollt.

[Vier Strophen übersprungen]

So legt euch denn, ihr Brder,
In Gottes Namen nieder;
Kalt ist der Abendhauch.
Verschon uns, Gott! mit Strafen,
Und la uns ruhig schlafen!
Und unsern kranken Nachbar auch!

Ja, ja, ich wei schon. Aber ich bin eben ein fauler Hund (wie mein Vater zu sagen pflegte). Und Sie können die fehlenden Strophen ja sowieso auswendig, oder?

Aha, jngere Generation. Natürlich. Aber ich hab' schon immer das Gefhl gehabt, da da noch nicht alles Hopfen und Malz verloren ist. Jedenfalls, ein Besuch auf (m)einer Gedichtseite...

Ach so. Für die Universitt. Na ja, hoffentlich merkt's der alte Trottel nicht. Oder vielleicht schaut er auch nur absichtlich weg, wie ich's ja auch manchmal bei meinen (Chemie)studenten getan habe. Jede Drehung der Geschichtsspirale muß die nchste sttzen, sonst fällt die DNA zusammen...

Und Sie knnen die fehlenden Strophen ja leicht nachlesen - und sich sogar mit Paul Gerhardt bekannt machen, mit dem das alles angefangen hat...

Und der Matthias wrde sich sicher freuen...

Matthias Claudius:

Evening Song

The moon has slowly risen,
the golden starlets glisten
across the heavens bright.
The woods stand dark and ponder,
and from the meadows yonder
lift magic mists into the night.

How is the world so quiet
and, in the cloak of twilight,
a peaceful place to stay!
Just like a silent bubble
where all the daytime's trouble
shall be forgot and slept away.

[Four stanzas skipped]

So, go to bed, my brothers,
with God and all the others:
cold is the evening's dew.
Save us, oh God, from cumber,
and grant us quiet slumber!
And our ailing neighbor, too!

Why I attempted to translate this poem? Because I have liked it for a long, long time, in particular its first stanza and its last line. The first stanza is one of those verses that consist of the simplest of declarative sentences, woven into a magic carpet. Like the white mists from the meadows, the words rise and float off the page, creating a world of their own. An untranslatable world, mind you, and one that seems to have left us forever...

There are, in my humble opinion, several more examples of this rare and rarified kind of verse to be found at Chez Walter, for instance Goethe's Abendlied, Eichendorff's Mondnacht, or the last two lines of Stevenson's Epitaph. And I hope to get to Lenau's Schilflieder one of these days...

But let's get back to the poem at hand. Claudius must have intended it as homage to Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676), whose Abendlied provided the prosody (five trimeters followed by one tetrameter), rhyme scheme (aabccb), devout mood, and (some of the) natural images. Incidentally, both poems are found in the German Protestant Hymn Book (Evangelisches Gesangbuch, EG 482 and EG 477).

To me, the Abendlied of Gerhardt is more of a hymn, that of Claudius more of a poem. But, heavens, what a poem! Just to reinforce that distinction for my readers - and being on the rather lazy side of translation - I have skipped four stanzas, whose innocent and heartfelt theology belongs to a different age. I assume - and I hope I am wrong! - that these may be understood no longer.

Not surprisingly, Claudius's poem has been set to music by many composers, among them some rather famous ones. (While my own translation would fit the notes, i.e. be "singable", I disavow any untoward consequences of such lunacy. Besides, my translation is incomplete - so, please, don't even try!)

Last but not least, my heartfelt thanks for comments by Bertram Kottmann, who knows much more than I do about such things, and who has given the world many touching translations of Lieder texts.


Back to Home Page

For comparison, check also
a complete translation by Bertram Kottmann;
a full-text translation by Emily Ezust;
and a partial translation by Norbert Krapf.

First posted: October 2006
Last updated: February 2010

N.B.: The frame around the poems
shows a bearded iris in our garden.

Want to see the original photograph?