Auf Deutsch gelesen (215KB) von -
Translated and read in English (238KB) by -

- Walter A. Aue

Joseph von Eichendorff :

In einem khlen Grunde
(Das zerbrochene Ringlein)

In einem khlen Grunde
da geht ein Mhlenrad,
mein Liebchen ist verschwunden,
das dort gewohnet hat.

Sie hat mir Treu versprochen,
gab mir ein Ring dabei,
sie hat die Treu gebrochen,
das Ringlein sprang entzwei.

Ich mcht als Spielmann reisen
weit in die Welt hinaus,
und singen meine Weisen
und gehn von Haus zu Haus.

Ich möcht als Reiter fliegen
wohl in die blut'ge Schlacht,
um stille Feuer liegen
im Feld in dunkler Nacht.

Hr ich das Mhlrad gehen,
ich wei nicht, was ich will,
ich mcht am liebsten sterben,
da wrs auf einmal still.

Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff, 1788-1857

Spter (November 2009)

Dank Herrn Patrick von Massow habe ich gerade drei Strophen dieses Liedes auf YouTube gehrt, in berzeugender Harmonie. Bitte anhren (wenngleich das die Schwche meiner bersetzung ins Englische die dort dankenswerterweise in Untertiteln und unter "(more info)" erscheint unbersehbar dokumentieren wird)!

(Please click the "full screen" button at the lower right corner!)

Joseph von Eichendorff :

The Mill Wheel
(The Broken Ringlet)

Down there in verdant meadows,
a mill wheel turns around.
My true love's turned to shadows
whom at the mill I found.

Gave me a ring as token
of love forever true;
her promise she has broken,
the ringlet rent in two.

As troubadour I'll wander
the world without a frown,
I'll sing my songs and ponder
and roam from town to town.

As horseman I will fly in
the battle's bloody fight,
round fires I will lie in
the fields in dark of night.

Hear I the mill wheel sighing?
I know not what to will.
I will that I was dying,
then everything were still.

This, again, is a folk song of which the poet is known. However, as is the wont of singing folk, the text has been changed over the years.

Not only the text. The original title was Das zerbrochene Ringlein (the broken little ring). When the poem was set to music - and that happened several times - the title changed, too. Thus this folksong is also known under names such as Das Mühlenrad (i.e., the big water wheel that powers a mill).

The most popular melody, that of Friedrich Glück (1793-1840), carries the title Untreue (infidelity). However, every German-speaking Silesian, German, Swiss or Austrian recalls it by its first words as In einem kühlen Grunde (meaning, roughly, down in the cool valley).

In the German version given above, I have stuck as close as possible to the original text by Joseph Karl Benedikt Freiherr von Eichendorff (1788-1857), a Silesian nobleman. I felt, however, that having written a poem im Volkston (i.e., one reminiscent in style and prosody of folk songs), and indeed having it widely accepted as a Volkslied, he would feel honored to see included those small changes that have proven popular over the years.

But he would have felt sad, very sad indeed, to see the fourth stanza dropped, as is now often done. Sure I don't know for sure, but I'd bet any time that it was not the good folks of the folksong that did the dirty deed. Rather, it must have been the work of the do-gooders of political correctness, continuing their long tradition of castrating arts and artists - and doing well on the sligh by doing good on the side.

But then, you know, even J.S. Bach's The Passion according to St. Matthew, W.A. Mozart's The Magic Flute and W. Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice - to name just three rather prominent examples - did not prove immune to the ad-majorem-Dei-gloriam treatment. And how I wish they would play Mozart's Don Giovanni free of moralistic appendages, i.e., ending with the Don going to hell: plain, simple, and unrepenting, the way Mozart had it at first; or, for that matter, The Tales of Hoffmann ending with Hoffmann, drunk and deprived of his love, defiantly belting out the last stanza of Klein-Zack into the face of fate. But, sorry, I am one of the many that have been taught to turn the other cheek...

Still, there is hope. Hope for a world in which Jesus could reasonably assure us that "ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). And where, as He also said, "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6). Deny the truth and you deny life. Deny the truth of the artist - or, for that matter, any truth - and you deny life itself. At least life worthy of a human...

Big words? Sure. But not mine, did you notice? As for me, I can merely assure you of one small truth: Eichendorff's often-missing stanza is not just an achingly beautiful example of German romanticism. It is also part of a tightly written poetic and emotional sequence that no man shall rend asunder. The betrayed lover seeks imagined relief: He wants to travel the lonesome future as a wandering minstrel; he wants to lie by dying fires in the fields and ride with his comrades into the battle of death.

This, and beautifully so, connects and sets up the ultimate stanza, where the sound of the revolving mill wheel reminds him again of this lost love and his lost future: He knows now that he wants to die, so that everything - the mill wheel, he, his heartache - will finally fall silent...

And then come these cultural barbarians, these Huns, these castrating eunuchs, and cut this beautiful poem down to fit their missing-link minds...

But I did still find a YouTube version - thanks YouTube, thanks Google, and keep up the good fight! - that preserves the whole text. Hermann Prey sings this folk song with simplicity and integrity, as it should be sung, to the highest standards of art, and in beautiful German:

Later (November 2009)

Thanks to Mr. Patrick von Massow I just had the pleasure of hearing three stanzas of this folk song on YouTube, in German "Barbershop" harmony. Please listen to it, even though doing so will irrefutably demonstrate the shortcomings of my translation (if you click the rightmost button for English undertitles and/or extend the window on the right side for "more info"). And if you insist on hearing this famous song in still different versions, try here and here.


Further poems by Eichendorff
Weitere Gedichte von Eichendorff

Back to Home Page

For comparison, check the translation
by Joy Sarah Buchanan.

For other poems that have made the grade as German "Folk Songs",
try Klesheim's Mailüfterl, or Müller's Lindenbaum, or Raimund's Hobellied.

First posted: December 2003
Last updated: January 2010

N.B.: The frame around the poems
shows a lake on the Bowater-Mersey trail
near our house.

Want to see the original photograph?