Saturday, 4 October 2008

Beim schlafengehen | On going to sleep

The third of the four so-called Last Songs by Richard Strauss (not to be confused with the Strausses of Vienna), this is a setting of words by Hermann Hesse, and quite possibly the most beautiful song ever written. The words, which I’ve translated below with the help of Google, speak of falling asleep, but they are also about dying. Strauss wrote the Four Last Songs in 1948, when he was 84. He died in 1949.

The video is one of several available, and features Lucia Popp.

Nun der Tag mich müd' gemacht,
soll mein sehnliches Verlangen
freundlich die gestirnte Nacht
wie ein müdes Kind empfangen.

Hände, laßt von allem Tun,
Stirn, vergiß du alles Denken,
alle meine Sinne nun
Wollen sich in Schlummer senken.

Und die Seele unbewacht,
Will in freien Flügen schweben,
Um im Zauberkreis der Nacht
tief und tausendfach zu leben.

On going to sleep

Now the day has wearied me
My eager desire is to be received,
Welcomed by the starry night
like a tired child.
Hands, leave everything;
Mind, forget all thought.
All my senses now wish
Is to sink into slumber.
And the unfettered soul,
Floats in free flight,
To live deeper, a thousand-fold,
In the magic circle of the night.

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