Having a drink after work
(Poet's title: Am Feierabend)
Set by Schubert:
Part of Die schöne Müllerin, D 795
Hätt’ ich tausend
Arme zu rühren,
Könnt’ ich brausend
Die Räder führen,
Könnt ich wehen
Durch alle Haine,
Könnt ich drehen
Daß die schöne Müllerin
Merkte meinen treuen Sinn.
Ach, wie ist mein Arm so schwach,
Was ich hebe, was ich trage,
Was ich schneide, was ich schlage,
Jeder Knappe tut mir´s nach.
Und da sitz ich in der großen Runde,
In der stillen kühlen Feierstunde,
Und der Meister sagt zu allen:
Euer Werk hat mir gefallen;
Und das liebe Mädchen sagt
Allen eine gute Nacht.
If only I had a thousand
Arms to move about.
If only I could storm about
And drive the wheels.
If only I could fly
Through all the woods.
If only I could turn
All the stones,
So that the beautiful girl at the mill
Would notice my faithful attitude.
Oh, how weak my arm is.
What I lift, what I carry,
What I cut, what I hit,
Every other newly qualified worker can do the same as me.
And I sit there in that big circle
In the quiet, cool time after work,
And the master says to everybody:
I am pleased with your work;
And the dear girl says
Good night everybody.
All translations into English that appear on this website, unless otherwise stated, are by Malcolm Wren. You are free to use them on condition that you acknowledge Malcolm Wren as the translator and schubertsong.uk as the source. Unless otherwise stated, the comments and essays that appear after the texts and translations are by Malcolm Wren and are © Copyright.
Themes and images in this text:
Arms and embracing  Evening and the setting sun  Mills  Weak and strong  Wheels  Woods – groves and clumps of trees (Hain)
The first day in a new job is never easy. We know that we need to show that we are capable and that we have something to offer, but we also know that we need to learn and fit in with the new culture. Striking the right balance between humility and confidence is hard enough at the best of times, but it must be particularly difficult for very young people with limited experience of the world. In the case of this young miller’s apprentice, there is also the added confusion of emotional torment and an element of unstable mental health.
At the end of this first day, as he sits around with all of his new colleagues, he feels a mixture of frustration, perfectionism and resentment. Like so many young workers it has probably come as a shock to him that the individual physical skills he has already developed are not everything that is needed to be effective. He thinks of his colleagues as competitors rather than collaborators and he has not yet realised the importance of being part of the team. This must be particularly important when working in the confined space of a water mill. He is probably also having to accept that precision and timing might be valuable skills to develop alongside brute strength, but all he can really think about at the moment is his relative weakness in comparison to the other workers and his inability to impress the girl with his superpowers.
He is not focused on ‘the team’. He wants to be noticed. He wants to be picked out as someone special. However, he has to sit around ‘in a circle’, one of the group. The master miller does not comment specifically on his own contribution. He says ‘I am pleased with your work’ to everybody (this seems to hurt). The girl says ‘Good night everybody‘ (this hurts even more).
Original Spelling and note on the text Am Feierabend Hätt' ich tausend Arme zu rühren! Könnt' ich brausend Die Räder führen! Könnt' ich wehen Durch alle Haine! Könnt' ich drehen Alle Steine! Daß die schöne Müllerin Merkte meinen treuen Sinn! Ach, wie ist mein Arm so schwach! Was ich hebe, was ich trage, Was ich schneide, was ich schlage, Jeder Knappe thut mir´s nach1. Und da sitz' ich in der großen Runde, In der stillen kühlen Feierstunde, Und der Meister sagt zu Allen: Euer Werk hat mir gefallen; Und das liebe Mädchen sagt Allen eine gute Nacht. 1 Schubert changed Müller´s 'Jeder Knappe thut es nach' (Every newly qualified worker can do the same) to 'Jeder Knappe thut mir´s nach' (Every newly qualified worker can do the same as me)
Confirmed with Gedichte aus den hinterlassenen Papieren eines reisenden Waldhornisten. Herausgegeben von Wilhelm Müller. Erstes Bändchen. Zweite Auflage. Deßau 1826. Bei Christian Georg Ackermann, pages 11-12; and with Sieben und siebzig Gedichte aus den hinterlassenen Papieren eines reisenden Waldhornisten. Herausgegeben von Wilhelm Müller. Dessau, 1821. Bei Christian Georg Ackermann, page 14.
First published with the title Feierabend in Frauentaschenbuch für das Jahr 1818 von de la Motte Fouqué. Nürnberg, bei Joh. Leonh. Schrag, pages 347-348; and also (title: Am Feierabend) in Gaben der Milde. Viertes Bändchen. Mit Beiträgen von […]. Für die Bücher-Verloosung “zum Vortheil hülfloser Krieger” herausgegeben von F. W. Gubitz. Berlin, 1818, page 216.
To see an early edition of the text, go to page 14 Erstes Bild 25 here: https://download.digitale-sammlungen.de/BOOKS/download.pl?id=bsb10115224