(Poet's title: Amalia)
Set by Schubert:
Schubert did not set the stanza in italics
[May 19, 1815]
Schön wie Engel voll Walhallas Wonne,
Schön vor allen Jünglingen war er!
Himmlisch mild sein Blick, wie Maiensonne,
Rückgestrahlt vom blauen Spiegelmeer.
Sein Umarmen – wütendes Entzüken! –
Mächtig feurig klopfte Herz an Herz,
Mund und Ohr gefesselt – Nacht vor unsern Bliken –
Und der Geist gewirbelt himmelwärts.
Seine Küsse – paradiesisch Fühlen!
Wie zwei Flammen sich ergreifen, wie
Harfentöne in einander spielen
Zu der himmelvollen Harmonie –
Stürzten, flogen, schmolzen Geist in Geist zusammen,
Lippen, Wangen brannten, zitterten,
Seele rann in Seele – Erd’ und Himmel schwammen
Wie zerronnen um die Liebenden!
Er ist hin – vergebens, ach, vergebens
Stöhnet ihm der bange Seufzer nach!
Er ist hin, und alle Lust des Lebens
Wimmert hin in ein verlornes Ach!
As beautiful as an angel full of the bliss of Walhalla,
He was the most beautiful of all youths,
His look was as gentle as heaven, like the sun in May
Shining back from the blue mirror of the sea.
His embrace – raging delight! –
Powerfully, heart beat on heart like fire,
Mouth and ear fettered – night in front of us as we looked out –
And the spirit spun towards heaven.
His kisses – the feeling of Paradise! –
Like two flames engulfing each other, like
The sounds of harps playing together
To make harmony that is full of heaven,
They plunged, they flew, spirit melted into spirit,
Lips and cheeks burned, trembled –
Soul flowed into soul – Earth and heaven swam
Around the lovers as if melting away.
He has gone – in vain, oh, in vain
Was the fearful sigh groaned for him.
He has gone – and all the pleasure of life
Whimpers away in an expiring gasp!
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.
Amalia, who sings this lament (in a garden, playing a lute) at the beginning of Act 3 of Schiller’s early play The Robbers, has been tricked into believing that her lover Karl Moor has just been killed at the Battle of Prague. According to the invented report delivered to her and to Moor’s old father in Act II Scene 2, Karl had signed a document more or less renouncing his engagement to Amalia and passed her on to his brother, Franz. The audience is aware all along that it is Franz that is behind this whole deception and that Karl is still alive.
Some people might have wanted to find out more details and to check out the story. What was Karl doing at the Battle of Prague? How can we be sure that the documents produced by the evil brother are authentic? However, this was not Amalia’s approach. Indeed, she is one of those intense, Isolde-like characters who welcome the LoveDeath. The lament thus becomes a celebration of a fusion/annihilation that would have been unavailable to her if they had gone on to get married and live a conventional life.
After a single strophe of standard praise for the beauty of the departed (associating him with angels, heaven, youth, the sun etc.) the song turns to what is surely an invented memory: a physical connection between Karl and Amalia that brought about the fulfilment and destruction of both of them. They were two flames that merged: by being themselves so totally (in chemistry intense heat is used to identify the elements that are present) they were able to fuse (the metaphor then shifts from chemistry to music: the two distinct notes on the harp strings come together to form a harmonious chord).
Opposites combine: the physical (lips and cheeks) with the spiritual (spirit A and spirit B), the earth with the sky (= the secular with the heavenly). Solidity shakes and evaporates. The verbs relate to liquid or gaseous states: melting, swimming, flowing. The grammar gives up: subjects and their predicates have difficulty staying together or forming any sort of stable assertion.
The final strophe is all about expiry and expiration. The air coming out of Amalia’s lungs has been turned into articulate song (this text) and the voiced sounds (hardly language) of sighs. As she realises that neither form of expiration can help in any way, all that remains is for her to empty her lungs for the last time – ach!
Original Spelling and note on the text Amalia Schön wie Engel voll Walhallas Wonne, Schön vor allen Jünglingen war er, Himmlisch mild sein Blick, wie Mayensonne, Rückgestrahlt vom blauen Spiegelmeer. Sein Umarmen - wütendes Entzüken! - Mächtig feurig klopfte Herz an Herz, Mund und Ohr gefesselt - Nacht vor unsern Bliken - Und der Geist gewirbelt himmelwärts. Seine Küsse - paradiesisch Fühlen! Wie zwey Flammen sich ergreifen, wie Harfentöne in einander spielen Zu der himmelvollen Harmonie - Stürzten, flogen, schmolzen Geist in1 Geist zusammen, Lippen, Wangen brannten, zitterten, Seele rann in Seele - Erd und Himmel schwammen Wie zerronnen um die Liebenden! Er ist hin - vergebens, ach vergebens Stöhnet ihm der bange Seufzer nach! Er ist hin, und alle Lust des Lebens Wimmert hin in ein verlor'nes Ach! 1 Schubert changed 'und' (and) to 'in' (into)
Confirmed by Peter Rastl with Schubert’s source, Friedrich Schillers sämmtliche Werke. Zehnter Band. Enthält: Gedichte. Zweyter Theil. Wien, 1810. In Commission bey Anton Doll. [korrigierter Druck] page 59; with Gedichte von Friederich Schiller, Zweiter Theil, Zweite, verbesserte und vermehrte Auflage, Leipzig, 1805, bei Siegfried Lebrecht Crusius, pages 78-79; and with Schiller’s anonymously published Die Räuber. Ein Schauspiel. Frankfurt und Leipzig, 1781, page 112.
To see an early edition of the text, go to http://digital.onb.ac.at/OnbViewer/viewer.faces?doc=ABO_%2BZ207858305