To her who is far away
(Poet's title: An die Entfernte)
Set by Schubert:
[early December 1822]
So hab ich wirklich dich verloren?
Bist du, o Schöne, mir entflohn?
Noch klingt in den gewohnten Ohren
Ein jedes Wort, ein jeder Ton.
So wie des Wandrers Blick am Morgen
Vergebens in die Lüfte dringt,
Wann, in dem blauen Raum verborgen,
Hoch über ihm die Lerche singt:
So dringet ängstlich hin und wieder
Durch Feld und Busch und Wald mein Blick;
Dich rufen alle meine Lieder;
O komm, Geliebte, mir zurück!
So have I really lost you,
Have you fled from me, you beauty?
My habituated ears can still hear
Each single word, each single note.
Just as the wayfarer looks out in the morning
And peers into the air in vain
When, hidden in the blueness of space,
The lark is singing high above him:
That is how I peer anxiously up and down
Turning my gaze from the fields, to the bushes and the woods;
All of my songs call out to you;
Oh beloved, come back to me!
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.
There is a theory that Goethe wrote this poem on his return from his journey to Italy (1786 – 1788) and his consequent realisation that he had lost the trust of Charlotte von Stein. For over a decade she had guided him in his project to conform to courtly conventions and to channel his energies into useful service. She had helped him with the transition from youthful passion to middle-aged stability. His artistic and scientific projects had matured with her support, yet the lure of the South had proved too strong and he had broken away. She never forgave him for the way he simply left Weimar without revealing his plans to travel across the Alps and to indulge his long-suppressed fascination with the ancient world. What Goether experienced as a necessary exploration of vital aspects of human experience, she saw as a regression into escapism.
Whether or not ‘An die Entfernte’ was triggered by these events, Goethe managed to capture the incredulity that many of us feel when we realise that someone close to us has cut themselves off. We are so habituated to their presence (and their approval) that we continue to hear their voice (and their encouragement) even when nothing has been said. It takes quite a while to notice the silence, the absence and, perhaps, the disapproval.
Original Spelling An die Entfernte So hab ich wirklich dich verloren, Bist du, o Schöne, mir entflohn? Noch klingt in den gewohnten Ohren Ein jedes Wort, ein jeder Ton. So wie des Wandrers Blick am Morgen Vergebens in die Lüfte dringt, Wenn, in dem blauen Raum verborgen, Hoch über ihm die Lerche singt: So dringet ängstlich hin und wieder Durch Feld und Busch und Wald mein Blick; Dich rufen alle meine Lieder; O komm, Geliebte, mir zurück!
Confirmed by Peter Rastl with Schubert’s probable source, Goethe’s sämmtliche Schriften. Siebenter Band. / Gedichte von Goethe. Erster Theil. Lyrische Gedichte. Wien, 1810. Verlegt bey Anton Strauß. In Commission bey Geistinger page 31; with Goethe’s Werke, Vollständige Ausgabe letzter Hand, Erster Band, Stuttgart und Tübingen, in der J.G.Cottaschen Buchhandlung, 1827, page 67; and with Goethe’s Schriften, Achter Band, Leipzig, bey Georg Joachim Göschen, 1789, page 117.
To see an early edition of the text, go to page 31 [45 von 418] here: http://digital.onb.ac.at/OnbViewer/viewer.faces?doc=ABO_%2BZ163965701