To the nightingale
(Poet's title: An die Nachtigall)
Set by Schubert:
Er liegt und schläft an meinem Herzen,
Mein guter Schutzgeist sang ihn ein;
Und ich kann frölich sein und scherzen,
Kann jeder Blum und jedes Blatts mich freun.
Nachtigall, ach! Nachtigall, ach!
Sing mir den Amor nicht wach!
He is lying and sleeping by my heart,
My good protecting spirit sang him to sleep;
And I can be happy and playful,
I can take pleasure in every flower and in each leaf.
Nightingale, oh nightingale!
Do not wake this Cupid with your singing!
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.
It would be interesting to know more about this lover, now asleep on the speaker’s breast. This is someone who can be sung to sleep by a protecting spirit or guardian angel (how does that happen?) but who could all too easily be woken up by the singing of a nightingale. He (the gender is explicit in the text) is someone who is said to embody the god of love (Amor / Cupid), or is the speaker being ironic and simply mocking his pretensions as a lover? She / He (the speaker’s gender is NOT explicit) has admitted that s/he is in a playful mood, after all.
Is it even possible to make jokes or play about with someone sleeping on top of you? Maybe it is best just to lie back and keep still. Look at the flowers and the foliage and enjoy them from where you are. Talk to the nightingale (why not?).
Original Spelling An die Nachtigall Er liegt und schläft an meinem Herzen, Mein guter Schutzgeist sang ihn ein; Und ich kann frölich seyn und scherzen, Kann jeder Blum' und jedes Blatts mich freun. Nachtigall, Nachtigall, ach! Sing mir den Amor nicht wach!
Confirmed by Peter Rastl with Schubert’s probable source, ASMUS omnia sua SECUM portans, oder Sämmtliche Werke des Wandsbecker Bothen, I. und II. Theil. Beym Verfasser, und in Commißion bey Fr. Perthes in Hamburg. , page 56; and with Musenalmanach MDCCLXXII.Göttingen bey J.C.Dieterich, page 21.
First published in Der Wandsbecker Bothe. Ao. 1771. No. 70. Mittwochs, den 1sten May.
To see an early edition of the text, go to page 56 here: https://resolver.sub.uni-hamburg.de/kitodo/PPN840695020