(Poet's title: Das Abendrot)
Set by Schubert:
for three voices (SSB) and piano
[July 20, 1815]
Part of Kosegarten (putative cycle)
Der Abend blüht,
Der Westen glüht!
Wo bist du holdes Licht entglommen,
Aus welchem Stern herabgekommen?
Ein lichter Brand
Flammt See und Land,
Es lodern in dem roten Scheine
Die Fluren rings und rings die Haine.
Wie sieht so hehr
Das düstre Meer,
Die Welle tanzt des Glanzes trunken
Und sprüht lusttaumelnd Feuerfunken.
Es malt der Strahl
Das liebe Tal,
Dass sie bewohnt, der Holden Holde,
Mit Rosenglut und mattem Golde.
Mit leisem Gruß
Auf sie, den Inhalt meiner Lieder,
Die schönsten deiner Rosen nieder.
Viel schöner blüht
Viel wärmer glüht
Die blasse Rose ihrer Wangen,
Und weckt inbrünstiges Verlangen.
Von ihr ein Blick,
Ein trauter Nick
Durchzuckt elektrisch Mark und Leben
Und macht den feinsten Nerv erbeben.
Beut Gruß und Kuss
Der Herrlichen, der Tadellosen,
Und opfr’ ihr deine schönsten Rosen.
Heischt nur das Schön’, das ewig lebet,
Weil Huld und Heiligkeit es hebet.
The evening is blossoming,
The west is glowing!
Beauteous light, where did you catch fire,
From which star have you descended?
A bright flame
Sets the sea and land alight.
In the red glow, all ablaze
Are the fields, circling the grove.
How magnificent it looks
The sombre sea.
The waves are dancing, drunk with the glow,
And sparks of fire glitter, staggering with delight.
The rays paint
The beloved valley,
The place inhabited by the beauteous beauty,
With a pink glow and pale gold.
With a gentle greeting,
Onto her the content of my songs,
Down onto her, the most beautiful of your roses.
They are blossoming more beautifully,
They are glowing more warmly,
The pale roses of her cheeks,
And they awaken a fervent desire.
A single look from her,
A confidential nod
Flows like electricity into my marrow and life
And makes the most sensitive of my nerves quiver.
Grab a greeting and a kiss
From the noble one, the spotless one
And offer her a sacrifice of your most beautiful roses.
Are due to beauty alone, which lives for ever,
Since grace and sanctity raise it up.
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.
We need most of these verses in order to follow the poet’s train of thought, which verges on free association at times. There is an overall move from a specific setting (the changing light of sunset transforming both sea and land) to a more generalised reflection on abstract principles (beauty, grace, sanctity etc.) in the final stanza, via an invocation to the evening star (Hesperus, aka Venus) and a request to convey messages and confer benefits on the beloved.
The connecting thread seems to be the word ‘Rosen’ (roses or the colour pink, the colour of roses). The sunset is painting the land pink and gold, and the poet notices the valley where his beloved lives, now glowing like rose petals. He looks up to the evening star and begs it to act as an intermediary (knowing that she will be looking at it too), and to tell her (the most beautiful of all roses) what he is singing about. This makes him think of her blushing cheeks, her own special pale roses (like the light of sunset brought about by heat). Although pale, the roses of her cheek are warmer and brighter than the setting sun (or rather, as he admits, what he really means is that they make HIM warmer, he finds her hot). He asks Hesperus (=Venus) to collect a message (a greeting and a kiss) from her and send it back to him, but also to make a sacrifice of ‘your most beautiful roses’ when doing so. We perhaps should not try to enquire too closely how this sort of Interflora messaging system was supposed to work (“You don’t know me – I’m just a passing planet – but here is a bunch of flowers from an admirer, now give me a kiss for him”).
The poet thinks of his devotion to the beloved as a sort of veneration or worship, perhaps because they do not (yet) have an established relationship. She is perhaps not even allowed to speak to him. That is why hints of blushes mean so much to him. Even the slightest inclination of the head is read as being a confession of her interest, and it sets him all a-tremble. He compares it to the effect of electricity. The text was written at the time when naturalists (Franklin, Galvani, Volta, Humboldt etc.) were trying to make sense of electrical phenomena and when demonstrations of its astonishing properties were a standard feature of meetings of philosophical societies. People lined up to experience electric shocks, so Kosegarten’s reference to her glance having an electrical effect on his marrow and the life within him would have connected his poetry with their awed attempts to understand the natural world (this was an age before scientific understanding was seen to be in any way opposed to poetic reflections on the phenomena of the world).
It is this compatibility which might help us explain the relationship between the first and last stanzas of the text. The final abstract assertions about the nature of beauty (and the way in which grace and holiness intensify it and make it more venerable) are some sort of answer to the questions posed at the beginning. Where did the light visible in this sunset begin? What is its origin? Which star has it come from? The poet’s reflection on the nature of light and heat (and the connection with human love) lead him to conclude that they come from beauty itself. The particular (this sunset, this colour, this experience of being in love) has allowed us to glimpse the general and universal reality of beauty, the thing itself.
 Richard Holmes, The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science 2008
Original Spelling and note on the text Das Abendrot Der Abend blüht! Der Westen glüht! Wo bist du holdes Licht entglommen? Aus welchem Stern herabgekommen1? Ein lichter Brand Flammt See und Land. Es lodern in dem rothen Scheine Die Fluren rings und rings die Hayne. Wie sieht so hehr Das düstre Meer! Die Welle tanzt des Glanzes trunken, Und sprüht lusttaumelnd Feuerfunken. Es malt der Strahl Das liebe Thal, Dass sie bewohnt der Holden Holde, Mit Rosengluth und mattem Golde. Geuß, Hesperus Mit leisem Gruß Auf sie, den Inhalt meiner Lieder, Die schönsten deiner Rosen nieder. Viel schöner blüht Viel wärmer glüht Die blasse Rose ihrer Wangen, Und weckt inbrünstiges Verlangen. Von ihr Ein Blick, Ein trauter Nick Durchzuckt elektrisch Mark und Leben, Und macht den feinsten Nerv erbeben. Drum Hesperus, Beut Gruß und Kuß Der Herrlichen, der Tadellosen, Und opfr' ihr deine schönsten Rosen. Bewunderung Und Huldigung Heischt nur das Schön, das ewig lebet, Weil Huld und Heiligkeit es hebet. 1 Schubert changed the original 'herabgeschwommen' (swum down) to 'herabgekommen' (come down)
Confirmed by Peter Rastl with Schubert’s source, L.T.Kosegarten’s Poesieen, Neueste Auflage, Dritter Band, Berlin 1803, pages 44-46.
To see an early edition of the text, go to page 44 [48 von 274] here: http://digital.onb.ac.at/OnbViewer/viewer.faces?doc=ABO_%2BZ184217108