(Poet's title: Der Einsame)
Set by Schubert:
Wann meine Grillen schwirren,
Bei Nacht, am spät erwärmten Herd,
Dann sitz ich, mit vergnügtem Sinn
Vertraulich zu der Flamme hin,
So leicht, so unbeschwert.
Ein trautes stilles Stündchen
Bleibt man noch gern am Feuer wach.
Man schürt, wann sich die Lohe senkt,
Die Funken auf und sinnt und denkt:
Nun abermal ein Tag!
Was Liebes oder Leides
Sein Lauf für uns daher gebracht,
Es geht noch einmal durch den Sinn,
Allein das Böse wirft man hin.
Es störe nicht die Nacht.
Zu einem frohen Traume
Bereitet man gemach sich zu.
Wann sorgelos ein holdes Bild
Mit sanfter Lust die Seele füllt,
Ergibt man sich der Ruh.
O wie ich mir gefalle
In meiner stillen Ländlichkeit!
Was in dem Schwarm der lauten Welt
Das irre Herz gefesselt hält,
Gibt nicht Zufriedenheit.
Zirpt immer, liebe Heimchen,
In meiner Klause, eng und klein.
Ich duld euch gern: ihr stört mich nicht.
Wann euer Lied das Schweigen bricht,
Bin ich nicht ganz allein.
When my crickets chirp
At night by my hearth, which stays warm late,
Then I sit in a cheerful mood,
I cosy up to the flames,
So light-spirited, so untroubled.
An intimate, quiet moment
Is still waiting for you as you stay up by the fire.
You poke it when the raging flames die down
So that the sparks appear, and you reflect and think:
Well that is another day done!
Everything that was enjoyable or painful,
Whatever the course of the day has brought,
It goes through your mind once more;
Only evil things need to be thrown away.
Don’t let them disturb the night.
In anticipation of happy dreams
You slowly get ready.
When a carefree beautiful image
Fills your soul with gentle pleasure
You give yourself up to rest.
Oh, I so much like being
In my quiet rural surroundings.
In the buzz of the loud world whatever
Has imprisoned the crazy heart
Gives no satisfaction.
Keep on chirping, dear litttle cricket,
In my small, narrow cell.
I am happy to put up with you: you are not disturbing me.
When your song breaks the silence,
I am not totally alone.
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.
Not all lonely people are alone and not every loner is lonely. Lappe’s solitary character declares that he is content in his rural seclusion, yet the lengths to which he goes to insist on how contented he is with his lot might lead us to ask who he is trying to convince. Why would someone who had nothing to complain about be so emphatically positive?
Perhaps we are too cynical and inclined to doubt the sincerity of people’s assertions. Lappe may simply have wanted to give voice to a simple, trusting individual whose uncomplicated approach to life is something to be admired and emulated. Even if that is the case, though, we have to admit that there is a rhetorical dimension to the poem. The reader is being urged to accept the values being praised and to adopt some of the wisdom on offer. Reflect on the day’s events, don’t let negative events overwhelm you, prepare yourself mentally to avoid bad dreams. Above all do not try to change what cannot be altered. If you are widowed or orphaned (or even ‘involuntarily celibate’) it is better to accept your solitary condition than to rage against it (all of this is less explicitly stated, it must be admitted!).
Lappe’s poem is part of the ‘hearth and home’ tradition which persisted throughout the 19th century. The theme of the lucky cricket on the hearth reappeared a generation later in one of the Christmas stories of Charles Dickens, with a similarly moralistic tone.
From: Charles Dickens, The Cricket on the Hearth 1845 To have seen little Mrs. Peerybingle come back with her husband, tugging at the clothes-basket, and making the most strenuous exertions to do nothing at all (for he carried it), would have amused you almost as much as it amused him. It may have entertained the Cricket too, for anything I know; but, certainly, it now began to chirp again, vehemently. ‘Heyday!’ said John, in his slow way. ‘It’s merrier than ever, to-night, I think.’ ‘And it’s sure to bring us good fortune, John! It always has done so. To have a Cricket on the Hearth, is the luckiest thing in all the world!’ John looked at her as if he had very nearly got the thought into his head, that she was his Cricket in chief, and he quite agreed with her. But, it was probably one of his narrow escapes, for he said nothing. ‘The first time I heard its cheerful little note, John, was on that night when you brought me home—when you brought me to my new home here; its little mistress. Nearly a year ago. You recollect, John?’ O yes. John remembered. I should think so! ‘Its chirp was such a welcome to me! It seemed so full of promise and encouragement. It seemed to say, you would be kind and gentle with me, and would not expect (I had a fear of that, John, then) to find an old head on the shoulders of your foolish little wife.’ John thoughtfully patted one of the shoulders, and then the head, as though he would have said No, no; he had had no such expectation; he had been quite content to take them as they were. And really he had reason. They were very comely. ‘It spoke the truth, John, when it seemed to say so; for you have ever been, I am sure, the best, the most considerate, the most affectionate of husbands to me. This has been a happy home, John; and I love the Cricket for its sake!’ ‘Why so do I then,’ said the Carrier. ‘So do I, Dot.’ ‘I love it for the many times I have heard it, and the many thoughts its harmless music has given me. Sometimes, in the twilight, when I have felt a little solitary and down-hearted, John—before baby was here to keep me company and make the house gay—when I have thought how lonely you would be if I should die; how lonely I should be if I could know that you had lost me, dear; its Chirp, Chirp, Chirp upon the hearth, has seemed to tell me of another little voice, so sweet, so very dear to me, before whose coming sound my trouble vanished like a dream. And when I used to fear—I did fear once, John, I was very young you know—that ours might prove to be an ill-assorted marriage, I being such a child, and you more like my guardian than my husband; and that you might not, however hard you tried, be able to learn to love me, as you hoped and prayed you might; its Chirp, Chirp, Chirp has cheered me up again, and filled me with new trust and confidence. I was thinking of these things to-night, dear, when I sat expecting you; and I love the Cricket for their sake!’ ‘And so do I,’ repeated John.
Original Spelling Der Einsame Wann meine Grillen schwirren, Bei Nacht, am spät erwärmten Herd, Dann sitz' ich, mit vergnügtem Sinn, Vertraulich zu der Flamme hin, So leicht, so unbeschwert. Ein trautes, stilles Stündchen Bleibt man noch gern am Feuer wach. Man schürt, wann sich die Lohe senkt, Die Funken auf, und sinnt und denkt: Nun abermal ein Tag! Was Liebes oder Leides Sein Lauf für uns daher gebracht, Es geht noch einmal durch den Sinn; Allein das Böse wirft man hin. Es störe nicht die Nacht. Zu einem frohen Traume Bereitet man gemach sich zu. Wann sorgelos ein holdes Bild Mit sanfter Lust die Seele füllt, Ergiebt man sich der Ruh. O wie ich mir gefalle In meiner stillen Ländlichkeit! Was in dem Schwarm der lauten Welt Das irre Herz gefesselt hält, Giebt nicht Zufriedenheit. Zirpt immer, liebe Heimchen, In meiner Klause eng und klein. Ich duld' euch gern: ihr stört mich nicht. Wann euer Lied das Schweigen bricht, Bin ich nicht ganz allein.
Confirmed by Peter Rastl with Schubert’s source, Blätter von Karl Lappe. Erstes Heft. Lied und Leben. Stralsund, 1824. Gedruckt in der Königl. Regierungs-Buchdruckerei, pages 88-89; with Karl Lappe’s sämmtliche poetische Werke. Ausgabe letzter Hand. Erster Theil. Rostock, Verlag von J. M. Oeberg. 1836, pages 65-66; and with Gedichte von Karl Lappe. Düsseldorf, in der Dänzer’schen Buchhandlung. 1801, pages 56-57, with the title Des Klausners Abendlied (The hermit’s evening song).
To see an early edition of the text, go to page 88 [114:88] here: https://digitale-bibliothek-mv.de/viewer/image/PPN750754354/114/