The long-distance walker to the moon
(Poet's title: Der Wanderer an den Mond)
Set by Schubert:
Ich auf der Erd, am Himmel du,
Wir wandern beide rüstig zu: –
Ich ernst und trüb, du mild und rein,
Was mag der Unterschied wohl sein?
Ich wandre fremd von Land zu Land,
So heimatlos, so unbekannt,
Bergauf, bergab, waldein, waldaus,
Doch bin ich nirgend, ach, zu Haus.
Du aber wanderst auf und ab
Aus Westens Wieg in Ostens Grab,
Wallst länderein und länderaus,
Und bist doch, wo du bist, zu Haus.
Der Himmel, endlos ausgespannt,
Ist dein geliebtes Heimatland.
O glücklich, wer, wohin er geht,
Doch auf der Heimat Boden steht.
I am on the earth, you are in the sky,
We are both resolutely walking along:
I am serious and gloomy, you are gentle and pure,
What can explain the difference?
I walk on as a stranger from land to land,
So homeless, so unknown to others;
Up mountains and down mountains, into forests and out of forests,
Yet I am never – alas! – at home.
You, however, walk up and down
From the cradle in the west to the grave in the east,
On your pilgrimage you progress into lands and out of lands
And yet, wherever you are, you are at home.
The sky, endlessly stretched out,
Is your beloved homeland:
Oh happy is he who, wherever he goes,
Is still standing on his home ground!
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.
Themes and images in this text:
Cradles  East and West  Graves and burials  Heaven, the sky  Home (Heimat)  Mountains and cliffs  Night and the moon  Pilgrims and pilgrimage  Walking and wandering  Woods – large woods and forests (Wald)
The speaker, trekking from land to land, has lost all contact with his original environment. None of the mountains he climbs or forests that he enters are familiar, and none of the people he encounters know who he is. Yet one companion remains, a familiar ‘face’ in a world of strangers. The moon, like him, is a traveller, but unlike him (going ‘von Land zu Land’) it enters a number of different lands at the same time (‘länderein und länderaus’).
Of course, both of them are also on a journey from the cradle to the grave. There has long been a dispute about what the poet meant by the line ‘Aus Westens Wieg’ in Ostens Grab’ (‘From the cradle in the west to the grave in the east’), since the moon rises every evening in the east and sets in the west. Many people believe that this was simply a slip on Seidl’s part (and the fact that he inverted ‘west’ and ‘east’ in later editions of his poems might support this). However, there can be no doubt that this was the version of the text that Schubert set to music and there have been a number of attempts to justify the original order. For example Jan Dearp (in The Schubertian Nr 100 October 2018) argued that Seidl was referring to the progression of each NEW moon, which is indeed born further east than the previous one. It is about the moon’s actual journey around the earth, not the apparent daily journey, which is just the effect of the earth’s own rotation. Christian Strehk (in Liedlexicon 2012 pp. 718-719) suggested that the setting sun in the west ‘cradles’ the moon into new life and that at dawn the rising sun in the east dims the light of the moon and therefore entombs it. Perhaps a simpler way of making sense of the line is just to conclude that the wayfarer is dis-oriented!
In the end, the speaker concludes, their differences are greater than their similarities. They are both travellers. Perhaps they are both pilgrims (the verb ‘wallen’ in the third stanza hints at this – a ‘Wallfahrt’ is a pilgrimage). However, the moon’s journeys do not involve the same sense of isolation and distancing. The moon is still at home as it wanders around the sky. Although it never touches the earth it is always ‘standing on home ground’. The walker, however, whose feet are relentlessly stepping on firm ground, will always be both homeless and homesick.
Original Spelling Der Wanderer an den Mond Ich auf der Erd', am Himmel du, Wir wandern beide rüstig zu: - Ich ernst und trüb, du mild und rein, Was mag der Unterschied wol seyn? Ich wandre fremd von Land zu Land, So heimatlos, so unbekannt; Bergauf, bergab, waldein, waldaus, Doch bin ich nirgend - ach! - zu Haus. Du aber wanderst auf und ab Aus Westens Wieg' in Ostens Grab, - Wallst länderein und länderaus, Und bist doch, wo du bist, zu Haus. Der Himmel, endlos ausgespannt, Ist dein geliebtes Heimatland: O glücklich, wer wohin er geht, Doch auf der Heimat Boden steht!
Confirmed by Peter Rastl with Schubert’s source, Joh. Gabr. Seidl’s Dichtungen. Zweiter Theil. Lieder der Nacht. […] Von Johann Gabriel Seidl. Wien. Druck und Verlag von J. P. Sollinger. 1826, page 24; with Lieder der Nacht. Von Johann Gabriel Seidl. Zweite, verbesserte und vermehrte Auflage. Wien, 1851. Druck und Verlag von J. P. Sollinger’s Witwe, pages 23-24; and with Joh. Gabr. Seidl’s gesammelte Schriften. Mit einer Einleitung von Julius von der Traun. Herausgegeben von Hans Max. Erster Band. […] Wien, 1877. Wilhelm Braumüller k.k. Hof-und Universitätsbuchhändler, page 31.
To see an early edition of the text, go to page 24 [32 von 190] here: http://digital.onb.ac.at/OnbViewer/viewer.faces?doc=ABO_%2BZ179729407