The contented person
(Poet's title: Der Zufriedene)
Set by Schubert:
[October 23, 1815]
Zwar schuf das Glück hienieden
Mich weder reich noch groß,
Allein ich bin zufrieden,
Wie mit dem schönsten Los.
So ganz nach meinem Herzen
Ward mir ein Freund vergönnt;
Denn Küssen, Trinken, Scherzen
Ist auch sein Element.
Mit ihm wird froh und weise
Manch Fläschchen ausgeleert;
Denn auf der Lebensreise
Ist Wein das beste Pferd.
Wenn mir bey diesem Lose
Nun auch ein trüb’res fällt,
So denk’ ich: keine Rose
Blüht dornlos in der Welt.
It is true that here below fate created
Me neither rich nor great,
Yet I am contented
As if with the most beautiful fall of the dice!
Just as my heart dearly wished,
I have been granted a friend;
For kissing, drinking and joking
Are also essential for him.
With him there has been jollity and wisdom
As many a dear bottle was emptied;
For on the journey of life
Wine is the best horse.
If with this lot that has fallen to me I
Also encounter something bleaker,
I will just think: there is no rose
In the world that blossoms without thorns.
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.
Is the bottle half full or half empty? We are always told that the pessimist will see it as half empty, but here we have an undoubted optimist who celebrates a heap of totally empty bottles. Unlike many drinkers, he does not seem to have turned to alcohol as a way of coping with the pressures and bleakness of life. If we can believe what he says, he is perfectly happy with the way things are and he would not want anything different.
Of course there were religious and political pressures on people (particularly in the generation exposed to the ideas of the French Revolution) to accept the status quo, and there were particular pressures on writers and intellectuals to emphasise the benefits of the established system. Much of this pressure was not even explicitly stated; there was a shared assumption that ‘ordinary people’ were better off if they knew their place. Reissig, the author of this text, was a soldier in the Imperial army and would have shared this way of thinking.
Indeed, the poem only makes complete sense as a military song. The lads are about to go into battle. They have drawn the short straw. What does fate have in store for them on the battlefield? It is better not to think about that. What will be will be. You can only play the hand you have been dealt. You simply accept the luck of the draw. Just celebrate the companionship of the barracks and drink what is available. Have a kiss, have a laugh, have a drink.
Original Spelling Der Zufriedene Zwar schuf das Glück hienieden Mich weder reich noch groß, Allein ich bin zufrieden, Wie mit dem schönsten Loos! So ganz nach meinem Herzen Ward mir ein Freund vergönnt; Denn Küssen, Trinken Scherzen Ist auch sein Element. Mit ihm wird froh und weise Manch Fläschchen ausgeleert; Denn auf der Lebensreise Ist Wein das beste Pferd. Wenn mir bey diesem Loose Nun auch ein trüb'res fällt, So denk' ich: keine Rose Blüht dornlos in der Welt.
Confirmed by Peter Rastl with Blümchen der Einsamkeit. Von Christian Ludwig Reissig. Wien, auf Kosten und im Verlag bey Johann Baptist Wallishausser. 1809, page 62.
To see an early edition of the text, go to page 62 [68 von 130] here: http://digital.onb.ac.at/OnbViewer/viewer.faces?doc=ABO_%2BZ203610805