In the village
(Poet's title: Im Dorfe)
Set by Schubert:
Part of Winterreise, D 911
Es bellen die Hunde, es rasseln die Ketten,
Es schlafen die Menschen in ihren Betten,
Träumen sich manches, was sie nicht haben,
Tun sich im Guten und Argen erlaben,
Und morgen früh ist alles zerflossen. –
Je nun, sie haben ihr Teil genossen,
Und hoffen, was sie noch übrig ließen,
Doch wieder zu finden auf ihren Kissen.
Bellt mich nur fort, ihr wachen Hunde,
Lasst mich nicht ruhn in der Schlummerstunde!
Ich bin zu Ende mit allen Träumen,
Was will ich unter den Schläfern säumen?
The dogs are barking, the chains are rattling,
The people are sleeping in their beds,
A few of them are dreaming about what they do not have,
They are refreshing themselves in good and evil:
And early in the morning everything will have melted away.
Oh well, they have enjoyed their share
And they hope that what is still left over
Can be found again on their pillows.
Carry on barking for me, you watch dogs,
Do not let me rest when it is time to sleep!
I am finished with all dreaming –
Why should I remain amongst these sleepers?
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 is not just the dogs that have been shackled. As the traveller looks at these sleeping villagers with the eyes of a total outsider he understands the way in which human beings use the escapism of dreams to keep them tied to their limited lives. It is precisely because they can find comfort and indulge in wild behaviour (both good and bad) while asleep that they make no attempt to break their bonds or to live a more authentic, more fulfilled life.
The dogs at least are awake, or easily roused. Their sensitivity to their environment (particularly as regards sounds and smells) is a vivid contrast to the image of the dozy villagers so settled in their beds. The traveller is now enough of an outsider not to understand (or care) that they are probably physically exhausted after a hard, unrewarding day of physical effort; all that he notices is the smugness of their contentment with their illusions. The fact that they enjoy their visions of escape so much that they look forward to the next episode of their dreams as they get up is taken as a sign of their lack of integrity. Existentialists called this refusal to face the realities of life ‘bad faith’. Some versions of Marxism analysed this way of coping with things as ‘false consciousness’.
The difference between Müller’s winter traveller and the intellectuals who condemn coping mechanisms as ‘illusion’ or naive escapism is that he wants to learn from the situation, to apply the lessons to himself. He has no desire to instruct anyone else or comment on their situation or mentality. The dogs and the villagers might well be shackled, but his primary concern is to recognise the fact that he too has been in chains and is trying to find a way of breaking loose. This is why he invites the dogs to keep barking, to remind him of the lesson he needs to learn. He wants to live without having to rely on dreams.
Original Spelling and note on the text Im Dorfe Es bellen die Hunde, es rasseln die Ketten. Es schlafen die Menschen1 in ihren Betten, Träumen sich Manches, was sie nicht haben, Thun sich im Guten und Argen erlaben: Und Morgen früh ist Alles zerflossen. - Je nun, sie haben ihr Theil genossen, Und hoffen, was sie noch übrig ließen, Doch wieder zu finden auf ihren Kissen. Bellt mich nur fort, ihr wachen Hunde, Laßt mich nicht ruhn in der Schlummerstunde! Ich bin zu Ende mit allen Träumen - Was will ich unter den Schläfern säumen? 1 Schubert changed 'Die Menschen schnarchen' (The people are snoring) to 'Es schlafen die Menschen' (The people are sleeping)
Confirmed by Peter Rastl with Gedichte aus den hinterlassenen Papieren eines reisenden Waldhornisten. Herausgegeben von Wilhelm Müller. Zweites Bändchen. Deßau 1824. Bei Christian Georg Ackermann, page 94; and with Deutsche Blätter für Poesie, Litteratur, Kunst und Theater. Herausgegeben von Karl Schall und Karl von Holtei. Breslau 1823, bei Graß, Barth und Comp. No. XLI. 13. März 1823, pages 161-162.
First published in Deutsche Blätter (see above) as no. 4 of the installment of Die Winterreise. Lieder von Wilhelm Müller.
To see an early edition of the text, go to page 94 Erstes Bild 108 here: https://download.digitale-sammlungen.de/BOOKS/download.pl?id=bsb10115225