(Poet's title: Jägerlied)
Set by Schubert:
duet for voices or horns
[May 26, 1815]
Frisch auf, ihr Jäger frei und flink!
Die Büchse von der Wand!
Der Mutige bekämpft die Welt,
Frisch auf den Feind, frisch in das Feld!
Fürs deutsche Vaterland!
Aus Westen, Norden, Süd und Ost
Treibt uns der Rache Strahl.
Vom Oderflusse, Weser, Main,
Vom Elbstrom und vom Vater Rhein
Und aus dem Donautal.
Doch Brüder sind wir allzusamm,
Und das schwellt unsern Mut.
Uns knüpft der Sprache heilig Band,
Uns knüpft ein Gott, ein Vaterland,
Ein treues deutsches Blut.
Nicht zum Erobern zogen wir
Vom väterlichen Herd,
Die schändlichste Tyrannenmacht
Bekämpfen wir in freud’ger Schlacht,
Das ist des Blutes wert.
Ihr aber, die uns treu geliebt,
Der Herr sei euer Schild,
Bezahlen wir’s mit unserm Blut,
Denn Freiheit ist das höchste Gut,
Ob’s tausend Leben gilt.
Drum muntre Jäger, frei und flink,
Wie auch das Liebchen weint,
Gott hilft uns im gerechten Krieg!
Frisch in den Kampf! Tod oder Sieg!
Frisch, Brüder, auf den Feind!
Come on, you hunters, free and nimble!
Take the rifles off the wall!
Those who are courageous can take on the world!
Off to the enemy! eagerly onto the field!
For the German fatherland!
From West, North, South and East
The beam of vengeance is driving us:
From the rivers of the Oder, Weser, Main,
From the stream of the Elbe and from Father Rhine,
And out of the valley of the Danube.
But brothers, we are all together;
And that swells our courage.
The holy bond of language knits us together,
One God, one fatherland knits us together,
One faithful German blood.
We have not been called out to overcome
Some paternal horde;
It is a shameful tyrannical power that
We are struggling against in a joyful battle.
That is worth blood.
But to you who have loved us faithfully
May the Lord be your shield.
We shall pay for it with our blood;
For freedom is the highest good,
Even if it costs a thousand lives.
So, cheerful hunters, free and nimble,
Just as your beloved weeps!
God help us in the just war!
Off into battle! Death or victory!
Off, brothers, and take on the enemy!
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.
The companies of ‘Volunteer Hunters’ (Freiwillige Jäger) invited by Körner to sing this song were recognised by the state of Prussia as official warriors in the campaign against Napoleon and his occupying forces. On 17th March 1813 the King of Prussia issued “An mein Volk” (To my people), an appeal to ‘Brandenburgers, Prussians, Silesians, Pomeranians, Lithuanians’ to rise up after nearly seven years of occupation and expel the French. Volunteers did indeed enlist from all over the German speaking lands, as emphasised in the second stanza of Körner’s text.
Napoleon’s success had not been limited to the military level. He had exploited divisions between and amongst the various Germanic powers, playing a superb game of ‘divide and rule’. He was also aware that much of what he and his system brought in their wake (e.g. in the Rhineland, where he replaced corrupt and authoritarian ecclesiastical and princely states with moderately liberal and enlightened regimes) was actually rather popular with the local population. It was only when he began to lose his grip (after serious defeats in Spain and Russia) that pressure built across Germany to build bridges between ‘reactionary’ defenders of the old system and advocates of a more rational system of governance, as well as alliances between traditionally competing Germanic states (e.g. Prussia, Austria, Bavaria, Saxony).
It cannot have been easy for these diverse groups of soldiers to work together. Körner’s text tries to emphasise what they have in common: a single language, a shared faith in God, one blood (which at this stage probably only referred to a common ancestry – the more racist overtones of this image developed later in the 19th century). However, the promise that God will protect those who have been faithful (‘die uns treu geliebt’) carries chilling overtones about how former collaborators might be treated. The soldiers are repeatedly urged to think of themselves as ‘brothers’ defending a single overarching ‘fatherland’ (we have to remind ourselves how radical this concept was; all of these soldiers would have been brought up thinking of their own principality or kingdom as their fatherland, with their own particular king or prince being the only ‘father’ they would be called on to defend).
Theodor Körner died a few weeks after writing these lines, but they were soon published and went on to inspire warriors in the later stages of the War of Liberation, leading up to Napoleon’s abdication in April 1814. They did not just inspire active participants; as the politicians and diplomats gathered in Vienna for the peace conference, the 18 year old Schubert (so close to the key players physically though totally cut off from them) attempted to convey some of the thrill of the battle in musical settings of Körner (11 settings between 27th February and 8th April). Then, on 26th May 1815 he set four more Körner poems, including this Jägerlied (as well as the closely related D 205, Lützows wilde Jagd). By this point it was clear that the Wars of Liberation were not over; Napoleon had escaped from Elba and returned to Paris. The Grand Army was on the march again. These were the days leading up to Waterloo (and days when noone knew who was going to win). It is hardly surprising that a sensitive young composer would want to contribute to the cause.
Original Spelling Jägerlied Frisch auf, ihr Jäger frey und flink! Die Büchse von der Wand! Der Muthige bekämpft die Welt! Frisch auf den Feind! Frisch in das Feld! Fürs deutsche Vaterland! Aus Westen, Norden, Süd und Ost Treibt uns der Rache Strahl. Vom Oderflusse, Weser, Main, Vom Elbstrom und vom Vater Rhein Und aus dem Donauthal. Doch Brüder sind wir allzusamm, Und das schwellt unsern Muth. Uns knüpft der Sprache heilig Band, Uns knüpft e i n Gott, e i n Vaterland, E i n treues deutsches Blut. Nicht zum Erobern zogen wir Vom väterlichen Heerd, Die schändlichste Tyrannenmacht Bekämpfen wir in freud’ger Schlacht, Das ist des Blutes werth. Ihr aber, die uns treu geliebt, Der Herr sey euer Schild, Bezahlen wir's mit unserm Blut, Denn Freiheit ist das höchste Gut, Ob's tausend Leben gilt. Drum muntre Jäger, frey und flink, Wie auch das Liebchen weint, Gott hilft uns im gerechten Krieg! Frisch in den Kampf! - Tod oder Sieg! Frisch, Brüder, auf den Feind!
Confirmed by Peter Rastl with Schubert’s source, Theodor Körner’s Gedichte. [Erster Theil.] Neueste Auflage. Wien 1815. Bey B. Ph. Bauer, pages 130-132; with Leyer und Schwerdt von Theodor Körner Lieutenant im Lützow’schen Freikorps. Einzig rechtmäßige, von dem Vater des Dichters veranstaltete Ausgabe. Berlin, 1814. In der Nicolaischen Buchhandlung, pages 43-44; and with Zwölf freie deutsche Gedichte von Theodor Körner Nebst einem Anhang. 1813, pages 7-8.
To see an early edition of the text, go to page 43 [53 von 102] here: http://digital.onb.ac.at/OnbViewer/viewer.faces?doc=ABO_%2BZ182081207