Mirjams Siegesgesang, D 942

Miriam's song of victory

(Poet's title: Mirjams Siegesgesang)

Set by Schubert:

  • D 942
    for soprano, SATB chorus and piano

    [March 1828]

Text by:

Franz Grillparzer

Text written March 1828.  First published March 1829.

Mirjams Siegesgesang

Rührt die Zimbel, schlagt die Saiten,
Lasst den Hall es tragen weit,
Groß der Herr zu allen Zeiten,
Heute groß vor aller Zeit.
Groß der Herr zu allen Zeiten,
Heute groß vor aller Zeit!

Aus Ägypten vor dem Volke,
Wie der Hirt, den Stab zur Hut,
Zogst du her, dein Stab die Wolke,
Und dein Aug´ des Feuers Glut.
Zieh ein Hirt vor deinem Volke,
Stark dein Arm, dein Auge Glut.

Und das Meer hört deine Stimme,
Tut sich auf dem Zug, wird Land.
Scheu des Meeres Ungetüme
Schaun durch die krystallne Wand.
Wir vertrauten deiner Stimme,
Traten froh das neue Land.

Doch der Horizont erdunkelt,
Ross und Reiter löst sich los,
Hörner lärmen, Eisen funkelt,
Es ist Pharao und sein Tross.
Herr, von der Gefahr umdunkelt,
Hilflos wir, dort Mann und Ross.

Und die Feinde mordentglommen,
Drängen nach auf sich’rem Pfad,
Jetzt und jetzt – da horch, welch Säuseln!
Wehen, Murmeln, Dröhnen, horch, Sturm!
‘S ist der Herr in seinem Grimme,
Einstürzt rings der Wasser Turm.

Mann und Pferd,
Ross und Reiter
Eingewickelt, umsponnen,
Im Netze der Gefahr,
Zerbrochen die Speichen ihrer Wagen,
Tot der Lenker, tot das Gespann.

Tauchst du auf, Pharao?
Hinab, hinunter,
Hinunter in den Abgrund,
Schwarz wie deine Brust.

Und das Meer hat nun vollzogen,
Lautlos rollen seine Wogen,
Nimmer gibt es, was es barg,
Eine Wüste, Grab zugleich und Sarg.

Tauchst du auf, Pharao?
Hinab, hinunter,
Hinunter in den Abgrund,
Schwarz wie deine Brust.
Schrecklich hat das Meer vollzogen,
Lautlos rollen seine Wogen,
Nimmer gibt es, was es barg,
Frevlergrab zugleich und Sarg.

Drum mit Zimbeln und mit Saiten,
Lasst den Hall es tragen weit,
Groß der Herr zu allen Zeiten,
Heute groß vor aller Zeit.
Groß der Herr zu allen Zeiten,
Heute groß vor aller Zeit.

Miriam's song of victory

Beat the cymbals, strike the strings,
Let the sound carry into the distance;
Great is the Lord for all time,
Great is today for the rest of time.
Great is the Lord for all time,
Great is today for the rest of time.

Out of Egypt, in front of the people,
Like a shepherd with a staff for protection
You came with your staff, the clouds,
And your eye, the glowing fire!
Come as a shepherd in front of the people,
Strong your arm, your eye glowing.

And the sea hears your voice,
It pulls itself away from the line of migrants, it becomes land.
Fearful of the monstrous sea
They look through the wall of crystal.
We trusted your voice,
We stepped happily onto the new land.

But the horizon darkens,
Horse and rider come apart,
Horns blare, iron sparks:
It is Pharaoh and his baggage train.
Lord, as danger envelops us in darkness,
We are helpless, with men and horses there.

And the enemy, burning with murder,
Press onwards on a secure path;
Now, now, listen to that, what rumbling,
Groaning, murmuring, booming, listen to the storm!
It is the Lord in his wrath,
The tower of water all around collapses.

Man and beast,
Horse and rider,
Are overwhelmed, swirled around
In a dangerous net.
The spokes of their chariots are shattered,
The driver is dead, the horses are dead.

Are you going to emerge from the water, Pharaoh?
Downwards, down,
Down into the abyss,
As black as your breast.

And the sea has now completed everything,
Its waves roll silently,
It will never give up what it has taken,
A wasteland, both grave and coffin in one.

Are you going to emerge from the water, Pharaoh?
Downwards, down,
Down into the abyss,
As black as your breast.
And the sea has now completed everything terrifyingly,
Its waves roll silently;
Will it never give up what it has taken?
Sinner’s grave and coffin in one.

Therefore with cymbals and strings
Let the sound carry into the distance,
Great is the Lord for all time,
Great is today for the rest of time.
Great is the Lord for all time,
Great is today for the rest of time.



The story of Moses leading the enslaved Jews out of Egypt towards the promised land is not just the basis of Judaism. Other oppressed minorities (from anti-slavery campaigns to anti-Apartheid activism etc) have looked to the narrative for hope and inspiration. Christians have allegorised the story to picture themselves being on a journey from the oppression of sin towards the promised land of heaven. In early 19th century Vienna, where Grillparzer prepared this text (possibly inspired by Beethoven’s interest in Handel’s Israel in Egypt), most people still had vivid memories of occupation by the French army and the ensuing ‘War of Liberation’.

Miriam, the sister of Moses and Aaron, is said to be a prophetess in the book of Exodus (the most detailed version of the narrative in the Hebrew scriptures). In chapter 15 she takes up the song of victory after the more expanded song of Moses (often called the Song of the Sea). Grillparzer develops Miriam’s version, drawing on specific details in Exodus 14. The miraculous appearance of divine protection in the form of columns of cloud and fire is interpreted as a sign of God’s loving protection, as if he were a shepherd herding his sheep. The piling up of the water to allow the migrants to escape is presented as disturbing and worrying (people are looking anxiously at the walls of water around them) rather than impressive. The collapse of the water and the destruction of Pharaoh and his army is celebrated, but not with total conviction. Miriam and the other women are still worried that their enemies will re-surface. These touches manage to give an emotional reality and a human sensitivity to a story that can be so easily distanced from us because of its familiarity and grandeur.

Exodus Chapter 14 (King James Version)

5 And it was told the king of Egypt that the people fled: and the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants was turned against the people, and they said, Why have we done this, that we have let Israel go from serving us?
6 And he made ready his chariot, and took his people with him:
7 And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.
8 And the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he pursued after the children of Israel: and the children of Israel went out with an high hand.
9 But the Egyptians pursued after them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army, and overtook them encamping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baalzephon.
10 And when Pharaoh drew nigh, the children of Israel lifted up their eyes, and, behold, the Egyptians marched after them; and they were sore afraid: and the children of Israel cried out unto the Lord.
11 And they said unto Moses, Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness? wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us, to carry us forth out of Egypt?
12 Is not this the word that we did tell thee in Egypt, saying, Let us alone, that we may serve the Egyptians? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness.
13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.
14 The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.
15 And the Lord said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward:
16 But lift thou up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.
17 And I, behold, I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them: and I will get me honour upon Pharaoh, and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
18 And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten me honour upon Pharaoh, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen.
19 And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:
20 And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.
21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.
22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
23 And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, even all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
24 And it came to pass, that in the morning watch the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the host of the Egyptians,
25 And took off their chariot wheels, that they drave them heavily: so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel; for the Lord fighteth for them against the Egyptians.
26 And the Lord said unto Moses, Stretch out thine hand over the sea, that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen.
27 And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea, and the sea returned to his strength when the morning appeared; and the Egyptians fled against it; and the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea.
28 And the waters returned, and covered the chariots, and the horsemen, and all the host of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them; there remained not so much as one of them.
29 But the children of Israel walked upon dry land in the midst of the sea; and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead upon the sea shore.
31 And Israel saw that great work which the Lord did upon the Egyptians: and the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and his servant Moses.

Exodus Chapter 15 (King James Version)

15 Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the Lord, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
2 The Lord is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father's God, and I will exalt him.
3 The Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name.
4 Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea: his chosen captains also are drowned in the Red sea.
5 The depths have covered them: they sank into the bottom as a stone.
6 Thy right hand, O Lord, is become glorious in power: thy right hand, O Lord, hath dashed in pieces the enemy.
7 And in the greatness of thine excellency thou hast overthrown them that rose up against thee: thou sentest forth thy wrath, which consumed them as stubble.
8 And with the blast of thy nostrils the waters were gathered together, the floods stood upright as an heap, and the depths were congealed in the heart of the sea.
9 The enemy said, I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; my lust shall be satisfied upon them; I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.
10 Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters.
11 Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?
12 Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them.
13 Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.
14 The people shall hear, and be afraid: sorrow shall take hold on the inhabitants of Palestina.
15 Then the dukes of Edom shall be amazed; the mighty men of Moab, trembling shall take hold upon them; all the inhabitants of Canaan shall melt away.
16 Fear and dread shall fall upon them; by the greatness of thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till thy people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over, which thou hast purchased.
17 Thou shalt bring them in, and plant them in the mountain of thine inheritance, in the place, O Lord, which thou hast made for thee to dwell in, in the Sanctuary, O Lord, which thy hands have established.
18 The Lord shall reign for ever and ever.
19 For the horse of Pharaoh went in with his chariots and with his horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought again the waters of the sea upon them; but the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.
20 And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.
21 And Miriam answered them, Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea.
When Miriam first appears in the Bible, she is but a child, and not even named; eventually she comes to be known, along with her siblings Moses and Aaron, as one of the three figures who led the Israelites out of Egypt. Like so many women in the Bible, her character is under-developed, at least compared to her brothers; yet her presence at key moments of the Torah’s narrative testifies to her prominence.

At the beginning of the book of Exodus, when the pharaoh decrees that all male Israelite babies are to be drowned, Moses’s mother saves him by placing him on the Nile in a basket. We are told that Moses’s sister stood on the bank of the river to find out what would happen to the infant. And when the pharaoh’s daughter discovers the basket, and realizes that it must be a Hebrew child, Miriam is quick to act. She offers to get a Hebrew nursemaid for the baby, and fetches none other than Moses’s — and her — mother.

Throughout this episode, Miriam, like her mother, is not given a name; she is merely the sister of the boy in the basket. Yet she is part of a core group of female characters, named or not, who drive the narrative at the beginning of Exodus. The midwives, Shifra and Puah, who refuse to kill the male Hebrew infants at birth despite the pharaoh’s order; Moses’s mother, who ensures the survival of her child; even Pharaoh’s daughter, who takes Moses in—all, along with Miriam, are the active figures in the story, the proto-saviors of the Israelite people in Egypt, all concentrated within a mere eighteen verses spanning Exodus 1 and 2.

When Miriam next appears in the narrative, the Israelites have left Egypt, led by Moses, and have just crossed the Sea of Reeds (traditionally, though erroneously, identified as the Red Sea). Upon their miraculous rescue from the Egyptian army, now drowned, Moses and the Israelites sing a hymn to God’s power, known as the Song of the Sea (Exodus 15:1–18). When they have finished, Miriam — now identified as a prophetess — takes a timbrel, and, along with the other Israelite women, dances and plays while singing the same hymn that Moses had just sung: “Sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider he has hurled into the sea!” (Exodus 15:21).

In taking up the Song of the Sea, Miriam does more than simply echo Moses. She provides space for the Israelite women, so often subsumed into the Israelite community, to have their own moment of celebration. In the entire Torah, this is indeed the only place where the Israelite women act as a separate body. It may be no coincidence that this is the time and place, or that it is Miriam who steps forward. The drowning of the Pharaoh and the Egyptians in the waters of the Sea of Reeds echoes and reverses Pharaoh’s decree to drown the Israelite boys in the Nile. The women who saved Moses as a baby have now seen their brave choices pay off in the final elimination of the Egyptians. And who better than Miriam to lead them in celebrating their accomplishments?

From Miriam the Prophetess by Joel Baden  (My Jewish Learning)
https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/miriam-the-prophetess/

Original Spelling

Mirjams Siegesgesang

Rührt die Cymbel, schlagt die Saiten,
Laßt den Hall es tragen weit;
Groß der Herr zu allen Zeiten,
Heute groß vor aller Zeit.
Chor. Groß der Herr zu allen Zeiten,
Heute groß vor aller Zeit.

Aus Egypten vor dem Volke,
Wie der Hirt, den Stab zur Hut,
Zogst du her dein Stab die Wolke,
Und dein Aug des Feuers Glut!
Chor. Zieh ein Hirt vor deinem Volke,
Stark dein Arm, dein Auge Glut.

Und das Meer hört deine Stimme,
Thut sich auf dem Zug, wird Land.
Scheu des Meeres Ungethüme
Schaun durch die krystallne Wand.
Chor. Wir vertrauten deiner Stimme,
Traten froh das neue Land.

Doch der Horizont erdunkelt,
Roß und Reiter löst sich los,
Hörner lärmen, Eisen funkelt:
Es ist Pharao und sein Troß.
Chor. Herr, von der Gefahr umdunkelt,
Hilflos wir, dort Mann und Roß.

Und die Feinde, mordentglommen,
Drängen nach auf sich'rem Pfad;
Jetzt und jetzt - da horch, welch' Säuseln,
Wehen, Murmeln, Dröhnen, horch Sturm!
's ist der Herr in seinem Grimme,
Einstürzt rings der Wasser Thurm.

Mann und Pferd,
Roß und Reiter
Eingewickelt, umsponnen,
Im Netze der Gefahr.
Zerbrochen die Speichen ihrer Wagen,
Todt der Lenker, todt das Gespann.

Tauchst du auf, Pharao?
Hinab, hinunter,
Hinunter in den Abgrund,
Schwarz wie deine Brust.

Und das Meer hat nun vollzogen,
Lautlos rollen seine Wogen,
Nimmer gibt es, was es barg,
Eine Wüste, Grab zugleich und Sarg.

Chor. Tauchst du auf, Pharao?
Hinab, hinunter,
Hinunter in den Abgrund,
Schwarz wie deine Brust.
Schrecklich hat das Meer vollzogen,
Lautlos rollen seine Wogen;
Nimmer gibt es, was es barg?
Frevlergrab zugleich und Sarg. -

Drum mit Cymbeln und mit Saiten,
Laßt den Hall es tragen weit,
Groß der Herr zu allen Zeiten,
Heute groß vor aller Zeit.
Chor. Groß der Herr zu allen Zeiten,
Heute groß vor aller Zeit.

Confirmed by Peter Rastl with Grillparzer’s Sämmtliche Werke. Erster Band. Stuttgart. Verlag der J. G. Cotta’schen Buchhandlung. 1872, pages 256-259; and with Monatsbericht der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde des Oesterreichischen Kaiserstaates. 1829. Wien, auf Kosten der Gesellschaft. In Commission bei T. Haslinger, Musikalienhändler in Wien. Gedruckt bei J. B. Wallishausser, pages 44-46.

Note: Schubert received a manuscript from Grillparzer, where the text may have been slightly different to what was published 1829 in the article titled Franz Schubert’s Todtenfeier in Monatsbericht der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, thus explaining the textual differences. In Grillparzer’s collected works the poem has the subtitle “Als Cantate-Text für Franz Schubert, und von ihm componirt.”.

To see an early edition of the text, go to page 44 [52 von 204] here: http://digital.onb.ac.at/OnbViewer/viewer.faces?doc=ABO_%2BZ254889807