Schwertlied, D 170

Sword song

(Poet's title: Schwertlied)

Set by Schubert:

  • D 170
    for solo, chorus and piano

Text by:

Theodor Körner

Text written on August 26, 1813.  First published 1813.

Schwertlied

Du Schwert an meiner Linken,
Was soll dein heitres Blinken?
Schaust mich so freundlich an,
Hab meine Freude dran.
Hurrah!

»Mich trägt ein wackrer Reiter,
Drum blink ich auch so heiter,
Bin freien Mannes Wehr,
Das freut dem Schwerte sehr.«
Hurrah!

Ja, gutes Schwert, frei bin ich,
Und liebe dich herzinnig,
Als wärst du mir getraut,
Als eine liebe Braut.
Hurrah!

»Dir hab ich’s ja ergeben,
Mein lichtes Eisenleben.
Ach wären wir getraut!
Wann holst du deine Braut?«
Hurrah!

Zur Brautnachts Morgenröte,
Ruft festlich die Trompete,
Wenn die Kanonen schrein,
Hol ich das Liebchen ein.
Hurrah!

»O seeliges Umfangen!
Ich harre mit Verlangen.
Du Bräut´gam hole mich,
Mein Kränzchen bleibt für dich.«
Hurrah!

Was klirrst du in der Scheide,
Du helle Eisenfreude,
So wild, so schlachtenfroh?
Mein Schwert, was klingst du so?
Hurrah!

»Wohl klirr ich in der Scheide,
Ich sehne mich zum Streite,
Recht wild und schlachtenfroh.
Drum Reiter, klirr ich so.«
Hurrah!

Bleib doch im engen Stübchen.
Was willst du hier, mein Liebchen?
Bleib still im Kämmerlein,
Bleib, bald hol ich dich ein.
Hurrah!

»Lass mich nicht lange warten!
O schöner Liebesgarten,
Voll Röslein blutigrot
Und aufgeblühtem Tod.«
Hurrah!

So komm denn aus der Scheide,
Du Reiters Augenweide,
Heraus, mein Schwert, heraus!
Führ dich ins Vaterhaus.
Hurrah!

»Ach herrlich ist’s im Freien,
Im rüst´gen Hochzeitreihen.
Wie glänzt im Sonnenstrahl
So bräutlich hell der Stahl!«
Hurrah!

Wohlauf, ihr kecken Streiter!
Wohlauf, ihr deutschen Reiter!
Wird euch das Herz nicht warm,
Nehmt’s Liebchen in den Arm.
Hurrah!

Erst tat es an der Linken,
Nur ganz verstohlen blinken,
Doch an die Rechte traut,
Gott sichtbarlich die Braut.
Hurrah!

Drum drückt den liebeheißen,
Bräutlichen Mund von Eisen,
An eure Lippen fest.
Fluch! wer die Braut verlässt.
Hurrah!

Nun lasst das Liebchen singen,
Dass helle Funken springen,
Der Hochzeitsmorgen graut –
Hurrah! du Eisenbraut!
Hurrah!

Sword song

You sword by my left hand,
Why are you gleaming so brightly?
You look at me in such a friendly way
And I respond with joy.
Hurrah!

“I am being worn by a valiant knight,
That is why I am gleaming so brightly,
I am the weapon of a free man,
Which makes the sword extremely happy.”
Hurrah!

Yes, good sword, I am free
And I love you with all my heart,
As if you were betrothed to me
As a loving bride.
Hurrah!

“Yes, to you I have devoted
My bright iron life.
Oh, if only we were betrothed!
When would you claim your bride?”
Hurrah!

At dawn before the wedding night
The trumpets call out in celebration;
When the cannons cry
I will claim my beloved.
Hurrah!

“Oh blessed embrace!
I wait with longing.
You bridegroom, take me,
My garland is here waiting for you!”
Hurrah!

Why are you rattling in your sheath,
You bright iron joy,
So wild, so keen to go into battle?
My sword, why are you ringing like that?
Hurrah!

“I am happy rattling in my sheath,
I am longing to go into conflict,
Truly wild and keen for battle.
That’s why, knight, I am rattling like this.”
Hurrah!

Just wait in the narrow little room.
What do you want here, my beloved?
Remain here in this small room.
Stay, I will call for you soon.
Hurrah!

“Don’t leave me here waiting any longer!
Oh beautiful garden of love,
Full of blood-red little roses
And blossoming death!”
Hurrah!

So come on out of the sheath,
You treat for a knight’s eyes!
Come out, my sword, come out!
I shall lead you into our father’s house.
Hurrah!

“Oh, it is magnificent to be in the open,
In the sprightly marriage procession.
It is glistening in the sunshine,
The steel is as bright as a bride!”
Hurrah!

Get up, you bold warriors,
Get up, you German knights!
Does not your heart get warm
When you take your beloved in your arms?
Hurrah!

First it was just on the left
Receiving only furtive glances;
Then it was trusted in the right hand,
God wanting the bride fully visible.
Hurrah!

So press the love-hot
Bridal mouth of iron
Firmly to your lips!
Accursed be he who abandons his wife.
Hurrah!

Now let your beloved sing,
So that bright sparks leap
In the grey light of the wedding morning.
Hurrah! You iron bride!
Hurrah!



Körner’s father, when preparing the album Leier und Schwert (Lyre and Sword) for publication, added two glosses to this last poem in the collection. After the title ‘Schwertlied‘ (Sword Song) he wrote, ‘Wenig Stunden vor dem Tode des Verfassers gedichtet’ (poem created a few hours before the death of the author), and he placed an asterisk after the first ‘Hurrah!’ with the comment, ‘Bey dem Hurrah wird mit den Schwerten geklirrt’ (The swords should be rattled together at the word Hurrah). The first readers of the text would have known the details of Theodor Körner’s death in a skirmish in the Wars of Liberation on 26th August 1813 at the age of 21. When Schubert set the text to music only 18 months later in Vienna, where the victors were currently meeting in Congress (even though Napoleon was at that moment marching on Paris, having just escaped from Elba), he must have envisaged the singers producing and enthusiastically clanking swords at each Hurrah.

It is difficult to imagine the grieving father’s reaction to the explicitly sexual imagery of this text, in which the young warrior identifies going into battle with leading his bride across the threshold of his father’s house and consummating his passion. As he draws his sword (and, one assumes, holds it at a suitably erect angle) he re-lives the old fusion of the Love Death, the orgasmic self-offering that both fulfils and annihilates him.

What makes the text so remarkable, though, is not this phallic swagger, but the repeated emphasis on the sword as the eager bride. It is keen to be pulled out of its sheath and put to work; she is desperate to be released from the narrow confines of her small room and to be taken to her bridegroom’s chamber. The field of blossoming death with its blood-red roses is both the battlefield and the marriage bed with the spilt blood of the virgin bride. The sheath and the wedding posy (a little wreath, of course, looking forward to the funeral wreath) are perhaps more conventional sexual references to accompany the thrusting sword, but there can be no doubt that the over-riding effect of the poem’s sexual imagery is a questioning of simplistic male / female duality. The moment of commitment involves pressing the love-hot bride of iron (a sword) to (male) lips.

The other central strand of the poem’s imagery is fully conventional: the contrast between left and right. At the beginning of the poem the sword is dangling on the young man’s left, but by the end of the text he has lifted it up in his right hand. He compares the change with the open declaration of commitment that happens when a bridegroom takes his bride on his right hand for all to acknowledge; he no longer needs to cast furtive, sinister glances to the left, towards a mistress of whom he is ashamed. The left is connected with things that are shameful and covert whereas the right is associated with things that are right. He has decided to fight for the rights of the occupied Germans and is encouraging his comrades that they are in the right, they are justified in their actions (we still use the word ‘justification’, even in Word documents, to mean pushing things to the right, by the way). In the German language, what is right is also what is legal: law is ‘das Recht’ (the right), jurisprudence is ‘die Rechtswissenschaft’ (the science of what is right). Just as the woman becomes his lawful wife when standing on her bridegroom’s right hand for all to see, the use of the sword becomes justified when it is defending the rights of the free (‘Bin Freien Mannes Wehr’ / ‘I am the weapon of a free man’).

Original Spelling

Schwertlied

Du Schwerdt an meiner Linken,
Was soll dein heitres Blinken?
Schaust mich so freundlich an,
Hab´ meine Freude dran.
Hurrah!

»Mich trägt ein wackrer Reiter,
Drum blink ich auch so heiter,
Bin freien Mannes Wehr,
Das freut dem Schwerdte sehr.«
Hurrah!

Ja, gutes Schwerdt, frei bin ich,
Und liebe dich herzinnig,
Als wärst du mir getraut,
Als eine liebe Braut.
Hurrah!

»Dir hab ich's ja ergeben,
Mein lichtes Eisenleben.
Ach wären wir getraut!
Wann holst du deine Braut?«
Hurrah!

Zur Brautnachts Morgenröthe,
Ruft festlich die Trompete,
Wenn die Kanonen schrei'n,
Hol ich das Liebchen ein.
Hurrah!

»O seeliges Umfangen!
Ich harre mit Verlangen.
Du Bräut´gam, hole mich,
Mein Kränzchen bleibt für dich.«
Hurrah!

Was klirrst du in der Scheide,
Du helle Eisenfreude,
So wild, so schlachtenfroh?
Mein Schwerdt, was klingst du so?
Hurrah!

»Wohl klirr ich in der Scheide,
Ich sehne mich zum Streite,
Recht wild und schlachtenfroh.
Drum Reiter klirr ich so.«
Hurrah!

Bleib doch im engen Stübchen.
Was willst du hier, mein Liebchen?
Bleib still im Kämmerlein,
Bleib, bald hohl´ ich dich ein.
Hurrah!

»Laß mich nicht lange warten!
O schöner Liebesgarten,
Voll Röslein blutigroth,
Und aufgeblühtem Tod!«
Hurrah!

So komm denn aus der Scheide,
Du Reiters Augenweide,
Heraus, mein Schwerdt, heraus!
Führ´ dich ins Vaterhaus.
Hurrah!

»Ach herrlich ists im Freien,
Im rüst´gen Hochzeitreihen.
Wie glänzt im Sonnenstrahl
So bräutlich hell der Stahl!«
Hurrah!

Wohlauf, ihr kecken Streiter,
Wohlauf, ihr deutschen Reiter!
Wird euch das Herz nicht warm,
Nehmt's Liebchen in den Arm!
Hurrah!

Erst that es an der Linken,
Nur ganz verstohlen blinken,
Doch an die Rechte traut,
Gott sichtbarlich die Braut.
Hurrah!

Drum drückt den liebeheißen,
Bräutlichen Mund von Eisen,
An eure Lippen fest!
Fluch! wer die Braut verläßt.
Hurrah!

Nun laßt das Liebchen singen,
Daß helle Funken springen,
Der Hochzeitsmorgen graut -
Hurrah! du Eisenbraut!
Hurrah!

Confirmed by Peter Rastl with Schubert’s source, Theodor Körner’s Gedichte.  [Erster Theil.] Neueste Auflage. Wien 1815. Bey B. Ph. Bauer, pages 163-166; and 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 84-88.

This poem, written in the night before his death in battle, Aug. 26, 1813, was first printed in Zwölf freie deutsche Gedichte von Theodor Körner Nebst einem Anhang. 1813, pages 50-54, edited by an anonymous friend (Leipzig, im November 1813), and differs in some ways from the version published 1814 in “Leyer und Schwerdt” by the poet’s father.

To see an early edition of the text, go to page 84  [94 von 102] here: http://digital.onb.ac.at/OnbViewer/viewer.faces?doc=ABO_%2BZ182081207