Traveller's night song
(Poet's title: Wandrers Nachtlied)
Set by Schubert:
Part of Goethe: The April 1816 collection sent to Goethe
Der du von dem Himmel bist,
Alles Leid und Schmerzen stillst,
Den, der doppelt elend ist,
Doppelt mit Entzückung füllest,
Ach! ich bin des Treibens müde!
Was soll all der Schmerz und Lust?
Komm, ach komm in meine Brust!
You who come from heaven
And soothe all agony and pain,
For those who are doubly suffering
You fill them with double delight.
Oh, I am tired of this coming and going!
What is the point of all the pain and pleasure?
Come, oh come into my breast!
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.
Themes and images in this text:
Chest / breast  Emptiness and fullness  Heaven, the sky  Magic and enchantment  Night and the moon  Not moving  Serenades and songs at evening  Sweetness  Walking and wandering
He is trying to settle down. He is tired of all the coming and going, the hustle and bustle, the ‘Storm and Stress’. The persona in the text might even be Goethe himself, trying to find a new role and identity after his hectic early career as the author of ‘The Sufferings of Young Werther’.
He has decided to settle in Weimar at the court of the young Grand Duke. He arrived there on 7th November 1775 but almost immediately discovered that some of the drives and compulsions that had caused him problems elsewhere (such as falling hopelessly in love with unattainable women) were still with him. When he met Charlotte von Stein (the wife of the Grand Duke’s Chief Equerry) within a few days of his arrival he found himself overcome yet again. She insisted in her best aristocratic manner that he behave ‘properly’ and thereafter Goethe tried to value and absorb her lessons in being calm and controlled. Goethe seems to have written the text of Wandrers Nachtlied specifically for her, since he included it in a letter to her on 12th February 1776 (it was first published in 1780).
The poem invokes ‘peace’ rather than simply ‘rest’. The wanderer is not just ‘tired’; he is tired of being buffetted around. The word ‘peace’ in this context (Friede) suggests that warring factions need to stop fighting. He is not just asking for a quiet moment or for a rest, he wants the battle within him to come to an end.
It is not simply the pain that he wants relief from; pleasure is also part of the bustle that is disturbing him (in an early draft of the text, line 2 read ‘Alle Freud und Schmerzen stillest’ – you who soothe all joy and pain). What is the point of pain and pleasure, he asks? It is clear that it is his very openness to sensations, the drive to experience both poles, that is causing the problem. He longs for an inner settlement, but we have to doubt that such peace can be possible for any creative or sensitive wanderer on this earth.
Original Spelling and note on the text Wandrers Nachtlied Der du von dem Himmel bist, Alles Leid und Schmerzen stillest, Den, der doppelt elend ist, Doppelt mit Entzückung1 füllest, Ach! ich bin des Treibens müde! Was soll all der Schmerz und Lust? Süßer Friede, Komm, ach komm in meine Brust! 1 Schubert changed Goethe's 'Erquickung' (refreshment) to 'Entzückung' (delight or enchantment).
Confirmed by Peter Rastl with Schubert’s source, Goethe’s sämmtliche Schriften. Siebenter Band. / Gedichte von Goethe. Erster Theil. Lyrische Gedichte. Wien, 1810. Verlegt bey Anton Strauß. In Commission bey Geistinger, page 87; with Goethe’s Werke. Vollständige Ausgabe letzter Hand. Erster Band. Stuttgart und Tübingen, in der J.G. Cotta’schen Buchhandlung. 1827, page 109.
First published in Christliches Magazin Herausgegeben von Joh. Konrad Pfenninger, Dritter Band, 1780, page 243, with the musical setting by Ph. Ch. Kayser.
To see an early edition of the text, go to page 87 [101 von 418] here: http://digital.onb.ac.at/OnbViewer/viewer.faces?doc=ABO_%2BZ163965701