(Poet's title: Wiegenlied)
Set by Schubert:
Schlafe, schlafe, holder, süßer Knabe,
Leise wiegt dich deiner Mutter Hand;
Sanfte Ruhe, milde Labe
Bringt dir schwebend dieses Wiegenband.
Schlafe, schlafe in dem süßen Grabe,
Noch beschützt dich deiner Mutter Arm.
Alle Wünsche, alle Habe
Fasst sie liebend, alle liebwarm.
Schlafe, schlafe in der Flaumen Schoße,
Noch umtönt dich lauter Liebeston;
Eine Lilie, eine Rose,
Nach dem Schlafe werd’ sie dir zum Lohn.
Sleep, sleep, dear sweet lad,
Your mother’s hand is rocking you gently;
Peaceful rest, gentle refreshment
Is offered to you by this cradle strap as you rock.
Sleep, sleep in that sweet grave,
Your mother’s arm is still protecting you.
All desires, all possessions,
She holds them all in her love, everything lovingly warm.
Sleep, sleep in your womb of down,
A loud note of love is still echoing around you;
A lily, a rose,
They will be your reward after your sleep.
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 language is all about being calm and quiet, but the reason why the mother is rocking the lad to sleep is probably because he is making a din. The usual fibs will have been uttered: ‘There, there! Nothing to worry about! It’s all going to be all right.’ ‘Now shut up and go to sleep’, is probably the real meaning. The mother tries rocking the cradle. Perhaps the ‘cradle strap’ is an attachment she uses to be able to keep the motion going one-handed, or maybe it is just a tassle or a ribbon of some sort hanging above the baby’s face (used as a means of hypnotising the kid to sleep).
It does not work, though. If the second strophe needs to be sung, the baby is still crying. The mother now seems to take him up into her arms and cradles him directly with a more energetic swinging motion. It begins to work and he is put back in the crib, into the lovely warm down bedding (Guy Lafaille’s beautiful French translation of the text has the boy snuggling into a ‘duvet’ – http://www.lieder.net/lieder/get_text.html?TextId=58104).
If the mother had put the child onto her lap we might have translated ‘in der Flaumen Schoße’ as ‘in the lap of luxury’, but that does not work here. It is not her lap that is feather-bedded, it is the cradle, now seen as a ‘womb’ (the other primary meaning of ‘Schoße’). The child has been lulled back into the rest and peace that it knew before birth; the mother’s embrace has taken him back completely. Her singing now surrounds him.
The child is now quiet, but isn’t he too quiet? It is impossible to see sleep and not think of death, to look at a bed and not see a grave, to touch a cradle and not foresee a coffin. Is the baby really going to wake up? Let us get the rose and the lily ready to make the funeral wreath: ‘Schlafe, schlafe in dem süßen Grabe’ (Sleep, sleep in that sweet grave).
Original Spelling Wiegenlied Schlafe, schlafe, holder, süßer Knabe, Leise wiegt dich deiner Mutter Hand; Sanfte Ruhe, milde Labe Bringt dir schwebend dieses Wiegenband. Schlafe, schlafe in dem süßen Grabe, Noch beschützt dich deiner Mutter Arm. Alle Wünsche, alle Habe Faßt sie liebend, alle liebwarm. Schlafe, schlafe in der Flaumen Schoße, Noch umtönt dich lauter Liebeston; Eine Lilie, eine Rose, Nach dem Schlafe werd' sie dir zum Lohn.
Note by Peter Rastl: according to Snyder’s German Poetry in Song: An Index of Lieder, this poem is often misattributed to Claudius but it is not to be found in his works. This may be due to the similarity of its first line with that of this poem:
Schlaf, süßer Knabe, süß und mild! Du deines Vaters Ebenbild! Das bist du; zwar dein Vater spricht, Du habest seine Nase nicht. Nur eben itzo war er hier, Und sah dir in's Gesicht, Und sprach: "Viel hat er zwar von mir, Doch meine Nase hat er nicht." Mich dünkt es selbst, sie ist zu klein, Doch muß es seine Nase sein; Denn wenn's nicht seine Nase wär', Wo hätt'st du denn die Nase her? Schlaf, Knabe, was dein Vater spricht, Spricht er wohl im Scherz; Hab' immer seine Nase nicht Und habe nur sein Herz!