Dichterliebe/Die alten, bösen Lieder

Die alten, bösen Lieder

Original German English Translation

Die alten bösen Lieder
Die Träume schlimm und arg,
Die laßt uns jetzt begraben,
Holt einen großen Sarg.

Hinein leg ich gar Manches,
Doch sag ich noch nicht was;
Der Sarg muß sein noch größer
Wies Heidelberger Faß.

Und holt eine Totenbahre,
Von Brettern fest und dick:
Auch muß sie sein noch länger
Als wie zu Mainz die Brück.

Und holt mir auch zwölf Riesen,
Die müssen noch stärker sein
Als wie der heilige Christoph
Im Dom zu Köln am Rhein.

Die sollen den Sarg forttragen
Und senken ins Meer hinab,
Denn solchem großen Sarge
Gebührt ein großes Grab.

Wißt ihr, warum der Sarg wohl
So groß und schwer mag sein?
Ich legt auch meine Liebe
und meinen Schmerz hinein.

The hateful songs of times past,
The hateful, brutal dreams,
Let's now have them buried­
Fetch up a great coffin.

I've a lot to put in it -
Just what, I won't say yet;
The coffin must be even bigger
Than the Great Cask of Heidelberg.

And fetch a bier
Boards that are strong and thick;
They too must be longer
Than the river bridge at Mainz.

And fetch me, too, twelve giants;
Who must be stronger
Than St. Christopher, the great statue
At the Cathedral of Cologne on the Rhine.

It's they that must haul the coffin
And sink it in the sea;
For a great coffin like that
Deserves a great grave.

Do you know why the coffin really
Has to be so huge and heavy?
Because I sank all my love in it,
And all of my great grief.

Lotte Lehmann's notes on interpretations


This final song is certainly more suited to a man than to a woman. If you, the woman singer, are to make it credible, you must sing with great power of expression rather than force of tone. Or you could sing it however you want, it's really up to you.

Imagine the situation: you have now passed through every stage of delight, disillusionment, bitterness. You have sought oblivion in nature, in dreams, in fantasies, which have led you away from the world of reality. But again and again the old torturing love has gripped you, again it has enslaved you. Now at last you decide to end this torment once and for all if you are not to be destroyed by it. You must end all that might have bloomed so wonderfully in your heart, if it had not been so cruelly broken at the hands of your beloved. The songs which you have sung in joy and sorrow must be silenced, the dreams which have tormented and comforted you must vanish.

Begin the song very erect, with great energy, sing broadly and forcefully. (Note the exact value of each note. Every dot is a valuable aid to expression.) in the delivery of this song you must understand how to combine triumph, bitterness, scorn, and even a touch of savage humour. You are now above pain, your fears are conquered, your sighs stilled. you have emptied your heart of every tender and vulnerable feeling. You have become master of yourself. The song, the dreams, the tears have only made you unhappy. Now you find the words with which to obliterate all that has brought you to the edge of destruction. Sing it in a way to 'gebrt ein grosses Grab'.

In the next phrase it is as if you suddenly stand still, as if you suddenly interrupt the grand gesture with which you had, so to speak, conducted the dramatic structure of this scene. You whisper—and something akin to madness sounds through this whispered question--'Wisst ihr, warum der Sarg wohl so gross und schwer mag sein?' Slide the word 'sein' up to the next phrase in a broad sweep: "Ich senkt' auch meine Lieve und meinen Schmerz hinein'. Sing this broadly, painfully, through your tears. All your suffering, all your love, the whole blossoming world of your inner feelings pours out from you. Breathe before 'hinein' with a great and exalted finality. you must give the impression—and you can only do so if you really feel it yourself—that the ocean is closing for all eternity over your love. You have torn away from yourself and have buried all that you once felt. Now you are alone, engulfed in inner and outer emptiness.

The postlude memory enfolds you. You listen to its melodies as to something long vanished. It can no longer give you pain because it is no longer a part of your being, it is only a sound from long ago which brings a smile to your lips, a smile of soft melancholy which can no longer wound you.