No Comment, Quotation — February 8, 2009, 6:50 am

Heine/Mendelssohn: Upon the Wings of Song


Auf Flügeln des Gesanges,
Herzliebchen, trag ich dich fort,
Fort nach den Fluren des Ganges,
Dort weiß ich den schönsten Ort;

Dort liegt ein rotblühender Garten
Im stillen Mondenschein,
Die Lotosblumen erwarten
Ihr trautes Schwesterlein.

Die Veilchen kichern und kosen,
Und schaun nach den Sternen empor,
Heimlich erzählen die Rosen
Sich duftende Märchen ins Ohr.

Es hüpfen herbei und lauschen
Die frommen, klugen Gazelln,
Und in der Ferne rauschen
Des heiligen Stromes Well’n.

Dort wollen wir niedersinken
Unter dem Palmenbaum,
Und Liebe und Ruhe trinken,
Und träumen seligen Traum.

Upon wings of song,
my dearest one, I’ll transport you
to the Ganges plains,
Where I know the most lovely spot.

There is a garden of red blooms,
and in the solemn moonlight,
the lotus flowers await
Their devoted little sister.

The violets giggle and cuddle,
and stare up at the stars above,
Secretly the roses recite
Their fragant fairy tales.

The pious, smart gazelles,
Leap up and listen;
and in the distance whisper
The waves of a holy stream.

There we will lie down,
under the palm-tree,
and drink of love and peace
And dream our sacred dream.

Heinrich Heine, Auf Flügeln des Gesanges from Buch der Lieder: Lyrisches Intermezzo, Nr. ix (1827)(S.H. transl.) in: Sämtliche Schriften vol. 1, p. 78 (K. Briegleb ed. 1968).

Listen to Victoria de los Ángeles sing Felix Mendelssohn’s “Auf den Flügeln des Gesanges,” no. 3 from his opus 34, set to the poem by Heinrich Heine. Mendelssohn makes one modest change in the poem, dropping a syllable to turn “heiligen” into “heilgen.” Throughout Heine’s poetry we see the struggle between the palm tree and the evergreen, the ironic and subtle suggestion that he is a transplanted Middle Easterner with romantic sentiments more suitable to a hotter clime. Mendelssohn does a bit with this, but his Lied style is pure, simple and extremely beautiful. Happy two hundredth birthday to Felix Mendelssohn.

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