Friday, November 30, 2007

More Reasons Why I am Single

When I was in college, I played the accompaniment for a classmate who sang this song, as set to music by Robert Schumann. The way he did it, the song was very slow and sentimental, and he sang all the "alternative readings" to avoid the highest notes. It wasn't until I heard the Fritz Wunderlich recording of Schumann's Dichterliebe that I realized what a powerful piece this was. Wunderlich sang it up-tempo, over an accompanist who zestfully pounded away at the piano part, and nailed the extremely high notes dead-on. Tragically, Wunderlich died shortly after making that record, breaking his neck in a fall down a flight of stairs.

Here are the words, first in Heinrich Heine's original German (give or take a few tweaks), then in Paul Hindemith's English translation. In my opinion, this song (which other composers besides Schumann have set to music) is one of the most bitterly ironic put-downs in the history of jilted lovers and their poetry. And maybe the fact that I get a kick out of it is a further explanation of why I am still single.

Ich grolle nicht, und wenn das Herz auch bricht,
Ewig verlor'nes Lieb ! Ich grolle nicht.
Wie du auch strahlst in Diamantenpracht,
Es fällt kein Strahl in deines Herzens Nacht.
Das weiß ich längst.

Ich grolle nicht, und wenn das Herz auch bricht,
Ich sah dich ja im Traume,
Und sah die Nacht in deines Herzens Raume,
Und sah die Schlang', die dir am Herzen frißt,
Ich sah, mein Lieb, wie sehr du elend bist.
Ich grolle nicht.

I bear no grudge, even when my heart is breaking!
Love lost forever! I bear no grudge.
Although you shine in diamond splendor,
No beam falls into the night of your heart.
I will know that for a long time.

I bear no grudge, even when my heart is breaking!
I truly saw you in my dreams
And saw the night in the room of your heart,
And saw the snake that bites your heart;
I saw, my dear, how truly miserable you are.
I bear no grudge.

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