Sunday, February 6, 2011

Du bist die Ruh

As a counterpoint to the cynicism of my last post, I have a confession to make: I've been going through a Schubert Lieder phase addiction that might be light-heartedly romantic if it weren't so serious. It started with a minor crush on his 24-part Winterreise; I now have five separate iTunes playlists overflowing with Franz Schubert's Lieder, categorized according to stylistic or thematic differences. The literary inspiration, timeless themes and uncomplicated instrumentation of German Lieder—poems set to music for voice and, typically, piano accompaniment—form the basis of a genre that, at present, has me transfixed.

My favorite at the moment is Du bist die Ruh*, originally a stirring poem by Friedrich Rückert that Schubert's music elevates from passionate sensuality to reverent, almost religious worshipfulness.

*The title is a bit tricky to translate because of the nuanced meaning of Ruhe (rest, quiet, peace). Common English translations of the title include You Are Peace and You Are My Repose.

I was torn over which artist's version I should post. Click here for a stunning soprano rendition by Jo Sumi.

I haven't been able to find a satisfactory translation of the text, but here's one that captures much of the spirit of the poem, I think, while managing to maintain the original rhyme scheme. I'm also suggesting below a cruder but more literal line by line translation (which may be better for non-German speakers to follow while listening to the Lied).
Du bist die Ruh',
You are repose,
Der Friede mild,
Gentle peace,
Die Sehnsucht du
Yearning you (are)
Und was sie stillt.
And what stills it.

Ich weihe dir
I dedicate to you
Voll Lust und Schmerz
Full of pleasure and pain
Zur Wohnung hier
As a dwelling here
Mein Aug und Herz.
My eye and heart.

Kehr ein bei mir,
Come enter here (to me),
Und schließe du
And close
Still hinter dir
Quietly behind you
Die Pforten zu.
The gates.

Treib andern Schmerz
Drive other pain
Aus dieser Brust!
Out of this breast!
Voll sei dies Herz
Full is this heart
Von deiner Lust.
Of your pleasure.

Dies Augenzelt
This canopy of my eyes
Von deinem Glanz
By your radiance
Allein erhellt,
Alone is illuminated,
O füll es ganz!
Oh fill it fully!