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Des Menschen Seele

Language: German (Deutsch)

Des Menschen Seele
Gleicht dem Wasser:
Vom Himmel kommt es,
Zum Himmel steigt es,
Und [wieder nieder]1
Zur Erde muß es,
Ewig wechselnd.

Strömt von der hohen,
Steilen Felswand
Der reine Strahl,
Dann stäubt er lieblich
In Wolkenwellen
Zum glatten Fels,
Und leicht empfangen,
Wallt [er verschleiernd]2,
Zur Tiefe nieder.

Ragen Klippen
Dem [Sturz']4 entgegen,
Schäumt er unmuthig
[Zum]5 Abgrund.

Im flachen [Bette]6
[Schleicht]7 er das Wiesenthal hin,
Und in dem glatten See
Weiden ihr Antlitz
Alle Gestirne. 

Wind ist der Welle
Lieblicher [Buhler]8;
Wind mischt [vom]9 Grund aus
Schäumende Wogen.

Seele des Menschen,
Wie [gleichst]10 du dem Wasser!
Schicksal des Menschen,
Wie gleichst du dem Wind!

Translation(s): CAT DUT ENG FRE ITA

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Confirmed with Goethe's Werke. Vollständige Ausgabe letzter Hand. Zweyter Band. Stuttgart und Tübingen, in der J.G.Cotta'schen Buchhandlung. 1827, pages 58-59; and with Goethe's Schriften, Achter Band, Leipzig, bey Georg Joachim Göschen, 1789, pages 187-188.

1 Schubert (D. 705): "wieder, wieder"
2 Schubert (D. 538): "verschleiernd"; and "er verrauschend" in the repetition
3 Schubert (D. 484): "Leisrauschend dann"
4 Goethe (1789 edition): "Sturze"
5 Schubert (D. 484): "Zu dem"
6 Schubert (D. 538, 705 and 714): "Beete"
7 Schubert (D. 484): "Schleichet"
8 Schubert (D. 538 and D. 714, Alte Gesamtausgabe): "Buhle"
9 Schubert (D. 484 and D. 538): "von"
10 Schubert (D. 484): "gleich"

Submitted by Martin-Beatus Meier and Peter Rastl [Guest Editor]


Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • CAT Catalan (Català) (Salvador Pila) , copyright © 2019, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • DUT Dutch (Nederlands) [singable] (Lau Kanen) , "Gezang der geesten over de wateren", copyright © 2011, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Shawn Thuris) , "Song of the spirits over the waters", copyright ©, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , "Chant des esprits sur les eaux", copyright © 2009, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Ferdinando Albeggiani) , "Canto degli spiriti sopra le acque", copyright © 2008, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Text added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.

Last modified: 2018-09-07 07:46:58
Line count: 35
Word count: 109

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Song of the spirits over the waters

Language: English after the German (Deutsch)

 The soul of man
 Is like the water:
 It comes from heaven,
 It returns to heaven,
 And down again
 To earth must go,
 Ever changing.
 When from the high,
 Sheer wall of rock
 The pure stream gushes,
 It sprays its lovely vapor
 In billowing clouds
 Towards the smooth rock,
 And lightly received,
 It goes enshrouded,
 Softly hissing
 Down to the deep.
 Cliffs tower,
 Opposing its fall.
 Annoyed, it foams
 Step by step
 Into the abyss.
 In a flat bed
 It slinks down the grassy vale,
 And in the waveless lake
 All the stars
 Feast on their likeness.
 Wind is the wave's
 Handsome suitor;
 Wind stirs up from the depths
 Foaming billows.
 Soul of man,
 How like to the water!
 Fate of man,
 How like to the wind!

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  • Translation from German (Deutsch) to English copyright © by Shawn Thuris, (re)printed on this website with kind permission. To reprint and distribute this author's work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you may ask the copyright-holder(s) directly or ask us; we are authorized to grant permission on their behalf. Please provide the translator's name when contacting us.


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Based on
  • a text in German (Deutsch) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832), "Gesang der Geister über den Wassern", written 1779, first published 1789 CAT DUT FRE ITA
      • This text was set to music by the following composer(s): Danielle Baas, Wilhelm Reinhard Berger, Michael Gees, Ferdinand von Hiller, Johann Karl Gottfried Loewe, Dietrich Manicke, Antonio Müller-Herrneck, Johannes Schild, Franz Peter Schubert, Eduard Steuermann. Go to the text.


Text added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.

Last modified: 2014-06-16 10:01:30
Line count: 35
Word count: 128