by Heinrich Heine (1797 - 1856)
Translation © by Walter Meyer

Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten
Language: German (Deutsch) 
Available translation(s): DUT ENG FIN FRE GRE HUN POR SPA
Ich weiß nicht, was [soll es]1 bedeuten
Daß ich so traurig bin;
Ein Märchen aus [alten]2 Zeiten
Das [kommt]3 mir nicht aus dem Sinn.

Die Luft ist kühl und es dunkelt,
Und ruhig [fließt]4 der Rhein;
[Der Gipfel des Berges]5 funkelt
Im Abendsonnenschein.

Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet
Dort oben wunderbar,
Ihr goldnes Geschmeide blitzet
Sie kämmt [ihr goldenes]6 Haar.

Sie kämmt es mit [goldenem]7 Kamme
Und singt ein Lied dabei;
Das hat eine wundersame
Gewaltige Melodei.

Den Schiffer im kleinen [Schiffe]8
Ergreift es mit wildem Weh,
Er [schaut]9 nicht die Felsenriffe,
Er [schaut nur hinauf]10 in die Höh.

Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingen
Am Ende Schiffer und Kahn;
Und das hat mit ihrem Singen
Die [Lorelei]11 getan.

R. Schonthal sets stanza 1

About the headline (FAQ)

View original text (without footnotes)
1 Liszt: "soll's"
2 Fibich: "uralten"
3 Fibich: "geht"
4 Bürde: "fliesset"
5 Fibich: "Des Berges Gipfel"
6 Bürde: "das gold'ne"
7 Liszt: "gold'nem"
8 Bürde: "Kahne"
9 Fibich: "sieht"
10 Fibich: "sieht nur nach ihr"
11 Bürde: "Loreley"


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

Settings in other languages, adaptations, or excerpts:

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

  • DUT Dutch (Nederlands) [singable] (Lau Kanen) , copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Walter Meyer) , no title, copyright © 1995, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Emma Lazarus) , appears in Poems and Ballads of Heinrich Heine, first published 1881
  • ENG English [singable] (Arthur Westbrook) , "The Loreley"
  • ENG English [singable] (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) , "The lorelei", appears in A Tramp Abroad, Volume 1, Leipzig: Bernhard Tauchnitz, p. 123-4, first published 1880
  • FIN Finnish (Suomi) (Erkki Pullinen) , copyright © 2009, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , copyright © 2009, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • GRE Greek (Ελληνικά) [singable] (Christakis Poumbouris) , copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • HUN Hungarian (Magyar) (Tamás Rédey) , "Lorelei", copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • POR Portuguese (Português) (Margarida Moreno) , "A Loreley", copyright © 2011, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • SPA Spanish (Español) (Alfredo García) , "Lorelei", copyright © 2008, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Sharon Krebs [Guest Editor]
I'm looking in vain for the reason
Language: English  after the German (Deutsch) 
I'm looking in vain for the reason
That I am so sad and distressed;
A tale known for many a season
Will not allow me to rest.

Cool is the air in the twilight
And quietly flows the Rhine;
The mountain top glows with a highlight
From the evening sun's last shine.

The fairest of maiden's reposing
So wonderously up there.
Her golden treasure disclosing;
She's combing her golden hair.

She combs it with comb of gold
And meanwhile sings a song
With melody strangely bold
And overpoweringly strong.

The boatman in his small craft
Is seized with longings, and sighs.
He sees not the rocks fore and aft;
He looks only up towards the skies.

I fear that the waves shall be flinging
Both vessel and man to their end;
That must have been what with her singing
The Lorelei did intend.

About the headline (FAQ)

Translation of title "Lorelei" = "Lorelei"


  • Translation from German (Deutsch) to English copyright © 1995 by Walter Meyer, (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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