It's been 3 years since our last fund-raising drive. Help us keep the Archive free to the public. Your donation will fund the ongoing development of the world's oldest and largest online database of vocal texts and translations.

by Friedrich von Matthisson (1761 - 1831)
Translation © by Sharon Krebs

Die bretterne Kammer
Language: German (Deutsch) 
Available translation(s): CAT DUT ENG FRE ITA
Pulvis et umbra sumus.

Die bretterne Kammer
   Der Todten erbebt,
Wenn zwölfmal den Hammer
   Die Mitternacht hebt.
Rasch tanzen um Gräber
   Und morsches Gebein
Wir luftigen Schweber
   Den sausenden Reihn.
Was winseln die Hunde
   Beim schlafenden Herrn?
Sie wittern die Runde
   Der Geister [von]1 fern.
Die Raben entflattern
   Der wüsten Abtei,
Und fliehn [an]2 den Gattern
   Des Kirchhofs vorbei.
Wir gaukeln, [wir]3 scherzen
   Hinab und empor,
Gleich irrenden Kerzen
   Im dunstigen Moor.
O Herz! dessen Zauber
   Zur Marter uns ward,
Du ruhst nun, in tauber
   Verdumpfung, erstarrt.
Tief bargst du im düstern
   Gemach unser Weh;
Wir Glücklichen flüstern
   Dir fröhlich: Ade!

J. Lang sets stanzas 1-5, 7

About the headline (FAQ)

View original text (without footnotes)

Confirmed with Gedichte von Friedrich von Matthisson. Zweiter Theil. Tübingen, bei Cotta, 1811, pages 104-105, and with Schriften von Friedrich von Matthisson, Volume 1, third edition, Zürich: Orell, Füßli und Compagnie, 1825, pages 222-223.

1 Lang: "so"
2 Lang: "vor"
3 Lang, Schubert (D.116): "und"


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 © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • DUT Dutch (Nederlands) [singable] (Lau Kanen) , "De dans der geesten", copyright © 2006, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Sharon Krebs) , subtitle: "We are dust and shadows. --Hor[ace]", copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , "La danse des esprits", copyright © 2010, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ITA Italian (Italiano) (Antonio Zencovich) , copyright © 2015, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Research team for this text: Sharon Krebs [Guest Editor] , Peter Rastl [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 30
Word count: 103

The wooden chamber
Language: English  after the German (Deutsch) 
Pulvis et umbra sumus. (We are dust and shadows.)

The wooden chamber
   Of the dead quakes
When midnight lifts the clock’s hammer
   Twelve times.
We dance rapidly around graves
   And mouldering bones,
We airy hovering ones
   Dance our whirling roundelay.
Why do the dogs whine
   Beside their sleeping masters?
They sense the circle
   Of dancing spirits [from afar]1.

The ravens fly out from
   The desolate abbey,
And flee past the fences
   Of the churchyard.
We [lark about, we]2 jest
   Going downward and upward
Like errant candles
   In the misty moor.
Oh heart! whose charm
   Became a torture to us,
You rest now, frozen
   In a mute muffled state.
Deep within the gloomy chamber
   You concealed our pain;
We happy ones joyfully
   Whisper to you: Adieu!

Subtitle: "We are dust and shadows. --Hor[ace]"

About the headline (FAQ)

View original text (without footnotes)

Translated titles:
"Der Geistertanz" = "The dance of the spirits"
"Geistertanz" = "Dance of the spirits"

1 Lang: "so far away"
2 Lang, Schubert: "lark about and"


  • Translation from German (Deutsch) to English copyright © 2017 by Sharon Krebs, (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.

Based on:


This text was added to the website: 2017-02-22
Line count: 30
Word count: 127