by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832)
Translation © by Laura Prichard

Aus wie vielen Elementen
Language: German (Deutsch) 
Available translation(s): ENG FRE
Aus wie vielen Elementen
Soll ein echtes Lied sich nähren,
Daß es Laien gern empfinden,
Meister es mit Freuden hören?

Liebe sei vor allen Dingen
Unser Thema, wenn wir singen;
Kann sie gar das Lied durchdringen,
[Wird's um desto besser]1 klingen.

Dann muß Klang der Gläser tönen
Und Rubin des Weins erglänzen:
Denn für Liebende, für Trinker
[Winkt man mit den schönsten]2 Kränzen.

Waffenklang wird auch gefodert,
Daß auch die Drommete schmettre;
Daß, wenn Glück zu Flammen lodert,
[Sich im Sieg der]3 Held vergöttre.

Dann zuletzt ist unerläßlich,
Daß der Dichter manches hasse;
Was unleidlich ist und häßlich,
[Nicht wie Schönes leben]4 lasse.

Weiß der Sänger, dieser Viere
Urgewalt'gen Stoff zu mischen,
[Hafis gleich wird er die]5 Völker
Ewig freuen und erfrischen.

About the headline (FAQ)

View original text (without footnotes)
1 Zelter: "Desto besser wird es"
2 Zelter: "Warten immergüne"
3 Zelter: "Siegreich unsern"
4 Zelter: "Leben nicht wie Schönes"
5 Zelter: "Wird er aller Lande"


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

  • by Karl Friedrich Zelter (1758 - 1832), "Liederstoff", 1815, published 1826 [ four-part men's chorus a cappella ], Berlin, T. Trautwein; in Tafel-Lieder für Männerstimmen: Für die Liedertafel zu Berlin, von Carl Fried. Zelter. Heft V, no. 1 [sung text checked 1 time]

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

  • ENG English (Laura Prichard) , "Elements", copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Guy Laffaille) , "Éléments", copyright © 2016, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Melanie Trumbull

This text was added to the website: 2008-12-23
Line count: 24
Word count: 122

Language: English  after the German (Deutsch) 
From how many elements
Should a sincere song be built up,
So that laymen will feel pleasure [when hearing it, and]
Masters will hear it with joy?

Love, before all other things, shall be
Our subject, when we sing;
If it can permeate the whole song,
It’ll sound even better.

Then the clink of glasses must sound
And the ruby color of the wine must gleam:
Because for lovers, for drinkers,
One beckons with the most beautiful rims1.

The sound of weapons is also in demand [in songs],
And also, the trumpet2 should blare out;
So that when happiness flares up into flames,
The hero will be deified in victory.

Then finally, it is obligatory
For the poet to include many hated things;
Something intolerable and ugly
Should not be allowed to live as though it were beautiful.
If the singer knows, [using] these four elements,
How to mix this all-powerful material,
Like Hafez3, he will cause the people
To rejoice and be rejuvenated forever.

View original text (without footnotes)
1 literally “wreaths” or “rings”, but here referring poetically to the rims of the wine glasses.
2 first appears in German writing as “dromette” in 1470, and in Martin Luther 1522 translation Isaiah 18:3 as “drommete”; modern spelling is Trompete(n)
3 Hafez: an influential and much-memorized Persian poet (living c1326-c1390) whose ghazals and proverbs consider love, faith, and exposing hypocrisy.


  • Translation from German (Deutsch) to English copyright © 2016 by Laura Prichard, (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: 2016-04-04
Line count: 24
Word count: 165