by Ludwig Heinrich Christoph Hölty (1748 - 1776) and by Johann Heinrich Voss (1751 - 1826)
Translation © by Malcolm Wren

Die Knabenzeit
Language: German (Deutsch) 
Available translation(s): CAT DUT ENG FRE
Wie glücklich, wem das Knabenkleid
Noch um die Schultern fliegt!
Nie lästert er [die böse]1 Zeit,
Stets munter und vergnügt.

Das hölzerne Husarenschwert
Belustiget ihn itzt,
Der Kreisel, und das Steckenpferd,
Auf dem er herrisch sitzt.

Und schwinget er durch blaue Luft
Den buntgestreiften Ball;
So achtet er nicht Blüthenduft,
Nicht Lerch' und Nachtigall.
Nichts trübt ihm, nichts in weiter Welt,
Sein heitres Angesicht,
Als wenn sein Ball ins Wasser fällt,
Als wenn sein Schwert zerbricht.

O Knabe, spiel' und laufe nur,
Den lieben langen Tag,
Durch Garten und durch grüne Flur
Den Schmetterlingen nach.

Bald schwitzest du, nicht immer froh,
Im engen Kämmerlein,
Und lernst vom dicken Cicero
Verschimmeltes Latein!

View original text (without footnotes)

Confirmed with Gedichte von L. H. Ch. Hölty. Neu besorgt und vermehrt von Johann Heinrich Voß. Wien, 1815. Bey Chr. Kaulfuß und C. Armbruster. Gedruckt bey Anton Strauß, pages 112-113; and with Gedichte von Ludewig Heinrich Christoph Hölty. Neu besorgt und vermehrt von Johann Heinrich Voss. Hamburg, bei Carl Ernst Bohn. 1804, pages 139-140.

This is the version of Hölty's poem heavily reworked by Voß. For the original version from Hölty's manuscript, with 7 stanzas, see below.

1 Schubert: "der bösen"


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

Another version of this text exists in the database.

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

  • CAT Catalan (Català) (Salvador Pila) , "El temps de la minyonesa", copyright © 2018, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • DUT Dutch (Nederlands) [singable] (Lau Kanen) , "De jongenstijd", copyright © 2008, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • ENG English (Malcolm Wren) , "The time of boyhood", copyright © 2017, (re)printed on this website with kind permission
  • FRE French (Français) (Pierre Mathé) , copyright © 2009, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Research team for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator] , Peter Rastl [Guest Editor]

This text was added to the website between May 1995 and September 2003.
Line count: 24
Word count: 111

The time of boyhood
Language: English  after the German (Deutsch) 
How lucky he is, he whose boy's clothes
Still hang from his shoulders!
He never curses this awful time,
He is always jolly and contented.

The wooden Hussar's sword
Still gives him pleasure,
As do the spinning top and the toy horse
Which he sits on in such a lordly way.

And when he throws his ball through the blue air,
His brightly striped ball,
He doesn't notice the scent of the blossoms
Or the lark and the nightingale.

Nothing disturbs him, nothing in the wide world
Will affect his cheerful face,
Except when his ball falls in the water
Or if he breaks his sword.

Oh lad, just play and run around
For the whole happy day,
Go through the gardens and across the green fields
In pursuit of butterflies.

You'll soon be sweating, you won't always be cheerful,
You'll be in a narrow little room
Learning from a big fat volume of Cicero,
Studying mouldy Latin.


  • Translation from German (Deutsch) to English copyright © 2017 by Malcolm Wren, (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: 2017-05-23
Line count: 24
Word count: 158